by Neal Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”—Rom. 15:13.
LOUISVILLE (PNS) A few days ago our family moved from N.J. to Southern California as I took up a new ministry call with the Village Community Presbyterian Church in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Our youngest son received a farewell card from one of his third grade classmates, which read in part, “No one wants you to go, but it is time.”
We chuckled at reading that comment, but it was so true. After all of the announcements and discussions and farewells, it was time. It is time.
The time had arrived for the fullness of God’s covenant promise to come to fruition. What had been hinted throughout the Old Testament, such as the inclusion of Ruth the Moabitess into the covenant community or the prophet Jonah being instructed to call for the repentance of Nineveh, had now come to full flowering with the hospitable ministry of Jesus Christ and the ministry of St. Paul the Apostle.
The triune God’s work of reconciliation in Christ through the Holy Spirit had always been, from the very start, about the reconciliation of the entirety of creation, that all in heaven and earth would bend the knee and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
That’s the apostolic exhortation in Romans 15 as St. Paul addresses a church that needed to be welcoming to one another, loving one another, encouraging each other in the promises of Scripture. The Lord is called the “God of steadfastness” (15:5), “God of hope” (15:13), and the “God of peace” (15:33).
In each of these nomenclatures for the Holy One is embedded the prayers and anxieties of the covenant community. We rely upon the God of steadfastness to hold us when we are restless, when we are impatient, when we are unable or unwilling to be resilient. We cascade our prayers to our God of hope because we often despair, we often wonder what if, when, how, why, for what.
The God of peace is the one who is our constant ballast in the ocean of shifting tides and powerful wind gusts. The God of peace doesn’t promise to smooth things over and take conflict and stresses away; the God of peace assures us by the internal work of the Holy Spirit and the promises of the Gospel that in life and in death, we belong to God, and therefore, we are at peace with God.
It is time. The time is at hand. We must daily face the realities of our lives, of the broken and hurting world around us. Our prayers cannot be postponed for real realities of injustice that surround us. It is time.
As it was the time for our Lord Jesus to face the sure and certain judgment of Pilate, the sure and certain cross. And yes, the sure and certain resurrection. It is time. And the time arrived for him to ascend to the heavens, to go, as the Creed confesses, where “He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
We as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be gathering in national council in a few weeks as the 221st General Assembly (2014), June 14–21, in Detroit. It is time. There will be plenty of worship, plenty of Eucharistic celebration, plenty of praying, as there will be loads of debate, deliberation, speeches, parliamentary motions, Tweets, votes, and disagreement.
As we have arrived at our appointed time, it is time. It is time for us to renew our commitment to the God of steadfastness, the God of hope, and the God of peace. For through and through, it is that God, the triune God, revealed in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit who remains.