Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not From This World

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
This coming Sunday is called "Christ the King."  It's the last of the church year.  If you have been following this blog or coming on Sundays, you know that last Sunday there was an emphasis what God will do at the end of time.  And that theme is picked up next Sunday in scripture from Daniel 7 and Revelation 1. Someday "every eye will see him" (Jesus) "coming with the clouds."

Oh how we long for that day when God will put all things right!

In the meantime, as we wait for God's timing, we are tempted to despair or, on the other hand, to take matters into our own hands.  Men and women who are in leadership positions or who have some power over others often fall into sin as they do what they think is best for their people.  Like Castro in Cuba or Mugabe in Zimbabwe, many leaders (including me) are tempted sometimes to think we save the day on our own. Sometimes we try to save ourselves or others from difficult circumstances and end up trying to force things to go our way, Many times this is not because we want to hurt or manipulate others.  Often it's because we're so desperate we don't know what to do.

The gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday points us to God's way of putting things right.  God's way seems foolish, because it works through sacrifice, apparent weakness and, most importantly, unrelenting, unyielding, confident truth telling.  As Jesus says, "for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Here's the complete reading from John 18:33-37 for Sunday, November 22.  It's part of the trial of our Lord before Pontius Pilate.
...Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered,
"Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?"
Pilate replied,
"I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?"
Jesus answered,
"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
Pilate asked him,
"So you are a king?"
Jesus answered,
"You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Will we listen to Jesus' voice?  Will we belong to the truth even when things are hard to bear?  We can when we remember that Jesus "voice" has not been silenced!  His truth goes on because, after he was crucified for his truth telling, he was shown to be right and true and victorious on the day he rose from the dead.

Someday, Jesus will return in power and the world will know all the truth.  Until then, we simply speak as Jesus did, not holding back on truth, and rely on him to give us the victory.

This is not a normal "earthly" way of handling hard times.  Normally, we do not want to wait until God saves us.  We want to save ourselves.  So we "look to the hills" instead of to God. In the quote from Psalm 121 above there is a temptation to look to the armies on the high ground as the ones who will win the day.  We think of earthly powers with fear or hope.  But the fact is that neither the "hills" no any earthly powers who may be camped there will truly save or destroy us in the end. 

Though the help of people and earthly power are necessary in this world to hold back chaos until Jesus returns, when we trust too fully in them we will be disappointed. Every earthly help fails and falls at some point--including me.

So what do we do?  As the Psalm says, our help, and our hope, comes from the Lord.  His power does not come from this sin-filled and broken world and it does not use this world's sin-filled tacticsThe only real help and hope we can trust comes straight from the one who created us and will be here when life ends.  It comes straight from God--and from the one who he has sent--Jesus Christ.  He will rule, he will reign, and truth will win... for now, we trust.  Then we will see the excellent victory of our God.


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