By Cynde | Monday, November 14, 2016 | 1:54 PM
When one of my sons was in the fifth grade he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD without the H. The psychologist we consulted was Dale Wisely. Of the many things that Dale told me about ADD, one keeps popping up in other contexts, Dale said, “For most people with ADD there are two kinds of time: now and not now.” Isn’t it amazing how good information can change things? All of those times I had told my son he could play in the basement for thirty minutes and then get ready for supper and he never came upstairs in thirty minutes; all made sense. He was not being willful or stubborn. He was not rejecting the kind and gentle hand of guidance offered by his loving and gracious father. He was a kid with ADD and he was not able to track time. He needed a watch; preferably one with an alarm.
Theologically speaking, Jesus is telling the disciples that the kingdom of God is both NOW and NOT NOW. It is a paradox. It is one of many paradoxes in our faith. We must die in order to live. The last will be first. The meek inherit the earth. The ones who are enslaved will be set free. The kingdom of God is present with us, but not completely, not fully present.
Last Sunday I talked about the resurrection. I believe that there is a parallel between living as people of the resurrection right now and being in the kingdom of God right now. As with many of our struggles, we struggle to remain in the present. Because we cannot control the future we fear it. We spend too much time fretting about something in our past or scrambling to control our future. I have learned a great deal about life from my friends in recovery. Some of the most helpful things have been reminders to live in the moment; one day at a time; step by step. One of my favorite acronyms is F. E. A. R. Forgetting Everything’s All Right. It is not naïve. It is not bland optimism. It is a statement of the belief that God is in control. It is the word of comfort spoken by a parent sitting on the side of a child’s bed who has been awakened in the night by a nightmare. As the parent places that reassuring arm around the child and soothingly murmurs, “It will be alright,” those are words spoken in confidence based on history. The parent knows that this fear will pass. It is only a dream. We speak confidently that we not only will be OK, we are OK. God is with us. This is God’s creation. We do not live in fear.
I imagine this story, with the disciples marveling at the building stones from the Temple. Jesus is talking with the disciples as they walk along the area near the Temple. The Temple dominates the surrounding area. Jesus is talking and the disciples are gawking. I imagine Jesus in the middle of a profound statement and one of the disciples says, “Hey, look at those great big rocks.” Jesus shakes his head and says, “Peter did you forget to take your medicine this morning?” Then Jesus pulls a white board from under his robe, slaps it against the Temple wall and quickly writes, with erasable marker, “this property condemned.” Jesus says, “You think the Temple is impressive. Just wait to see what God does with me. You will forget all about the Temple when you see the resurrection.”
The commentators I am reading agree that Luke wrote his version of the Gospel after Jesus had been crucified and resurrected. It was after the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, including the Temple. Luke is making theological points through the words Jesus speaks to the disciples as they gawk at the Temple. Perhaps Luke is using the words of Jesus to speak to his frightened congregation.
The Temple has been destroyed but that is not the end of the world; peace will be swallowed by war, but war is not the end either. People will attempt to mimic Jesus and misuse his name attempting to prophesy as he did, but the world does not end simply because someone tells lies. Luke says that the “dreadful portents and great signs from heaven,” may even tempt you to play prophet by reading the concealed meanings of mysterious happenings, but knowing the end does not belong to you. Luke is clearly making a theological point, but the way he does it frightens his listeners out of their wits.
Wars, insurrection, earthquakes, famine, plagues, and, just when you think it cannot get any worse, it gets personal: you will be arrested, you will be persecuted, you will be thrown into prison and hauled before the authorities. And, Jesus says, “That’s when you’ve got them right where you want them.” When everything looks so dark, when lies appears to be winning, when war is inevitable and everlasting, when the earth trembles beneath you, when you are forced to account for yourself; they will have to listen to you. It will be your opportunity to testify.
Against the towering backdrop of wars, earthquakes and famine, we assume that we do not have much to say. We know that arrest and persecution notoriously intimidate people. But these are reminders that everything is working according to God’s plan. This is our opportunity to testify.
At the end of this story, Jesus provides assurance that has often been misunderstood. In fact, some preachers quote this text as their reason for coming to the pulpit unprepared. All of those maxims we hear, “Don’t worry, it will come to you.” “You’ll do just fine; you’ll think of something at the last moment.” That is not what Jesus is saying. The promise of Jesus is that he will give the words. The word of God is a gift. Christ possesses a word of wisdom that our troubled world and his troubling opponents cannot calculate or comprehend. Even though the world has rejected the Word of God, Christ will speak the word of the kingdom through his church.
Christ promises to speak the word. We do not have to create the words. The word that is given to us to speak is the word that was spoken to create all things in the beginning. It is the same word that continues to create as it is spoken today. We do not speak with confidence in ourselves, but rather out of our speaking we bear testimony that we have received the gift of faith. This is the power of God’s word: not only does this word describe the kingdom of God, it fashions it in our world today.
These words of Jesus are only small breaths of air spoken thousands of years ago, but these words endure with power, “even power to gain your souls.” The Temple was destroyed, not one stone left on another. The Roman Empire has collapsed. The words of Christ endure and their promise is not diminished by earthquake, famine, war, hurricane or typhoon – and not by the passing of the years.
We are citizens in the kingdom of God. We live in this mysterious in-between time of NOW and NOT NOW. We believe -- we know -- from our experience that God is bringing more grace and goodness than we have been able to imagine. We know that when the kingdom fully comes on earth that there will be no more hunger, no more war, and no more disease. We know that God calls us to be part of that kingdom. We are part of the kingdom when we work to end hunger, bring peace and care for the bruised and broken of this world.