The Secret To Great Living In Ordinary Times
The New Testament teaches that Christ is coming again. And it also teaches that he never leaves us. For many of us either one of those thoughts is hard to think.
It has been more than 2.000 years since Christ left this earth, and promised to return.
That is a long time to sustain an expectation. Theoretically, we may believe it. But realistically, we do not expect it, at least not today.
I realize, of course, that some claim otherwise. A TV preacher said: "I wake up every morning thinking this may be the day when Jesus comes."
That has not been my experience. Seldom, if ever, do I arise, expecting the return of Christ that day.
To admit that in the pulpit in a Christian church would be, for me, very bad form. But if I am going to preach the Gospel, it does seem a minimum requirement that I tell the truth.
And the truth is that I do not live in daily anticipation of the return of Christ. At least, I do not expect his coming in a visible and tangible form. This is not the nature of my spiritual reality.
For many of us, it is no less difficult to experience the abiding presence of Christ. I know he has promised never to leave us and in my deepest heart, I believe that to be true.
But I do not always experience that as a reality. There are times in my life when God seems far removed from me and my little world.
This sense of spiritual emptiness is not new. It certainly is not unique to you and me.
There is a Gospel when Jesus told his disciples there would be times like this. To make his point, he told a story of a man who had gone on a long journey.
While the man was away, his servants were in charge of the estate. They were expected to take care of the place just as if he were there. One day, he would be there. But they did not know when.
His arrival would be unexpected. He would just walk in unannounced. So the only sure way to be ready for his return was to get ready and stay ready.
Parts of this parable are a bit difficult to understand. For example, it is hard to think of Jesus threatening his followers.
They were best friends. Threats were not a part of their relationship. It is also hard to think of the disciples as doing right for fear they might get caught doing wrong.
That is what little children do. Surely, more is expected of us.
But part of this parable is very clear. It recognizes that we do not live in constant awareness of God.
Jesus told his friends to expect this. Many days, he will be to them as a man on a long journey.
They will look for him, but fail to find him. They will call to him, but hear no reply. They will wait until their waiting seems pointless. They will begin to wonder if he has abandoned them.
Before leaving, he left instructions on what to do. But some of them are hard to remember. And situations arise that he has not even mentioned. How are they to handle those? The day will come that some of his followers will wear a bracelet with four letters on them. WWJD.
It means What Would Jesus Do? They will ask the question over and over, but sometimes they cannot be sure of the answer.
That picture may be bleak. But for many people, perhaps most people, it is the reality of life. They believe in God. They faithfully avail themselves of the means of grace. And pray earnestly and often. They do their best to live a good Christian life.
Even so, God sometimes seems far away. And sometimes, we are not even aware of that.
We are too busy thinking about other things to realize we have not heard from God.
The servants must have felt that way about their absent master.
They could not spend every day wondering where he was or waiting for his return. They had chores to do. There were floors to sweep and dishes to wash. There were crops to gather and fields to plow. They did not have time to sit on a hill side and gaze into the distance.
Such contemplations would have to wait for Holy Days or Sabbaths. In the meantime, there was work to do.
Our lives are like that. We cannot think spiritual thoughts and do religious things every day.
Students have homework to do. Teachers have lessons plans to prepare. Business people have deals to close and overdrafts at the bank to cover. Homemakers have meals to cook and houses to clean.
This is the nature of our ordinary days. Very little time, if any, is set aside to think about God.
Other things clamor for our attention. And we barely do have the time and the strength to meet those demands.
So my question is this: How does Christ expect us to live in these ordinary times?
I would suppose that the first thing he expects of us is to do our work.
If your job is putting fenders on cars, he expects you to put fenders on cars.
If your job is going to school, he expects you to be a good student.
Whatever your work may be, do it, and do it well. This is one thing Christ expects from all of us.
Another thing he expects, in fact, is that we be good to each other. The story that Jesus told puts particular focus on this.
One of the servants started abusing his fellow servants. He thought he could get away with it. So why not?
But when the master returned, that servant was beaten with many stripes.
Strange language coming from Jesus. But he wanted us to know that he is very serious about how we treat each other.
At the bare minimum, we are not to abuse one another.
That is strictly forbidden. On the positive side he expects us to help each other.
The logical question is, "help with what?" Help with the ordinary business of ordinary living in ordinary times. Help pay a bill. Care for a baby so her mother can have an afternoon off. Visit a shut-in. Give someone a ride to the doctor.
We are not talking about heroic stuff here.
Most days, that is not what the world needs. We are talking about great living in ordinary times. And simple things like these are what that means.
"Be on guard, therefore. The Son of Man will come when you least expect Him. The best way to be ready is by doing the ordinary things, faithfully and well."