Are We There Yet?

The Rev. Joseph Winston May 6, 2007

Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 It seems safe to say that for as long as there have been trips and children, children have raised their constant complaint, “Are we there yet?” While to the best of my knowledge no one ever recorded the dialog between parents and children on the sailing ships that came to the new world, it would be a good guess that the children constantly pestered their parents for weeks on end with this question, “Are we there yet?” “No, we have not left port yet.” “Are we there yet?” “No, we are just out into the bay.” “Are we there yet?” “You know that the weather has not been cooperating so it will be a few more weeks.” “Are we there yet?” “Have you seen any signs of land?” Likewise, can you image the number of times that the children on prairie schooners asked this same question? “Are we there yet?” “No,
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
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we are just leaving town.” “Are we there yet?” “You know I’ve already told you that we would arrive some time before winter comes.” “Are we there yet?” “We still have one mountain range ahead of us and two more rivers to cross before we get there.” “Are we there yet?” “Does it look like winter is coming?” Even with faster forms of transportation like planes and automobiles, the question still remains, “Are we there yet?” “We have not even left the subdivision.” “Are we there yet?” “Traffic was bad today so we will be a bit late.” “Are we there yet?” “You know that Texas is a big state.” “Are we there yet?” “We should arrive sometime near sunset.” “Are we there yet?” “Is it getting dark?” There are many different reasons why children ask this simple question of parents. Boredom has to be at the top of the list. Generally, Mom and Dad normally have something to do on the trip while the children must entertain themselves. For example, the parents are responsible for supervising the children. Even with well behaved children, this work takes up a sizable portion of the parent’s time. Another way to say the same thing would be to observe that children normally have more free time on their hands and with that freedom comes the inescapable restlessness along with the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” Excitement is another important reason why children keep asking their parents when the trip will be over. From the children’s point of view, Mom and Dad have been planning for the trip for a long time and now it is finally time to go. The children cannot contain their anticipation any more. They are ready to be there. In the final analysis, it really does not matter why children ask this question because every time a child utters these words, it speaks volumes about the un2

spoken trust that the child has in its parents. The child expects that the parents have their best interests in their hearts. This assumption is based on the child’s experience. Day in and day out, the child has been clothed and fed, a roof has been placed over their heads, and they have been educated. All of these practical actions reinforce the child’s view that their parents love them. This confidence between child and parent includes the unwritten assumptions that the parents know what they are doing and that they know where they are going. If any of these unarticulated premises are wrong, then trouble is likely to occur. Poor planning on trips has caused many injuries and even deaths. At the very least, forgetting to see if the car has enough gas to complete the trip presents an inconvenience while everyone waits for the tow truck that will pull the car to the gas station. Not keeping the car properly serviced can cause a larger problem. A blow out or a brake failure could prove to be deadly. While getting lost today rarely causes major problems, this was not always the case. Loosing the trail often meant extra time and this delay frequently cut into scarce resources or exposed the travelers to inclement weather. Either item could be fatal. The overarching theme of John’s letter to the seven churches is that God is in control of history. This is the revelation that John described. The message of God’s power over the entire universe is proclaimed in four different ways. First, John writes to the church that Christ is in the world. Specifically, Jesus is visiting all of the churches so that He becomes familiar with the situation.2 The Risen Lord is finding which ones are following His Word and which
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one that need correction. Second, Jesus clearly knows that Christians are suffering and that this pain cannot be avoided. This basic message in Revelation that bad things happen to Christians is not intended to scare people away from Christianity but instead to tell Christ’s followers that those with faith can perform “heroic” deeds.3 For example, life can go on after your loved ones have died because you know that they are with God. John also informs us that Christian suffering serves as a potent witness for others of the perfect Lamb endured for all of us.4 Especially in our area of the world, where so many false preachers proclaim that true Christians will not have any afflictions, it is important to hear this Word from God that Christians are not exempt from hardship. Next, John reminds us that God works in the world through both visible and invisible means. The church, the sacraments, and God’s Word are signs that show us God’s actions. In addition to these means of grace, God is in control of the four horsemen who bring war, murder, famine, and death since He commands them to go about their work.5 This fact found in Revelation is unsettling for many of us who view God as a tender loving Grandfather. John’s proclamation to the church tells us that God will hold all of humanity accountable for its actions. The final way that we see God’s authority over the universe is in the power of creation. Our sinfulness has so corrupted the entire world that God only has one choice. The entire old creation, heaven and earth, will need to be destroyed so that God’s plan can be completed. In the new world, crying, pain, and death will be gone because we will no longer disobey God.
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The reason why God must go to these lengths and create a new heaven and a new earth is because you and I like to be in control. We do not need to turn back to the Bible to understand this basic fact of our lives. The excessive consumption of natural resources by most Americans shows that we have no concern for others. Our desire to have our own way, no matter what the cost, just emphasizes how much we like to have power over others. Even in our own lives, we can see the same story. We know what we should do but instead of doing that we do what we want. Every one of these actions shows poor planning on our part and the result is just the same as any other trip that is taken without proper preparation: injuries and deaths will occur. All of these different facts add up to one horrific result. We have destroyed all of creation. The absolutely amazing fact is that God continues to let the world run to its final completion. Rather than ending the world whenever we break something, God lets the world continue. Every day, God shows mercy to us. All of us, the believer and the nonbeliever, have been given the gifts of life, food, drink, clothing, and shelter. These items necessary for life are signs that God loves us. In the intervening time between now and then, there is always a chance for forgiveness. All that we have to do is to stop rejecting the grace that our Savior offers us. Sometimes, God even gives us the chance to make things right. This is God’s eternal plan for us and our world. Since God is in control of our future, we have a rather unique view on life. 5

We neither despise this current world nor do we rush to the future where all pain and sorrow is eliminated. We believe that the here and now is the time that God has given us. We also agree with God’s assessment that the world is good. So, for today, we perform God’s work of serving others and maintain creation for all. We do this not to earn favor from God but because this is what humans were designed for. However, we know that our mistakes have impacted not only ourselves but also all of creation. Therefore, we join with saints of every time and place and pray for that day when Jesus comes to live with us once again. Come Lord Jesus. When that great day finally arrives, the celebration in heaven and on earth will be more impressive than the fanciest wedding ever given on earth. In this never ending party, fine wine will flow without end. Everyone will be given the richest food and no one will go hungry. All of creation will dance because in this new creation, God gives everyone a second chance “Are we there yet?” is the question children ask their parents. They ask if we have arrived because they literally trust their parents. “Are we there yet?” is also the cry of the Christian. We too ask this question because we trust our Lord. God’s patient response to each of us is, “No, the fullness of time has not arrived yet.” The stench of our sin has penetrated every aspect of the world. Creation calls out for relief. The world groans and asks to be freed from humanity and all of the problems that we have caused. God’s response is not the elimination of humanity but instead the redemption of the entire creation, humans included. On that great 6

day when the work of the first creation is finally complete, all of creation: sun, moon, stars, rain, hail, snow, sea monsters, mountains, hills, trees, animals, and humans will join in praising God. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”6

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Philippians 4:7.

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