This week I rejoiced at having finished my job at church, and so I no longer need to get up at 5.30 to clean the church building before coming back for breakfast, and then dashing off to work. I had tried to cram bible reading into other parts of the day, but all I really proved is that which I already know, if I don’t get up and read my bible first thing I fail to read it at any other time.
So on Monday morning I got out of bed at a luxurious 6.20 or so, crept downstairs past sleeping children (i.e. past their bedroom doors, not that we make them sleep on the stairs…) and opened up my bible excitedly. Yes, excitedly. You see I knew in my heart in that moment what I know intellectually all the time: that when we open up the Bible and read its pages we are hearing the voice of the living God. The living God who not only reigns over all things, who not only created us and every atom of this universe, but who also loves us and desires for us to know Him, the source of all real and lasting joy.
I read the very last section of Revelation 22. which begins with Jesus saying
12 ‘Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
My mind went to Isaiah 40
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Jesus is coming soon, bringing his reward with him. He comes to put things right, and he is coming soon. The excitement of Isaiah 40 – begun with Jesus earthly ministry culminates with his second coming when he will put all things to right. We will see the shepherd gather all his sheep. We will see the King reigning and the fulness of the kingdom.
And he is coming soon. Soon. Which always reminds me of this conversation in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan”, said Lucy,”what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.”
The reminder to me, though, was of the reality that Jesus is going to come back. I’m not sure I believe it lots of the time, but I want to. I want to live knowing that this life is not all there is. I want to live knowing that Jesus verdict matters more than peoples. I want to live free from the fear of not getting it right, and free to live a life marked by love.
It was exciting to be reminded of that on church this Sunday, with these wonderful words from Isaiah 25:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for ever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
In the centre aisle of the church we did indeed have bread and wine laid out, and cakes and fruit. All through the service our boys stared longingly, achingly at the cake. “Daddy, I’m hungry”. Longing for the moment when we could eat – which did at last come at the end of the service.
We need to linger on these verses, and allow ourselves to be hungry. To allow ourselves to curl up on our Father’s lap and say “Daddy, I’m hungry”. To cry, weep and sigh with sorrow at the state of our world, and the state of our hearts. To thirst for the bread and the wine that bring real and lasting life and joy, as we look forward to the day when we can taste of that food. When we look forward to this picture from the Last Battle coming true:
Everyone raised his hand to pick the fruit he best liked the look of, and then everyone paused for a second. This fruit was so beautiful that each felt “It can’t be meant for me … surely we’re not allowed to pluck it.”
“It’s all right,” said Peter. “I know what we’re all thinking. But I’m sure, quite sure, we needn’t. I’ve a feeling we’ve got to the country where everything is allowed.”
Or from the Silver Chair:
“Sir,” said Caspian, “I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?”
“You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,” said Aslan.
Stirred by these images our hearts can cry: “Daddy, I’m hungry” – Come Lord Jesus. And in the meantime help to live as if I believe this, and help me draw others to its truth and reality.
And the way we stir our hearts is by opening the book, and hearing God’s voice – so as we move towards advent I’m going to read Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and pray for my heart to be stirred so that I live with the expectation of Jesus return as real reality.