There's plenty of time, isn't there?
He was our age. That means old.
And he gazed vaguely through his bleary bifocals, rattling
ill-fitting dentures with a noise like a xylophone solo, and waving his gnarled
walking stick for emphasis. Most folk of our vintage are like that.
'I used to be excited, once,' he quavered.
It seemed unlikely. We asked for footnotes.
'Around 1948,' he explained. 'All that business of
David ben Gurion announcing the formation of the state of Israel. The Jews back
in their homeland at long last. Oh, we were excited and no mistake. The Lord was
going to return in no time at all.'
He paused, sniffed, and ran a forefinger thoughtfully under
his ample nose.
'Nearly fifty-five years ago, that was. And we're all
still here. So what's the point of getting all worked up for nothing?'
He sighed a deep sigh that scattered the biscuit crumbs on
his plate and woke Lucy, our once-hyperactive huntaway.
Ah, we thought, how true. How very true!
Then we shook ourselves out of the trance, returned to the
real world, grabbed a Bible, and read Luke 12.
There are a few parables tucked in that chapter. Try the one
that starts around verse 42 about the 'faithful and wise steward'. It's
nice and cosy, as long as you cut off abruptly at the end of verse 44: '...[God]
will make him a ruler over all that he has.' Ah, that's for us, eh.
Unfortunately, the Lord is just getting into his stride with
this story. 'What if,' he demands, 'that servant says in his heart "my
lord delays his coming" and begins to beat the other servants, and eats,
drinks and gets drunk?'
It's a fair question. It happens. And Jesus supplies the
'The lord of that servant will come in a day when he doesn't
look for him; in an hour when he's unaware and...'
(And what? Look - we didn't write this stuff. We're just
copying it out of a rather battered King Jimmy.)
'...and cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the
Let's pause right there. And before you start writing
lengthy letters, we need to tell you that once upon a time we were involved in
an earnest little fellowship that taught us a few tricks on how to wriggle out
of awkward scriptures. (Our patron saint was a bloke called Houdini.) So we know
how to detour round this one.
But water it down as much as you dare, the fact still remains
that Jesus is saying it's not good for God's servants to give up on watching
for His return. Yes, it's been a long wait. One thousand, nine hundred and
seventy years since his ascension. Or fifty-five years since Israel became a
nation. Surely it's not reasonable...
God isn't reasonable. Which is why He gives faith.
Unfortunately, faith isn't like an adrenaline rush - it doesn't click in
automatically. We have to use faith.
And no matter how ho-hum life used to be, as of now there are
little warning lights flashing, little alarm bells ringing, to suggest we're
on the brink of something big.
'Hang on a moment,' we hear someone objecting. 'Sure,
we are all called to be ready. But stop the scaremongering. Our salvation is
secure - or don't you believe that the atonement is a complete and finished
As far as it goes.
We're ratbags, us two. Born again ratbags, to be technical.
When Jesus saved us, he wiped the slate clean. Past, present and future.
Unconditionally. (For those of you who want to debate the 'once saved, always
saved' old chestnut, let's simply say that losing your salvation, getting
un-born again, is an extremely difficult and arguable process.)
But... (The Andersons always insert a 'but...' at this
But 'ministry', 'service', is a whole different area.
It has to be done the way God wants it, because you're messing with other
It's why Paul says it's okay for some folk, but he has no
option, he must preach the gospel. 'Woe to me if I don't'. (That's
not just the cutely dramatic Jewish 'Oy vey!'; he's saying that woe will
befall him. That's serious.)
Paul says he has to keep his nose clean or, after all the
hard work, he could find he's a castaway. Nothing to do with salvation. He's
And not just him. 'Don't clamour to be a teacher,'
James warns. 'Teachers get judged more severely.' Judged? Sure. Nothing to
do with salvation; James is talking service.
Getting involved in the lives of others (which is why God
calls us) may be a cool ego trip. Maybe. But in job-description terms it counts
as being a surgeon, not cutting lawns. Surgeons have neat fun. The pay isn't
bad either. But the responsibility is ginormous.
Yes, we're talking about ministers and elders and such.
We're also talking about you and us. Remember the
good old Baptist cliché: 'the priesthood of all believers'? More
often honoured in the breach than in the observance, as they say, but pretty
close to stone cold sober fact.
There's a job for you and us to do. People out there are
running scared. They know there's a war on; they know that since 9/11 nothing
is safe any more. So who's got the answers?
'Oh, but I couldn't...'
Hang on. It's not eloquence. It's not intelligence. It
certainly isn't training. It's obedience.
The church has been enjoying a rather long holiday. Crusading
for social reform, being nice to the ecology, accepting minority behaviour
uncritically. Until - it happens at the end of any holiday - it's not only
hard to get back to work, it's bloomin' hard to remember what we're
supposed to be doing.
It was tricky trying to give answers to people who didn't
ask questions. And during the sixties and seventies - even into the eighties -
yuppies invented themselves, there was money to be made, a lifestyle to
construct, luxuries to be taken for granted. God, spirituality, all that stuff,
had been obligingly done away with by dear old Professor Lloyd Geering. Nobody
wanted to know.
Now the questions are being asked once more.
Maybe we'll try and duck out like Moses. There he was, in
the undeniable presence of God at the burning bush and he has the temerity to
claim that he's verbally challenged. 'Here am I - send my brother.'
Look - it's never been so easy to find
conversation-openers. Evolution is tottering like a drunk at a party since they
discovered DNA. There are taniwha on the Hamilton motorway and under the new
nick at Ngawha. Islamic extremists want to continue their interrupted job of
conquering the world. And if your twelve-year-old will show you how to tap into
www.adsx.com you'll see that the Mark of the Beast is up and running, with
$US50 discount for registering now, and the Chipmobile (we joke not) is on its
way to implant you and your kids.
This may not be the End Times, but it looks good and close,
So you chat up your neighbours. Talk to the guy behind the
counter. Perhaps you can't quote yards of scripture just like that. But you
can tell people that it's all in the Book. You can say that you know God
personally, which makes all the difference. You can say you're not trying to
get bums on seats at your local religious gathering, but it's still possible
for folk to make Jesus lord of their lives.
Just don't say there's plenty of time.