Are We There Yet? - 2nd Peter 3:8-10
At the end of October, Anita, Joshua, and I, took a road trip to Atlanta Georgia as Anita and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary. I don't think we had made it to Greensboro before Joshua started his version of "are we there yet" by asking “are we were in Atlanta?” Joshua, of course, had no concept of the time when I told him that we were five hours away, because less than a half hour later he asked, “Are we in Atlanta, now?” I quickly recalculated how to communicate the time to Joshua in terms that he would understand.
I said, “Joshua, do you know how long your Jake show is?” (Each episode with commercials is about 15 minutes long.)
“Yes,” he replied.
“Well, we are 20 Jakes away from our hotel. Okay?”
That seemed to work because the next time he asked, “How many Jakes now, Anpa?”
Of course, hitting Atlanta, as we did, in the midst of the five o’clock traffic, that last Jake was the longest fifteen minutes on record—running between 45 minutes to an hour in length.
Children tend to not have a lot of patience when it comes to road trips, always wanting to know if “we are there yet.” (Of course I’ve driven the van on a couple of adult trips here and had those grown-ups ask the same question.)
We have entered the time of the year now, where road trips aren’t the only thing that have children, and many adults, asking, “are we there yet?” It is Christmas time.
Some of us have our Christmas trees up by Thanksgiving Day, and depending on our shopping speed and skill, presents begin accumulating under the tree. Many children and adults begin anxiously anticipating Christmas Day’s arrival. Some picking up presents and shaking them, trying to sort out what it may be…others begging for an opportunity to open a present early. Children, who have yet to master the passing of days on the calendar may wake up each morning, anxious to get under that tree, asking, “are we there yet,” “is it Christmas now?” Some presents arrive from distant friends and relatives through the mail, or are dropped off by those relatives passing through town ahead of Christmas’ arrival, often bearing a tag that reads “Do not open ‘til Christmas.” The earlier that gift arrives, the more difficult it gets to wait for Christmas Day’s arrival. (If fact, I read a story while preparing for this sermon where a person had posted a picture of a present that said, “Do not open ‘til Christmas.” Someone commented after Christmas that their curiosity was peaked, they wanted to know what the gift was. The person said, “to be honest, I could have told you back on December 17th”—curiosity had won out.
For others that impatience for Christmas’ arrival has nothing to do with the presents, but with a desire for Christmas to hurry up and get here so that the preacher will stop making us sing those Advent songs we don’t know. They ask, “are we there yet, so we can sing the Christmas carols we know and love.
Peter was writing to a group of “are we there yet” individuals. The folks in Peter’s time, though, were not wanting to know if they had arrived at the conclusion of a road-trip. They also were not anticipating opening Christmas presents or even singing those wonderful Christmas carols.
They, and many around them, were waiting on Jesus. Jesus had left with a promise to return, and as they asked, “are we there yet,” they wanted to know if they had arrived at the point in time where Jesus would be coming back. That may seem strange for us who still live and believe in Jesus and the promise of the 2nd coming, because we are still, hopefully we remember that this is one of the key parts of Advent, longing for and waiting for Christ’s return.
They were longing for and waiting for Jesus’ immediate return. After all, Jesus had told them that he would return. They had no concept that we would still be waiting almost two thousand years after his resurrection. The contemporaries of the disciples were anticipating Jesus returning in their lifetimes. Why would they be expecting Jesus to come back before they died? Because that is what the disciples believed as well. Paul, having learned of Christ’s impending return from those who walked and talked with Jesus, even spent a good bit of time in a couple of his letters offering direction to the churches that were evidence of this. For example, many people think that Paul was anti-woman and anti-marriage. He was neither, and while we won’t get into the woman issue, Paul wasn’t against marriage, he just didn’t think those in the church had time to deal with the responsibilities that came with being married. His theory, though, was that if men and women couldn’t keep their hands and other body parts to themselves while they waiting for Jesus’ return and went about the work of Christ, then they should get married to keep from being found in sin when Jesus did arrive.
However, day after day, month after month, year after year, began to pass by—and no Jesus. Where was He? Had they missed Him? No. We talked briefly, last week, though, that as the people were waiting for Jesus, those who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, or that Jesus was going to return, began to say and do things to make those who had been waiting for Jesus to return to begin to doubt as to whether Jesus was coming or whether or not God was even active in the world. We’ve encountered that mindset before, folks that either claim that God is dead or that God set the world in motion and let spin through space in all its chaos.
Last week Peter’s words reminded us that God is not dead and that God has always been active in history. Today, though, Peter’s words take on those folks that would suggest that God is asleep or simply slow. Peter says, “You’ve got to remember, with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” In other words, folks, if God says to us that Christ will appear within be back after three days, that would be three literal days as we experience them, or it could be closer to three thousand years, or anywhere in between. We have to remember that God is not bound by linear time in the way we think of time but that God operates in the “Eternal Now.” For God, all of past, present, and future is “now.” When he acts, it will be in His time, not according to our clocks or calendars.
Peter says to those who will listen, “Do not think that God is slow to act—that He is taking His time about keeping His promise to return. God is not slow, He is patient. He is trying to wait for you to get your act together.” God is not slow, Peter says, God loves each and every person, every one of us, and everyone throughout the world so much that He is waiting for us to come to true repentance.
“But wait a minute, Pastor, I thought all we had to do was trust in Christ as our Savior, confess our sins and seek His forgiveness and believe that He is Lord.”
That’s true, my brothers and sisters, but that is part of God’s patience with us. How many of us can truly say that we live out our lives every day truly repentant, not making excuses for bad behavior, but truly changing all of the ways that our lives are out of line with God, and then living our lives with Christ as Lord—giving Him complete control over every aspect of our living.
The anticipation of and impatient waiting for Christ’s return, asking “are we there yet?” was not limited to the time of Peter, Paul, and their contemporaries. It is alive and well today. I can’t tell you the number of times over the last 18 years I have had folks come up to me and say, “look at all the earthquakes, all the storms, all the fires, all the floods, and everything else going on in the world, Pastor. Do you think these are signs? Is God trying to tell us that Jesus is getting ready to return?” “Are we there yet?” “Is it time?”
In all of that, we forget that Jesus told us that only the Father knows when that is going to happen…it is not for us to know. We are simply to be ready—to be repentant and living for Christ with every aspect of our lives. Peter echoes the words of Jesus, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief….” It’s going to come when we don’t expect it—it will suddenly be here without warning. Yes, Jesus mentions signs…but those signs have been steady since His departure, so the only thing to do is to make sure we are getting ourselves ready by living repentant lives focused upon God.
“Are we there yet?”
Not this very second, but having been cleansed by the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, and filled with the Holy Spirit to have the power to live the lives God would have us live, let us examine our lives—and like I have always told the kids when we neared our destination—clean up the mess we have made, so that we are ready to get out when the time comes.
Don’t ask anymore “are we there yet,” I have no idea how many “Jakes” we have left—let us instead ask, “are we ready to be there?”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.