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Already, now and not yet

by davesandel on May 20th, 2020

May 20, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 

Already, now and not yet

Reading the lectionary’s pairing of two parallel accounts, one of the end of Jesus’ time with his disciples and the other the beginning of Paul’s, I remember a phrase from Wendell Berry, “He and time were moving at about the same pace” (A Place in Time, “At Home”).

The Bible describes two brief moments a few months apart on the great mandala. And these stories bring to mind eternity, togetherness and foreverness, life after life after life after life. We are never alone, and we are never lost. Our eyes see far past their own horizon, and our minds reach up and out and away.

Jesus’ promise, “The Spirit will come and guide you to all truth” and what Paul shared with his intellectual friends, “We are the offspring of God,” rain down joy and hope.

See the rainbow? God is right here, right now …

 

Much has happened since Paul left Philippi. A hundred miles down the road, they landed in Thessalonica, after stopping for food and shelter 30 miles apart in Amphipolis and Apollonia. His company stayed in Thessalonica for at least three weeks, probably much longer, long enough to receive offerings from his friends in Philippi.

Paul was either loved or hated, right? Many people fell at Jesus’ feet because of Paul’s preaching, others were healed of all kinds of diseases. But still others felt his wrath, lost business, lost followers, and they were jealous. Paul showed no signs of leaving. What shall we do?

Stirring up mobs and paid assassins come to mind. Lynching is the American way, stoning was theirs. “These men who have caused trouble All Over the World have now come here!” So Paul and Silas left for Berea.

Margaret and I thought of being campus ministers in Berea, a peace-loving college town in Kentucky named for this city in Greece, whose inhabitants were of “a more noble character.” But the same nasty Thessalonians descended on Berea and stirred up trouble again. So Paul was sent to Athens.

Athens might have been past its prime, but it was still the center of Greek philosophy and wisdom, as well as marketplace for all of Greece. Its sculpture and architecture stretched up toward the heavens. But Paul only noticed the loneliness of the people and the emptiness of their actions, the hollow sound of their words. The city was “full of idols.”

At Valparaiso University I lived for a year in a house named “Areopagitica.” Young, self-proclaimed wise men that we were, we likened ourselves to the Aereopagus, the aristocratic council of ancient Athens. Some of the guys listening to Paul in synagogues and marketplaces brought him to the Areopagus, and his speech there has found its way to the tongues of Christians ever since.

Now remember, Paul had not read 1 Peter 3:15. But he certainly proved able to give an explanation of what he believed with gentleness and respect. Well, respect at least:

“Your Unknown God, who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell on altars made by human hands and is not served by human hands. It is He who gives us all life and breath and everything!

“We are made to grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.

Paul knew his Greek poetry:

“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being, for we too are his offspring.”

Paul is always willing to get personal: God has overlooked times of ignorance but now he demands all people everywhere repent.

Paul and his message may be new to them, but the God who appointed to us Jesus has earned the right to be heard: He has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead. As always, some scoffed, some believed.

And after this Paul left and went to Corinth.

 

He has lifted up the horn of his people: be this his praise, from all his faithful ones, Alleluia! Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.

 

Jesus begins to end his long talk with the disciples, as the night rises and darkness cloaks the ugly deeds of Judas and the temple guards. His disciples are exhausted, in fact they will fall asleep in the garden as soon as their heads hit the ground.

My current favorite commentary takes them to task:

“Their hearts were hardened, their concern was for their own preeminence in an earthly kingdom, so they saw no need for Jesus’ death. Sorrow over His departure and dismay over the prophecy of a traitor among them, along with the prediction of their own desertion, rendered them insensitive to more spiritual truth.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary)

 

Jesus said it simply, “You cannot bear it now.” But the future is bright. The Spirit of truth will come and guide you to all truth. All Truth!

And you can trust what you hear. Everything the Father has is mine, and the Spirit will take from what is mine, and he will declare it to you.

And these words are for us also.

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