__Pentecost 15: Matthew 16:27-28; also, Luke 11:20, Thomas 113:2-4, 3:3, 20:2-4.__ _August 28, 2005. First Congregational United Church of Christ, Santa Rosa, California, an Open and Affirming Congregation. The Rev. Robert F. Cramer, Eucharistic Minister._
__The Gospel of Thomas’ Twin,__ installment 3
An old man thinks often about death. The young, as I was when I spent much time near Jesus, think only of the present moment.
Thomas’ list of Jesus’ words reminds me of the way Jesus, no longer a youth himself, though still young, reacted whenever a disciple older than he would ask him about the future.
“The future is now,” Jesus would say, annoyed about having to say it so often.
Many people seemed to believe he might turn out to be Messiah, which might mean he had a plan for the future. He did not. It was more like Jesus to want us to leave the future to God; it was just like Jesus to say it is how we live now that matters. But still they asked. I could understand their asking, but I was still too young, and awed, to raise questions myself. And I took his word.
One of the men once asked Jesus, “When will the Father’s rule be established?” And of course Jesus said, “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s rule over his creation is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”
Another man rolled his eyes. (I saw a lot of that happening when Jesus spoke; everyone respected him for his deep spirituality, I often think, rather than for his wisdom which could sound downright foolish: surely heaven cannot be here now.) Jesus said that God’s rule is already breaking in: _“Can’t you see? Or hear?”_
Foolish? A bit comical, perhaps, to get people to really see. His remark about God’s reign being more like a mustard plant than the cedars of Lebanon is a good example: Heaven on earth, Jesus said, is “like a mustard seed. It’s the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.” _(How strange!)_
Thomas and I, both young, not yet filled and satisfied with ordinary wisdom, liked that idea. Our world is bursting with common plants and common people, with plenty of food for famous folks but nowhere near enough for hungry multitudes. The mustard seed made us think of Jesus’ teaching the hungry that they are the truly blessed; those who seem to have nothing are the truly strong, not weak, not victims. _(Yes, that is strange.)_
__Because our world still seems little changed,__ and since now it has been a generation since Jesus was crucified, some are saying he must be planning to return in a burst of glory – perhaps soon.
If he ever gave a hint of that, himself, neither Thomas nor I were aware of it. That is why I called Jesus a “now” person.
Others may be writing otherwise; others certainly are preaching that he will return: “The son of Adam,” they are saying, “is going to come in the glory of his Father with his messengers, and then he will reward everyone according to their deeds.” They are saying this can happen in our lifetime.
But in our lifetime Jesus already was saying that the heavenly realm was being demonstrated as he cured those whose illness others had not understood. He said “If by God’s finger I drive out demons, then God’s imperial rule has arrived.”
Jesus said “If ” I do it. I am certain that he meant “Since I do it, you may, and must.” He was teaching who we are and who we were meant to be – agents of God’s will; heavenly messengers.
He once sent some disciples out to be just that, and when they returned they said it was true – they had healed some; but no one actually believed we could keep doing it. Jesus nearly wept.
_Oh, Jesus had had so much more to do before he died!_ His patience was sorely tried almost every day because while people want to wait for some kind of salvation from “above,” he wanted us to be its agents now. Now. To be empowered.
I find I feel that way too. I think of your generation, and the next. God’s realm will come, God’s will can be done. It is being done. Now. The eyes of those with hearts of faith in God can see good news. You are that good news, my son. _Already._