In Between (February 10, 2012)

…Opening To…

The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that. (Harper Lee)

…Listening In…

I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. (John 17:11; context)

…Filling Up…

On our final day with the New Testament, I’d like to talk about an expectation that the writers of the New Testament had that informed their writing. This expectation is that Jesus was returning imminently; that is, in the writers’ own lifetimes. As such, many of the texts in the New Testament exhibit an “in between” quality, which speaks of a reality that has begun to happen but hasn’t finished happening yet. Often, this reality is rendered in the shorthand as “both already and not yet.”

The expectation that Jesus would return imminently informs many of Paul’s letters. His advice about getting married or staying single has to do with the time being “short” (1 Corinthians 7). There is immediacy in much of his writing because of his conviction that the Lord would return next week some time.

In the Gospel, the “in between” quality finds its way into some of Jesus’ speech. In certain places, Jesus seems to be talking about his being around and his being gone at the same time. Read the verse in the “Listening In” section again. Notice that Jesus seems to be praying while in earshot of the disciples and at the same time while being “no longer in the world.” The coming of God’s reign on earth seems to be overlapping with the finishing of Jesus’ work. In the same way, Paul’s immediacy yearns for God’s reign to come soon, and in so yearning, helps bring it into being.

The “already, not yet” quality of the New Testament reminds us that God is both embedded in our lives even now (“already”) and is also continually revealing the kingdom in new ways that point to even newer ways to come (“not yet”). We can’t have everything figured out because God is always allowing us to discover new paths along our walks with God. The immediate, imminent nature of the New Testament gives us the language with which we can try to interpret God’s movement in our lives. God is here with us, or more precisely, we are here with God. And God is there waiting for us as we continue our journeys as followers of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

…Praying For…

Dear God, I stand for ever in your presence, even as that presence is beyond me. Help me to live my life believing that you are below, above, beside, and within me, always guiding me to the fullness of your glory. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, having faith that you have touched my life with your Word, knowing that I can read it in my heart and speak it on my lips.

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