Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

ALF's final episode, an event of the Distant Past?
Numbers 24:2-7,15b-17
Psalm 25
Matthew 21:23-27

REFLECTION: “Perspective Matters”
In our reading today from the Book of Numbers, Balaam - perhaps more famous for his talking donkey than anything else in many circles - delivers a message to King Balak, the king of the Moabites. Balak called on Balaam to curse the Israelites, but what we hear today is hardly a curse. Jacob's tents are beautious. Israel's camp is lovely. Not cursing material at all. Likewise, Balaam shares with Balak what the Israelites would one day do to the Moabites: Balak sees this as an occurrence in the 'distant future'...

Today, when we speak of 'distant futures' we often think tens of thousands of years ahead. Our minds are filled with all kinds of thoughts, such as what happens to the earth when the sun begins to expand, or if meteorites will impact our planet leaving it a waste. What you think of as a 'distant future' is really a matter of perspective.

Depending on the timeline used - meaning when you date the events of Exodus (either around 1450 BC or 1230 BC) - Israel's defeat of Moab (around 1030 BC) occurred between two and four hundred years following the prophecy we hear in our reading today. For people living in that day, two to four hundred years was indeed a distant future, one they and their children would never live to see. Compare that with how we account time today.

Did you know that there are children alive today who are the sons and daughters of civil war soldiers? The last surviving veteran of World War I, Florence Green of the Women's Royal Air Force, died less than three years ago. The last surviving vet of the Civil War survived eighty nine years after the conclusion of the Civil War. For some, these events are 'ancient history'. I suppose, for that matter, the end of "ALF" is probably ancient history to others. But, in the grand scheme of things, a few hundred years, today, isn't really all that ancient.

We think of the events of the past 600 years - sailing around the world with Magellan, discovering the moons of Jupiter with Galileo, harnessing the atom, discovering magnetic fields, understanding the complex interactions of space and time... nobody would call any of these events 'ancient past'... though certainly Magellan would look on in awe to know that today, twelve human beings have set foot on our own moon, and people permanently live in orbit around our planet, circling the globe in ninety minutes... a globe it took him and his successor (remember, Magellan died in the Philippines) three years to circumnavigate.

What today is the 'distant future' to us? Certainly the prophetic portions of the Book of Revelation seem like they are 'distant future' at moments, and, at other times, seem immanent. We don't know what God's timeline is for the renewal of the universe he has created. What we do know is that by our senses and standards, we can't begin to imagine God's timeline and the way he will move forward to accomplish it, any more then we could have imagined a ruddy little boy becoming the mighty King David, slaying Goliath and triumphing over Moab while walking through the desert with manna to eat and forty years to kill.

You and I, living today, have no idea what details the future holds, at least with respect to how God's redemptive plan will be fully manifest. The certainties we have are birth, life with all its challenges, and death should the day of the Lord's fullness not be manifest before the day when our bodies cease to function according to their design. For some, that day is perceived as a day of the 'distant future'. For others, it's an immanent occurrence. But regardless, your personal perspective on life, on God, on his word, and on what he does for you and others on a day to day basis will help form you to take deeper stock of what he seeks to do in your life, and what he seeks to have passed on from generation to generation.

As you depart today, think on the authority of God in Christ Jesus, and how it helps you to form your perspective on living, the mystery of redemption, and the future hope of glory... and then make a concentrated effort to form your life, though the guidance of the Spirit, to the vision you feel the Lord has given you.