Hoping toward the Future

First, a prayer:

God, creator of heaven and earth, it is time for you to come, for our time is running out and our world is passing away.

You gave us life in peace, one with another, and we have ruined it in mutual conflict.

You made your creation in harmony and equilibrium. We want progress, and are destroying ourselves.

Come Creator of all things, renew the face of the earth.

Come, Lord Jesus, our brother on the way. You came to seek that which was lost.

You have come to us and have found us. Take us with you on your way.

We hope for your kingdom as we hope for peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon.

Come, Spirit of Life, flood us with your light, interpenetrate us with your love.

Awaken our powers through your energies and in your presence let us be wholly there.

Come, Holy Spirit.

God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, triune God, unite with yourself your torn and divided world, and let us all be one in you, one with your whole creation, which praises and glorifies you and in you is happy.

Amen.

~Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life, 145

There’s probably no topic that has a bigger gulf of study between academic discussions and church discussions than eschatology–often thought of as the study of the “end times.”  I have a lot of critiques about academic theology and I have a huge passion to see theology connect better with the church and popular discussions.

Well, eschatology–the ‘end times’–is a topic in which I think the Church has really lost a sense of transformative focus and turned eschatology into something that I struggle seeing the fruit of the Spirit within.  If this is the work of the Spirit in bringing God’s Kingdom among us, then eschatology, maybe even most of all, should be full of love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest.

Being awakened to a, ahem, fuller eschatology really has rejuvenated much of my own faith and hope not only for the future but also the present.

Last Sunday, we got home late from a whirlwind trip to Santa Barbara (about a 3 hour drive). My daughter is in 4th grade and here in California 4th graders study state history and do a project on the California missions.

This is a pretty difficult history in part because of how Christianity was used to virtually enslave the native coastal populations of Chumash, Tongva, and others.

Yet, the continuing work of the Franciscans in Santa Barbara (the only mission with a continuing community of Franciscans since its founding) has a lot of light and hope and help in it I could see going on these days–I really like the preaching of the pastor there. But, it wasn’t constant progress from then to now.  That work also had some really dark times even as recently as the last few decades.

What do we do with the Franciscans of the 1th century or the Franciscans involved in horrid scandals in the 20th century (which impacted, I learned later, one of my good friends in 4th and 5th grade)? Does that ruin any chance of hope? Do we abandon ourselves to rage or despair? Or do we, on the other hand, ignore the tragedy and evils of humanity?

I don’t think so.

Eschatology involves not a dismissiveness about the past, nor a triumphalism, but a hope that we are never wholly lost in our brokenness, that at every point we are invited to seek a better way even in this present life and be people who encourage, renew, edify each other.

The vision God gives us of our future should bring us peace because we know we don’t have to be people who hate, who undermine others in competition or attempts at asserting our will.  We don’t have to be caught in the frenzy and never ending expectations of the world.

We can become people who listen. Who learn, Who dance in the rhythms of the Spirit’s work, remembering the brokenness of the past in seeking a redeeming story of life together, reconciled and finally truly free.

Where are you needing freedom this week?  What do you need freedom from? Who can you give freedom to in your efforts?

Let us together seek a living eschatology that in bringing us hope for what is to come makes us be bringers of life and freedom to our neighborhoods and to our families.

This isn’t our work, this is the work of the Spirit that we sing and dance with as we learn the words, the steps, and love those around us.

It’s also really true that our trip this last weekend was a wonderful getaway after a very long season of sickness, frustrations, and other things.

I lived in Santa Barbara for a while growing up and my family then had some really difficult experiences, that eventually caused us to leave, severe financial and health issues. But in being back with my own family, I was able to find places of peace I remembered and places of beauty to share.

It was busy, but it was also restful. I pray you are able to find places and moments of rest, of beauty, of deep grace that helps you think of the challenging moments with a sense of God’s care and provision.

The story God is writing continues, and let us seek God’s telling in our lives and in those around us.

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