With Hearts Set On Forever
Among my Christian friends and church family, I have often heard it said, with regards to present-day violence, war and racism, “This cannot and will not end until the Prince of Peace comes back.”
In conversations about poverty I am told, “There will always be poor people until we get to heaven.”
As I experience ecological degradation, I hear people say, “It’s okay, there will soon be a new earth.”
When my generation strives to belong to something, to anything, to rid ourselves of this sense of unshakeable loneliness, the church seems to say, “We are not citizens of this world but of heaven.”
And after I unexpectedly lose my best friend to disease, I hear “When this is all over, there will be no more sickness.”
These statements are not necessarily wrong but they are dangerously incomplete, as they point to an escapist mentality that is in direct opposition to the gospel of Christ.
In Advent, we set aside time to celebrate and anticipate the God who did not stand removed from the pain of this world but rather entered into it as a crying infant. In His life He gave us a true example of presence. In His death, Jesus took on the fullness of our pain on the cross.
It is only on the cross that we can understand the coexistence of suffering and hope. In His resurrection, his defeat of death, once and for all, is now our transforming hope for the present world.
Advent is a reminder of that hope – that the pain of our present world is no longer the agony of death but the pain of new birth.
Jesus embodied hope in the midst of our despairing world and calls His children to do the same: to be present and intimate with the pain of this world, not to escape it through ignorance or apathy.
In presence, hope is found in the pain – a hope the promises of God for His world. The hope of heaven has come, is coming and will continue to come to this earth in Jesus and those who live as he did. This is what it means to live with our hearts set on forever.
Yes, it is a hope of reconciliation; a hope of a new earth where all are free and sickness is no more. Because of the cross, that same hope is already here for us to experience and give away. That’s what it means to pray our Father’s kingdom come and His will be done, “on earth at it is in heaven.” His hope is here. His kingdom is here and we have the opportunity to participate in that which God is giving birth to in our world.
The Lord’s Prayer Meditation
This practice is helpful in developing a habit of mediation and focus; pushing aside the worries, distractions and noises from the day to be able to hear our Father who is present with us in the silence of the wind and the people around us.
Breathing deeply, recite the prayer Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-13. With each inhale read the bold words (about 3 seconds), with each exhale read the italicized (again, taking about 3 seconds). Repeat this deep breathing and recitation for about 5 minutes.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
On earth at it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For your is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.