This is the time if the year when Christians think about the fact that someday we will hear Jesus say “come inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”, (Matthew 25:34). The falling leaves remind us of our own mortality and cornucopias and pumpkins remind us of harvest and blessings. Christ will someday come and gather His people home. We are his harvest and he has prepared a Kingdom for us.
We are having some issues with our mercy projects that we are working on and we are working to correct those problems. I find it fascinating that some people seem to be aghast that there are problems with implementation, supply, security, and a whole host of other things when you try and do a mercy project in an emerging world country. It is as if our partners need to be experts and perfect at everything while projects here at home can have cost over runs, lousy administration, non-existing business plans, and no real support, even from those who say they are supporters, but that is different. Part of the problem that I see here is the fact that some of us are trying to build a “kingdom” or worse yet think that we are building the Kingdom of God.
There is a radical way of life that was unleashed by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are justified by faith in Christ’s sacrificial death and as “just” we live by that faith. That faith is transformative and gifted in baptism and the baptismal life is radically different than the world around us.
“What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” (2 Peter 3:11). The day of God ushers in the Kingdom prepared for us and we can hasten the coming of that day by witnessing to Christ and being merciful to our neighbors, but we don’t build the Kingdom – it has been prepared. There is no such thing as “progress” here that we can attain to or measure. Luther said that our task is to “do what lies at hand” and not try to “master or control the future of things and relationships in any final way.” That does not mean that we are sloppy or slovenly. We give our best because God gave us His best.
At the same time anxiety about the future and wanting to trim and plan and lay out every contingency for analysis, or the opposite, a kind of sentimental hope that “the sun will come up tomorrow” and things will be great if we just try our best are both denials of our baptism. In our baptism God makes all things new and the “life we live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who gave himself for us”. I am living in the “between times” and neither optimism or pessimism is the baptismal life. “What ever your hands find to do, do with all your might” said Luther in his preface to a lecture on Ecclesiastes. “Luther explains that when we live by faith we do not try and master or control the future and that means “we constantly retrogress so that we have nothing but lost toil and trouble. What occurs is what God wills and thinks, not what we want”.
This is so radical that some will say “that means that we shouldn’t even plan anything”. I didn’t say that and neither did Luther. Some will say that means that we should be irresponsible and Luther never said that either. It means that being too geeked up about the good things or too down in the mouth about the bad things is not the life of faith.