What end? It’s only October. Surely, we’re not coming to the end any time soon. Well, we are only a month away from the end of the liturgical year. While it is good to keep track of such things and to plan for the transition into a new year when Advent begins, that isn’t the end we have in mind here.
We are a pilgrim people; we have a destination in mind as we move forward in our journey of faith. It may seem at times that we are just wandering aimlessly, doing our best to stay clean in an increasingly messy world. But the deeper truth is that we are heading somewhere. We are on a quest toward the kingdom of God. Sometimes we call it a kin-dom as a reminder that this is a corporate journey; it is a community vision. But whatever we call it, it is the vision that Jesus shared again and again with images both powerful and subtle.
Is it heaven? Well, yes, we are on our way to heaven, but not as traditionally described. Instead, it is the new heaven and the new earth of which we get a glimpse in Revelation, a new way of living and being in the presence of God always. It is affirmation and transformation. We are reminded that we are loved and called into new life and new hope and into a community of mutual support and encouragement.
This end, this goal, this hope is in sight because we are living it out every day. Every time we act as the church in the work of discipleship and reconciliation and joy, we reflect this hope; we glimpse this destination. We are a people who live with the end in sight.
The invitation this week in worship is to adjust our vision. We are called to see God in the world in which we live. We are called to identify the things that are God’s, including ourselves and the people around us. Even the surprising ones. This requires, first of all, the faith that declares that God is indeed at work in the world around us. We might begin with a creed or a statement of faith in the God who is present. We might use the passing of the peace time not simply to say hello to one another but to thank one another for being the presence of God for us. Maybe this is a time to thank the musicians who offer us the voice of God in the anthems and hymns they lead us to sing. Maybe this is a time to acknowledge the teachers who have been God’s wisdom among us. Maybe this is a time (in pastor appreciation month) to say thank you to the preacher who has shared with us the mysteries of God.
It is also a time to offer ourselves again to God’s service. Let us be the “things” that are God’s. Use us, speak through us, be seen in us, we might pray, or sing, or declare within the congregation. This could be a private moment in the midst of worship, but it could also be a corporate declaration. We are the community that wants to be the conduit for God to be in touch with a hurried and hurting world. We want to be the sign – by how we live together and how we reach out – that God invites all to come and know and be known.
Of course, there is a space for confession for the times when we fall short of the vision that we have of living as examples of the kin-dom, even within the walls of our own church. So let us confess but also resolve to be reconciled with one another so that we can then be a part of the reconciling work of the church.
Our primary mode, however, is one of joy. It is a joy to belong to God and to be useful for the kingdom. Let there be praises from the beginning to the end of this worship moment. Let there be hope and a longing to be a part of that which we declare as God’s kingdom, God’s promise, God’s working. We are indeed the things that are God’s.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.