Lesson 8: Promise

Holy CommunionAs I noted in the sixth lesson, most of us believe a primary element in a modern Sabbath life style would be worship in a Christian community once a week. At that time, I focused on “remembering” the stories from our tradition. However, the Christian life involves promise as well as memory, hope as well as faith. The traditional service guarantees we shall know God’s love in the future just as our Fathers and Mothers did in the past and we do in the present. Holy Communion not only remembers the Last Supper, but also gives us a “foretaste of the feast to come”.

It is terribly important to take time out to hear those promises in a society that tempts us to give up. Groups are more and more separated by wealth, creed, race, and power. Matters continually reach a boiling point when violence erupts. Leaders constantly tell us there is not enough money or jobs to heal the situation. Everything we try falls apart before long. Uncertainty, fear, and fatalism prevail, not only in our urban areas but also in our small towns and around the globe as groups such as ISIS use violence to gain power for themselves.

Too often, Christians respond by withdrawing, perverting Christian hope into saying a prayer and waiting for life after death. Then Christian life becomes adopting the proper techniques for reserving a seat at heaven’s marriage feast, and theology is reduced to silly arguments about who will be there.

Christians gather with one another not to guarantee seats in heaven, but to reinforce acting in love here and now. They share their faith in the tradition and their hope in the promises found there in order to inspire love in the present. The most important words we speak to one another are, “God is present and will not abandon us.” We repeat Isaiah’s words about the Peaceable Kingdom where our enemies become our friends and our children are safe, and find confidence to work for peace now. We report Revelation’s promise of the Ecological City where harmony between humanity and creation is established, and work to end the abuse of creation now. We proclaim Jesus’ pictures of the Beloved Community where all share their food, and have courage to share our belongings now.

In a sense, we gather regularly to practice for the day when God will fulfill his promises. We confess our sins and receive assurance we are freed from the parts of the past that have entrapped us. We put aside our roles in society and gather as family around the Lord’s Table to share food, just as we share it around the family table.

The work we are called to do will not be completed in our lifetimes. We need the continued effort of Christians in future generations, and we need God’s continued redemptive actions. Together we share God’s promises that there is a future in which evil shall be overcome. God’s love is steadfast now as it was in the past and will be in the future. We are not alone.

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