Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Nearness of the Kingdom: Jesus Goes, Too

Luke 21:25-36

I spent several hours in the E.R. the other night --- this time not because I had been called. No, instead, I was on the other side. I'll spare you the details, but I was suffering a severe gall bladder attack. After they diagnosed it and addressed my pain, they sent me home with the advice to consult a surgeon. I did. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Now it has been a long time since I've had any kind of surgery for I have been so very fortunate when it comes to my health. In fact, the last time was forty-seven years ago when I had my tonsils removed. Before that, and much more traumatically, as a five year old I spent ten days in the Rochelle Community Hospital following an emergency appendectomy.

I don't remember much from when I was five, but I do remember that. And it is not the pain I remember so much as the fear. I had never been away from family before. Indeed, I had never even used a telephone. (That's impossible to imagine with the five-year-olds I know today!) Oh, I can't imagine my mother's heartbreak when I would not speak to her on the bedside phone. I was simply paralyzed in my fear.

By now you may be wondering why my mother was not right beside me then, but with three younger sisters at home, it was simply not possible for her to be there all the time. Although I do expect that my overriding memory of fear has also clouded my recollection. For this I learned later. My dad, in fact, stayed with me every night. He slept on a cot right next to my bed. Only, truly, I don't remember that at all.

Not surprisingly, all of this has come rushing back to me in the last few days. And somehow it speaks to me as we approach Advent I with Jesus' hair raising predictions of what is to come. For embedded in these often fear provoking words are promises that our redemption is drawing near, about the nearness of the Kingdom of God and that the Son of Man stands in the midst of and at the end of it all. Perhaps in the same way, this can also simply be hard for us to see or to feel --- particularly when fear overwhelms.

Indeed, as I have been recalling the past, and anticipating my own very personal future, not to mention the chaos playing out all over the globe in these last days, the words of Carrie Newcomer's song, "I'll Go, Too" keep running through my mind. In it she makes the comparison between the presence of a father with a child --- particularly in moments of anxiety or fear. And in it, she speaks of her own deep hope that when we come to the end of our days, one of God's own angels will be there to 'go, too' --- to accompany us into what follows.  You can listen to the song here. The recording of her entire album, "The Gathering of Spirits" is one I am grateful to count in my collection. You may want to add it to yours.

And so in the midst of a world where there is a great deal which confuses and frightens... in the midst of our lives where the worries of this life threaten to overwhelm, I am clinging to the certainty that Jesus 'goes, too.' As he already has. Sometimes it is only this, it seems to me, that allows us to stay alert and strong in the face of whatever is still to come. Indeed, it is the promise that Jesus is at the beginning and in the middle and at the end that carries me now.
And so yes, in these days as I face a truly minor surgery, I am comforted by this. And surely such comfort --- surely the promise which prompts that comfort which has been offered to all of us --- somehow enables us all to truly live our lives as though the kingdom of God is near.

As for all the rest I am certain to learn about myself in these next days --- not the least of which will be what it is to seek to live in faith alongside the certain experience of the fragility of one's very human body --- stay tuned. No doubt I'll be compelled to share in upcoming Advent reflections.  In the meantime, thanks for tagging along, for 'going, too.' I am grateful for each and all of you.

  •  My anticipation of surgery in the next few days has deepened my Advent reflections. What experiences have you had which have done the same?
  • How does the promise that all that Jesus describes is simply a sign that 'your redemption is drawing near' inform how you hear the rest of his words? How is it that we can tune our hearts to the nearness of God's Kingdom even or especially when it feels so far away?
  • The promise of accompaniment as Carrie Newcomer sings of it, soothes me in these days. What helps you when you are afraid or uncertain?