The future comes soon enough


Isaiah 2:1-5;  Romans 13:11-14;  Matthew 24:37-44

I never think of the future’ said Albert Einstein, ‘it comes soon enough.’  Our readings today all look forward to an unknown time in the future; they may give us hope or leave us feeling rather disturbed.

 Isaiah looks forward with breathtaking optimism to a time when God will be exalted, he will be raised high. God’s Law, and his Word through his prophets will be supreme and will draw all people to want to know them and live by them. Isaiah’s utopian vision looks forward to a time when war will cease, it will be unnecessary, and he says that weapons will be turned into farm implements; that which was used to kill and destroy will be used to cultivate and harvest.

Isaiah’s vision of peace and harmony is not just for Israel but for the whole world. Such a dream is not hopelessly idealistic, because war could cease in an instant if military and political leaders so wished.  Such a desire was behind the foundation of the United Nations, set up ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war'. We have known peace in western Europe for the last 68 years. We have even seen peace come to Northern Ireland where it seemed impossible. Even when the situation there was at its blackest, prayer for peace continued.

St Paul, in his letter to the Romans, looks to the near future. The time of salvation, the return of Christ, is getting closer. He doesn’t know when that will be, but every day it is one day closer. Night is nearly over and a new dawn is about to break. But it’s no good to just sit back and wait for God to bring things to completion. ‘The time has come’ he says; in Jesus, God has been revealed. In his gospel message, the Law has been fulfilled. Jesus has shown God to us and shown us how to live. Indeed Christ proclaimed that the kingdom of God is among us, so, Paul says, we must get on with living our lives as God expects. We must live decent lives.

Most churches as far as I know do not suffer from drunken orgies. But maybe I am mistaken, or I do not get invited!  Paul reminded the Roman Christians that they had to keep themselves pure, they could not indulge in the drunken, fruity rites of the god Bacchus for example. In Paul’s day Rome had a great plethora of religions, and Romans were rather partial to an orgy or two. Paul warns the Roman christians not to be caught with their pants down and their togas up. Paul wanrs us  not to  live furtive lives we should be ashamed of, but ones which we  are happy for all, including God, to see.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus speaks of that day when the Son of Man will return. He, rather disturbingly, compares it to an unexpected burglary. Such a message is all the more poignant following the terrible accident in Glasgow, when death fell from the sky onto unsuspecting revelers. Such an accident, that no one could have predicted, reminds us of the precarious nature of human life and that any day could be our last. 

Jesus teaches us that God will bring all things to completion and fulfillment at some time in the future. We do not know when that will be. So we have to live lives in readiness. Schools are faced with the threat of the dreaded OFSTED inspection. No good school would leave it til just before the snap inspection is announced before sorting out the problems and trying to improve. A good school would be working towards improvements all the time.

So with us,  we must be ready, we must be prepared, there is no excuse for bad behaviour in the Christian, because we cannot say we do not know what is expected of us.  We know what God wants of us, but how often do we choose to ignore that?

We should look forward and make plans and provisions but it does not do to worry unnecessarily about what the future will bring.

Arnold, was a very wealthy, retired businessman. His girlfriend Sadie was a beautiful young woman in her twenties. Arnold began to worry about the future, and what would happen if he lost everything.

And so one day he asked her , ‘Sadie, if I lost everything, the mansion, the swimming pool, the Rolls Royce car, the luxury holidays, would you still love me?’ 

‘Of course, darling’ she replied, ‘I would still love you, and I’d miss you too!’