What Comes Next

Hello church family, this is Pastor Phil-

This past week my grandmother Fran, called my wife and I to come out to her barn because we had left a few things out there from our move. Give you a little background. When my family moved to Ohio from NJ, we had decided to merge our household with my mom’s and become a multi-generational family under one roof. Honestly, this has been one of the best decisions we have made and has worked very well for all of us. But it did have its difficulties, especially with stuff. When you merge households like we did you end up with 2 blenders, 2 toasters, 2 dining room tables, 2 couches, 100 bookcases (we’re a family of avid readers). All of the stuff multiplies and gets to be way too much too handle, especially all at once. So, one of our solutions was to store the majority of our household from NJ in a loft in my grandmother’s barn and sort through it gradually. Which we did and were able to move, sell, or give away the vast majority of it. 

Now, it’s been about 7 years since that and “out of sight, out of mind” happened. I think I fooled myself into believing that we were all done, and all of the stuff was handled. But it wasn’t. When Grandma Fran called and asked what we wanted to do with the stuff left I thought maybe it was a box or two that went unnoticed. Boy, was I wrong! It’s not a storage unit’s worth of stuff, but it is definitely way more than we want to deal with. Seeing the stuff again I vaguely remembered saying to myself years ago, it’ll be fine, we’ll get to that next week—7 years later! 

It is exhausting how much time and energy we put into our stuff in this world and it makes you wonder if all of that effort is worth it. Looking through the boxes and furniture there were things that we really did want to keep. There were also things that we re-discovered. Items that we forgot about and were glad to have back but didn’t really matter all that much one way or the other. Then, there were honestly were things we just didn’t care one way or the other about. All of it was all jumbled together. That’s probably what made us run away screaming the first time, it was all just too much to deal with. Add to that, sitting in a barn loft for a few years now, some of the stuff was damaged and we have to figure that out too. 

But that is the way of all things. None of the stuff lasts, ever. It all goes away. It all gets destroyed. It all turns to dust eventually. If it doesn’t turn to dust in our lifetime, it will all go to someone else and rot away on them.  Knowing that, with complete certainty, this is how it works, why do we spend so much time, energy, and wealth on stuff? It’s like we’ve been fooled into thinking that all of the stuff and things of this present time are the main event. Like this world and all that comes with it is what we have been waiting for and now that we have it were trying so desperately to hold on to it. But we can’t. It all goes away. 

For us, it’s too easy to lose sight of what our Heavenly Father has prepared for us in the future because our vision is too filled with the stuff of right now. 

Pastor Paul in Romans 8 writes it this way. “For, I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That word Glory is amazing and hard to grasp for good reason. It describes an experience and reality that is beyond words and comprehension. In the book of Revelation 21, the beloved disciple John is given a glimpse of the city of God in the New Heavens and New Earth. Hear his descriptions of the glory of the City of God and what it will be like for us. 

It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal (11). 

The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. (19-21)

It wasn’t that the city of God is made of these things, amethyst, pearl, and gold; but John chose the most precious and glorious things of this world just to give us a taste of the glory that awaits. For us, the main event of life is not right here and now, but it is the glory of what our Heavenly Father is bringing to us is that we are eagerly waiting for. 

Not only the glory of God’s city but the glory of what our lives will be like in that city. (Revelation 21:1-4)

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death nor mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Just think on the glory that those words describe, an existence where things like death, mourning, crying, and pain have been completely taken away! This is what our inheritance is as Christians and it is what we are eagerly waiting for. 

On my wedding day, in the chapel at Concordia St. Paul I remember waiting for the moment when my bride would come through the doors. I was a nervous wreck. I vividly remember wringing my hands over and over again, just waiting and waiting for that moment. When it happened, yes I cried because she was (and is) the most beautiful woman I have ever known. But what I was waiting for and so excited about, wasn’t the wedding itself but the marriage. Our life together is the main event not the ceremony. The marriage was simply the door through which that would happen. 

This life that we are living right here and now is not the main event. It’s like trying to live for the wedding ceremony and not the marriage. We spend so much time and energy on venues and wedding halls, dresses and tuxes, decorations and food that you might think that the wedding ceremony is what it’s all about. But it’s not. Like I tell every couple whose wedding service I conduct. It’s not about the wedding, it about the marriage. The wedding is simply the door through which that will happen. 

Our life together with Jesus, that is filled with indescribable glory, is what we are eagerly waiting for. With Jesus it is a life more precious than the most precious of stones and a life where death and pain are no more. I can’t wait to get there, and I hope you can’t either. This life and yes even death are simply the door through which that will happen. 

It is only when we recognize that our eternal life with Jesus and all of the saints is the main event is when and only when we can properly appreciate the life we have here and now. Just like with the wedding ceremony. If we get lost and start to think it’s all about the wedding ceremony—the candles and crinkly stuff and cute signs from Hobby Lobby and the cake, we will be very disappointed because all of those things eventually will end up in Grandma Fran’s barn and someday all go away. But if we believe fully in our hearts that what is to come is what matters most, the marriage, the life with Jesus forever, then we can freely enjoy the candles and crinkly stuff and cute signs from Hobby Lobby and the cake, for what they are. Just a little taste, a teaser, of the glory that is coming.

If we live for right here and now, we will always be disappointed. But if we live for the glory Jesus has prepared for us, we will never be disappointed!

Published by philipmcclelland.org

​I am a recovering burned out workaholic​ who forgot I couldn't change the world. From the ashes of that not only have I found a peace from God that I never knew but a focus on what matters, God, family and loving my neighbor as God has loved me. My burning out experiences really drive my writing and how much I want to share all of the good God has worked through the hurt I've experienced. Currently I serve a great little parish in Northern Ohio with my wonderful family and our furry farm of five dogs, four cats and the oddball handful of fish. You can find me at www.philipmcclelland.org.

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