The Bible talks about a last day where Jesus is going to come and judge the earth. It says that one day, right out of nowhere, the end will come. There are many who believe that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who may have resembled one of those Times Square open air evangelists holding a sign saying, “Repent, for the end is near!” Like you, I think they are likely crazy, no offense to any in our congregation who may share such zeal. Now, it isn’t the message that they are preaching that is out of tune, it is the method, and I don’t recall Jesus, Paul, or any other disciples saying “wear a sign and scare them into the kingdom.”
We all are called, however, to repent and be mindful of the day God will call us, judge us, and place us where we are to spend eternity. So what exactly is God’s requirement for the kingdom of God? What will make it so that we won’t have to dread that final day? And let us be sure, all of us will face a last day, whether it is “the final day” or the day we depart from this temporary vessel of flesh.
Simply put, we are called to repentance.
Repentance is the act of realizing you have been doing something wrong and then turning around. It is a 180 degree turn in the direction away from those things that harm us or interfere in our relationships with others and with God. We don’t have to get into specifics, we both deal with them daily, you and I both know what those things are. We come to church, we meet in Bible study, we attend prayer group, and we participate in community life so that, like those who attend A.A., we can help one another overcome “our stuff.”
This weeks message, on Sunday, from the Gospel of Mark chapter 13: 24-37 will be a reminder to be on watch for that final day. For as long as we are alive we have the opportunity to right our wrongs and to start living lives that reflect the life of Christ revealed to us in Scripture. It is not an easy road we are called to. It is a right road and the sooner we turn around from walking the broad path the quicker we will find ourselves walking that narrow road with our Lord. A path that we also walk with the community of believers who have admitted their brokenness and who have committed themselves to the path of wholeness.
And so we watch.
Waiting for the day of the Lord. Not with dread, not with fear, but with joy. Knowing that we have played our part by living a repentant life. Waiting for the day that God whispers in your ear the same way the Spirit whispered in Christ’s ear, “well done, good and faithful child.”
I’ll see you Saturday evening at Evensong or Sunday morning at our morning services.
May God bless you, your family, and the works of your hands,
Seven hundred years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah began preaching in Jerusalem.
Called in a time of tremendous division and external threat, with widespread distrust of the people’s disagreeing leaders, and great disparities between haves and have-nots, Isaiah’s career as a prophet began as an attempt to warn his country about the direction it was heading.
About 150 years later, however, the armies of Babylon would surround and ultimately destroy the city, taking many captives to Babylon—a foreign city that was, ironically, not far from where the Hebrew people’s ancient patriarch, Abraham, had originally come. It seemed like so much of what God had done since then was now being undone. It was a difficult time, and difficult to remain faithful to God.
Yet in this moment, God spoke once again, offering words of comfort and soon, direction for the journey out of slavery and back to Jerusalem, which they were to rebuild. This part of the story is also remembered in the Book of Isaiah, and is known technically as “Second Isaiah.” Much of the church’s later imagery and understanding of the Messiah comes from this part of the Book of Isaiah.
Finally, after God’s people returned to Jerusalem, they found that rebuilding their lives and their beloved city was far more challenging than they had ever imagined. They were impatient. There were new threats on the horizon. They disagreed about how to care for neediest, and about under what terms strangers could be among them. Some said that those were worthy enough questions to consider, but that now was not the time—that the situation remained far too grave for that kind of sensitivity just then. The final section of the Book of Isaiah (known as “Third Isaiah”) describes this period, and challenges God’s people to look to the future, when God’s final triumph of light over darkness, and justice over injustice would be complete. Let us look for that day, Isaiah suggested, but in the meantime, there was still a great deal of important work to do.
It all sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
Yet I find myself drawn to different stages in the story at different moments of my own life.
There are times when Isaiah’s initial warnings call me to live differently and to make time for projects designed to make the world a better, fairer, place. At other times, I feel some of dislocation Isaiah describes, and it isn’t clear where God is or what God expects. And of course, there are those blessed moments when I feel a sense of homecoming and restoration, when an especially difficult part of life’s journey feels behind me at last, and I am at last sailing on smoother waters.
Reflecting on Isaiah, the theologian Jo Bailey Wells notes that the possibility of God’s transformation —of us, our general situation, and the world — remains active in all circumstances, “throughout times of prosperity, adversity and rehabilitation.”
That’s been my own experience, too. In any given moment, exactly where God is may not be clear. Yet soon enough, God’s presence emerges, and not as some sort of sudden arrival, but in my own gradual recognition of where God has been all along.
This Sunday, we will begin a three week consideration of the Book of Isaiah after church. I hope you will join us.
See you in church,