Matt Woodley, the managing editor of the website preachingtoday.com, relates the following story:
Are you ready for the end of the world? If not, a company named Vivos can help you and your loved ones get prepared. The Vivos website says, “Whether we want to believe it or not … we are on the cusp of an increase in number and magnitude of events that may, in the twinkling of an eye, change the world, as we know it.” They list a range of possible cataclysmic disasters, including Armageddon, plagues, a solar kill shot, a super volcanic eruption, major earth changes, killer asteroids and comets, mega tsunami’s, an economic meltdown—not to mention manmade threats, including nuclear explosions, a reactor meltdown, biological or chemical disasters, terrorism, and widespread anarchy. But for a mere $35,000 per person, you can co-own an underground Vivos shelter in one of their airtight, fully self-contained, impervious complexes designed to survive any catastrophe. Their website advertises: Our [complexes] comfortably accommodate community groups from 50 to 1,000 people, in spacious living quarters, outfitted and stocked for a minimum of 1 year of autonomous survival to ride out the potential events. Every detail has been considered and planned for. Members need to only arrive before their facility is locked down and secured from the chaos above. Their website warns that “millions will perish or worse yet, struggle to survive.” But they also boldly promise, “Vivos is your solution to ride out these catastrophes, so you may survive to be a part of the next Genesis!” They also offer this reminder: “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
The texts in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Isaiah 65:17-25 and Isaiah 12 and Luke 21:5-19 are all about being ready for the new thing God is doing. It is now, but not yet. Are you ready?
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 asserts that every human being innately wants to contribute to a meaningful existence for themselves and others regardless of the circumstances they may find themselves in. And yet we know society struggles with the increasing number of homeless living on the streets and panhandling for money. The money expended to care for and provide to the underemployed, unemployed and mentally ill is staggering. But there is still a new thing that God is writing in the lives of these who live on the margins of society and are a drain on governmental services. Jesus reminds us, however, that whenever we give and love to the least of these, we are doing it unto him. Thessalonians 3:13: reads, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”2 Experience the now and not yet of God’s new thing.
Isaiah 65:17-25 and Isaiah 12 create a narrative for our lives around the new and not yet new thing that God is doing. That narrative is that regardless of the times we live in and our current circumstances, God rules the universe with faithfulness and love. Whatever the issues ecologically, economically, socially or politically, God is in charge and control, and involved in our lives. Isaiah 65:17-18a reads, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating….” Experience the now and not yet of God’s new thing.
Luke 21:5-19 displays a different experience of hope. In fact, this hope is at the core of Jesus’ ministry. This hope is not visible or obvious. It is invisible and beyond our senses. But this hope can still be fulfilled. It requires commitment and trust, however, to see it through. God’s faithfulness invites each one of us to be faithful. God promises to rebuild our lives now and renew us from within our brokenness. It is this invisible and beyond our senses hope that we remain committed to and trust in God to bring about the new life. God is full of mercy and love. And continues to save us day in and day out. Experience the now and not yet of God’s new thing.
Admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church. Make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community. Be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences. Make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately. The new thing God is doing is now but not yet. We live in in troubled times. We need to experience the new that is now. It keeps us going for it is the fulfillment of the invisible and beyond our senses hope. But we need a radical change in our understanding and experience of giving and loving, of being church, in troubled times. Thom Rainer writes, “Being a good steward of those material things that God has given our churches is good. Becoming obsessed with any one item to the neglect of His mission is idolatry.” A church that doesn’t leverage its buildings for the community is leaning into “building-centered” purpose, not a gospel-centered missional purpose. Take note of the following:
12 Ways To Keep Geneva Alive
- admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church;
- recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community;
- let go of the past as hero;
- build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community;
- focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others;
- make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community (ies);
- practice the Great Commission;
- be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences;
- value a long tenure for your pastor;
- make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately;
- have a clear purpose of being church not going through the motions of church; and
- be a good steward of our church campus without neglecting God’s mission through it.
I pray that each one of us… admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church; recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community; let go of the past as hero; build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community; focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others; make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community (ies); practice the Great Commission; be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences; value a long tenure for your pastor; make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately; have a clear purpose of being church not going through the motions of church; and be a good steward of our church campus without neglecting God’s mission through it.
Is our time the end of time thus no time, no love to give? According to the Bible, the end of time, which is announced by the Second Coming of Christ, can happen at any time. Yes, even now. Being ready for the Second Coming of Christ is a matter of experiencing the new thing now that God is doing but is not yet finished doing. God is writing God’s unconditional love for you and others on your heart. God is leading you to forgive others and receive forgiveness. God has given you spiritual gifts, yes, even at 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, 95 and 105 years old. Your life matters. You are loved. You are needed.
Now is the time and God is not yet finished with the new thing. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead…Your resurrection from the dead in and through your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, reminds you that your time is now because the end could be tomorrow. There is no excuse that you do not have time to love and give. God is doing the new thing in your life, even now, so that your experience of tithing from your cognitive, affective, physical, spiritual and financial resources from your life wallet will really matter to you and others. Living into legacy, the legacy of being known as a Jesus follower, is a life worth living.
This illustration provided by Matt Woodley, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; source: Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock (Penguin Group, 2013), 245; Vivos website (accessed on April 10, 2013).
In all three sections of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of D. Cameron Murchison, Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Song-Mi Suzie Park, Patrick Oden and Michael Pasquarello III in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 486-488, 488-489, 479-480, 480-482, 490-492 and 492-494.
Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 80.