Last night I walked out into the darkness and looked up into the night sky. I was looking for something.
From morning till evening yesterday, one common thread wove it’s way through most every conversation I had with people: snow!
Right now I’m guessing that most of us are warmly huddled in our homes with enough bread and milk in reserve to feed a small army! Up and down the East Coast of the United States, tens of millions of people are doing the exact same thing as they wait out this monster storm.
Last evening as I stared into the sky it occurred to me that for almost 75 million of us living in the path of this storm, for the better part of a week our lives have orbited around one, anticipated reality: snow. Much of our time yesterday was likely filled with securing food and planning meals, checking heat, power and water reserves, and securing snow removal and recreational equipment. Many of our conversations may have centered around the impending storm and it’s duration and our preparation. For a few days, all of us have had an ‘eye to the sky’ as we’ve prepared for what has now appeared.
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the early church began to live with an intense awareness of and expectation for the return of Jesus Christ. Especially from the time of the Apostolic fathers on down thru the early fourth Century, Jesus followers lived with an eye to the sky, awaiting His return. That anticipation fueled their resolve through the most difficult of trials, tribulations and persecutions. That singular anticipation enabled them to love their enemies, surrender their time and resources for the poor and live lives marked with the joy of the Lord during time of peril and distress. That communal consciousness bound them together as the body of Christ and infused their worship and prayers with hope. It was a reality inscribed not only in their minds and hearts but also on the pages of the Apostle’s writings themselves:
James 5:7-9 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 John 2:28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
Revelation 1:4 To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from who is, and who was, and who is to come.
Revelation 1:7-8 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The world of the Apostles and the early church seems so radically different and far removed from the one that we inhabit today. Today in the West and the American Church in particular, I’m not sure how much of our lives are lived with the same expectation and hope for Jesus’ return. It’s hard to say that we live with an ‘eye to the sky’ in the same way that they did.
As I consider all of this, I have to recognize my own struggle to live in light of Jesus’ return. I have to ask myself ‘Why’? But I must also ask myself ‘what if I actually lived and prayed, thought about and spoke with others about His coming in the same way that I did about the snowstorm in the days leading up to it?’ What If I scanned the horizon each day looking for His return as I did last night awaiting the first snow fall?
I wonder what would change in our lives if we lived in greater expectation of Jesus’ return? Would we be more joyful? Would we be quicker to forgive and love others? Would we hold on to our belongings and earthly things a little more loosely? Would our worship be filled with greater passion? Would our prayers be prayed with greater faith and desperation? Would our priorities take on more of an eternal perspective? Would we find more reason to share with others what we’ve found in Christ? Would we long for deeper community with one another?
Maybe Jesus knew what He was talking about when He urged His followers to live daily in hopeful expectation of His return. Consider just a few of the things that He said about His return to his followers:
Luke 12:37-38 “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.
Luke 12:40 “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Matthew 24:40-44 “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
My prayer for you and I today is that we might live ever more fully in the reality of His coming. Go outside and look to the sky because He’s coming soon!
Keeping an eye to the sky…
Seth Hankee has served in pastoral ministry at Greenmonte Fellowship since 2004 and has a passion to see the church equipped for Kingdom ministry. Nothing excites him more than to see people recognize their identity and purpose in Christ and begin living that out.