Until Then…

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Scripture Reading: Acts 1: 6-11
Reflection:  by Rev. George Vink

Luke recounts the disciples’ lack of understanding. Jesus responded to their question stating simply, “It’s not for you to know…,” following it with a promise of the coming Holy Spirit. Then, with no tears, hugging or handshakes, Jesus ascended, leaving it to the angels to assure the disciples—and us—of his return. Having just celebrated the promised outpouring on Pentecost Sunday, we now live in anticipation of Christ’s Return.

As a husband, father, and pastor, I’ve frequently quoted sayings my mother employed to encourage or admonish us. An often-used one stated, “Act normal, that’s weird enough!” Dad’s sayings were different. As a man of few words, having a sixth sense about people, his cautious admonition was austere, “Be trusted, but trust no-one!” Reminds me of President Reagan’s “Trust, But Verify!” (I’m sure they never met.) Dad’s only other observation I recall was a declaration, “But, it is that way!” (Het is tog zo!) When I use it in the original to emphasize life’s realities, Shirley groans. A contemporary version is seen on signs: “It is what it is.”

Aging, I also find myself increasingly sharing my father’s avoidance of saying “Goodbye,” a trait often misunderstood. My dad would not have been described as “a people person.” I recall all too well his quietly slipping away when leaving so we would not see his tears. As his son, I am less reluctant to share or show feelings, but there is still considerable reticence.

With children and grandchildren living in Michigan, Alberta, and California, Shirley and I say “Goodbye” too often. Phones, Facetime and Zoom are excellent means of keeping in touch, but nothing replaces a granddaughter’s hug or a grandson’s drooly kiss. Saying “So long,” to congregations we served and learned to love did not get easier after years of doing so. Therefore, I appreciate C.S. Lewis’ encouraging us to express our feelings and our future of being together by saying, Until then….” Living between Christ’s coming and His coming again, we express by doing so our confidence of an enhanced eternity with no tears of sorrow or farewell.

So, if we would say, “Until then…,” what would it mean? Stuart Hamblen’s hymn may help. It opens with, “My heart can sing when I pause to remember, a heartache here is but a steppingstone.” That is a conclusion more easily written than felt. But then life’s reality of, “It is what it is,” comes next, “This troubled world is not my final home.”  Truly a comforting assurance! But it is the chorus that has the message. In it we hear the “Until then” C.S. Lewis had in mind. It contains the challenging and encouraging message:
But until then my heart will go on singing,
 Until then with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.”

I heard my mother share them as at sixty she was leaving for her final home. They’re Hamblen’s words, “The things of earth will dim and lose their value,” with an understanding of the next line, “If we recall they’re borrowed for a while.” Even if we own our finely furnished home or comfortable condo, it is stuff we enjoy but it gets left behind.

Hamblen’s hymn concludes, “The soul of man is like a waiting falcon. When it’s released, it’s destined for the skies.”  That’s why we can confidently say, “Until then….”  and do so with gratitude for rich relationships enjoyed here while here. And if, because of the pandemic we cannot have regular funerals or farewells, let us apply the chorus’ challenging words, “Until then with joy I’ll carry on….Until the day God calls me home.” The reality remains “It is what it is” and we demonstrate our trust in Jesus by carrying on—Spirit empowered!

Jesus, as we live in expectation of your return, empower us with your Spirit to live as those who believe your promised return is coming, even if not as soon as we would like it to be when things are difficult. Empower us to live in confidence and expectation, confident of your care. Amen.

Action Item for the Day:
Decide to do something today that you want to make sure you would have done if you knew that Jesus was returning tomorrow at noon. You won’t regret it….

Songs for today: 

The King Is Coming

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