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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Already, But Not Yet

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4:14-21
Sometimes, the most important thing is that which is missing. When you tell your significant other that you love them and all that you hear in reply is abject silence, that which is missing is more telling than anything that they could possibly say. Jesus, in reading this passage from Isaiah 61, read a messianic prophesy about Himself, but the telling thing about the reading is where He stopped - He stopped mid-sentence, in the middle of verse 2. Why would Jesus stop in the middle of a sentence like that? The answer is simple, yet profound in its implications for our Christian journey - the Kingdom of God was manifest with Jesus' entry into the world, but it will not be fully consummated until His return. His Kingdom is already here, but it is not yet fulfilled.

There is tension between the Already and the Not Yet, and we see this tension in many ways, every day. We witness the movement and power of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, but we also see gross injustices going unpunished. We see God saving, healing, and delivering people from certain destruction, but we also see people cursing God and living well. We readily see the Already but we also understand the Not Yet, and this is why we earnestly yearn for Jesus' return - we want His Kingdom to come into effect in full. It is like beginning a race when all of your opponents have been disqualified - you are already assured of victory but you have not yet completed the race. It is much like the prototypical engagement period - you have the assurance of a life-long commitment but you have not yet consummated the relationship (n.b. failure to achieve the former often being connected to a failure to live up to the latter). We already have the assurance of our salvation through the in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, but we have not yet been glorified in the fullness of the Kingdom of God. We praise God for the Already but we sit on tiptoe anticipation for the Not Yet.

Patience is a virtue.

I don't know about you, but I hate to wait for that which is already mine - nothing irritates me more than waiting for my food in a restaurant, waiting in rush hour traffic to get home, or waiting for a certain Texan to leave office - but Jesus said that no man knows the day nor the hour of His return, so we have no choice but to wait for Him to return and establish His kingdom in full here on Earth. It is already established, but it is not yet completed.

Are you ready for the Not Yet to become the Already?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who has already prepared a place for us,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 10:23 AM

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