Well, if you’re reading this message you were not caught up in the rapture that was scheduled for May 21st. Throughout the centuries so much time and energy has been spent on predicting the end of time. I have seen many programs on the cable and satellite stations devoted to “decoding the Bible” as though God wrote that book in code to tell when the end is coming. There are no codes. The Bible is not meant as a mystery that has to be solved or unraveled. With regard to the end time we are told, “be ready,” that means be found doing what God has asked us to do. We are told, “no one but the Father will know the times and the seasons of the coming,” “it will come like a thief in the night.” Yet, the Bible also tells us very plainly what God wants from us. In the prophet Micah we are told, “This is what the Lord requires of you, that you love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God.” Jesus made the task very clear, “take up your cross and follow me;” “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and you whole strength . . . and love your neighbor as yourself;” and “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
These are not obscure ideas or passages from the book. There is no code here. There are no secrets here. We are called to action. So much of Christian thought, however, is turned to the “beyond,” getting to heaven. Yet, the core content of Jesus’ teaching for his disciples doesn’t even touch on that idea. Jesus’ message to the disciples was to go out into the world and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” The tense is very telling . . . the kingdom has come near . . . and Jesus carried out a ministry through his years of bringing the kingdom of God to all those that he encountered. The kingdom’s presence was made known in forgiveness of sinners, and in the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, and the lepers being cleansed. Jesus spent his life in the present bringing the realities of God’s reign to broken lives that surrounded him.
There lies our calling . . . our ministry . . . the lives of discipleship and stewardship that God has entrusted to us, his holy, catholic, and apostolic church. We are to baring the kingdom of God to bear upon our time. Yes, we have a definite future. God made that clear in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet we have a present that needs to be lived out. It is the life that Jesus lived for others, it is the life of cross that redeemed the world; but that also calls us into the places where injustice, prejudice, hatred, ignorance, and poverty drive God’s people into the ground. Heaven is, most assuredly our destination. Jesus has given us that pledge. We need not worry about that any longer. Our task is to bring that good news in word and deed to the people that do not know it; and that ministry is done as we bring justice in Jesus’ name for the sake of the cross; bring healing to the sick in Jesus’ name for the sake of the cross; and bring hope in the despair of the world through Jesus’ name for the sake of the cross.
This is our most beloved bequest from Dr. Martin Luther. We cling to our theology of the cross that bears good news to the entire world. The end will come when it is time – in God’s time; but now is the time to be found by our Lord and master doing what God has asked us to do – establish the kingdom of God.
In Jesus Name,
Pastor Kipp W. Zimmermann