Some people spend a lot of time looking back. If that is all they do, it’s a bit pathetic. Sadly, some Christians seem to be like that, and for many people, that is why faith is not worth the bother. Faith needs three tenses, not one.
In today’s reading (Mark 13:24-37) Jesus talks about the future. (This is Advent Sunday, a new Church year, and we start reading Mark’s gospel). Some of what he talks about would happen in the Jewish war (66AD on), while some is still in the future today. If that seems confusing, Mark’s point is clear. Christians need to be alert; they cannot live casually, but must be ready for Jesus’ future return, ready to give an account of themselves – what they are doing, not what they did, or had planned . . .
We look to what God has done in the past (that’s the Old Testament, as well as the gospel stories of Jesus, and the New Testament church). There is lots of direction, and encouragement.
We look to the future, to Jesus return, to a time when right will rule.
And now? Well God hasn’t stopped being active, but the question is rather the same as for Isaiah (Isaiah 64:1-9 is the Old Testament lesson) – are we listening, are we praying, are we available for service, or just wanting a long “time out”? What do we have to say about God in the run-up to Christmas 2017? – and is it about what other people are doing, or what we are involved in?
In case you think this an odd way of looking at faith, compare words repeated in the Welsh (and English) Anglican eucharist:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come in glory. (England: Christ will come again)
We say that week by week so that it sinks in: that our faith looks back and forward, to make sure that we now celebrate, and pray, and go out to serve.
Isaiah longed for God to act in his time – but had a pretty good idea of why nobody seemed to see him at work. God, the God of the great actions of the Old Testament, and the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is still at work now – but we need, not just to be alert to what he is doing, but ready both to get involved and help, and to explain to other people what is going on.