Standing in the past, present, and future

Dear friends,

As the days grow short, the liturgical calendar directs our attention forward to what is to come. We have already sensed this in chapel as the lectionary gives us readings from Revelation for Morning Prayer, directing us towards that vision of the future fulfilment of God’s will on earth. We often hear on Sundays and at other parts what I have heard called the “feisty Jesus”. That is, not the Sunday school Jesus of lambs and little children but the Jesus who promises woe and destruction to those who do not hear his words and who foretells the future suffering his disciples will experience. This week’s All Saints Day will heighten that focus even further. In short, the end of the church year has a strongly eschatological character in that it reminds us and points us towards the future that God has in store.

Many Christians have a complicated relationship with eschatology. For some, eschatology is the centre-point of their faith and remaining “Rapture ready” is of overriding importance (notwithstanding the fact that the Rapture is a relatively recent innovation in Christian theology, dating only to the 19th century, with scant Biblical foundation). For others—and this would include many people in “mainstream” denominations—eschatology is something to shy away from, even to fear. What’s the point of thinking about the future, you might ask, when there are so many pressing needs in the present? And why is it so difficult to figure out what the Bible is saying about all of this?

There are many things to say about eschatology and in various classrooms I have been known to say many of them. But as I have been sitting in chapel recently the thought I have repeatedly had is that the eschatological nature of this season is a helpful reminder that Christians exist in time. We have a past—a story recorded in the Old and New Testaments and written in the lives of our saints and forebears. We have a present—the messy reality in which we seek to live God’s love in the world. And we have a future—that final fulfillment of all things to which we can look with hope and confidence.

Being a Christian means simultaneously standing in the past, present, and future. This is a striking departure from the society in which we live, which usually encourages us to focus on present needs and wants at the expense of both the past and the future. It is also a departure from the experience of many churches. No doubt you can think of churches that are too firmly stuck in the past or congregations that are overwhelmed by the needs of the present. But this season will not let us forget the glorious future which God is working towards and which we are called to work to bring to reality in our midst.

Faithfully yours,
Jesse Zink

This reflection was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a community news digest named for our patron, St. Luke, and published weekly during the term on Monday (or Tuesday when Monday is holiday). Image: Eye of the Needle by Vladimir Kush.

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