Dr. Joshua T. Mears
He left without us fully understanding why. We have often felt that we could not continue on without him leading the way. We have had moments throughout this time of separation when we felt abandoned. Because of that resentment we might question Him, feel anger at Him, and perhaps even despise Him because we think we know best about how He should save us. We have waited and yearned for Him to reclaim his throne. But His return is upon us. Because of that, we can be assured that we will never be left in last place again. We know the King IS coming to bring us home!
If, perhaps, you are a basketball fan, you might have had a fleeting thought that I was referring to NBA All Star Lebron James' return to his hometown of Cleveland this season and the hope that he will make another run at an NBA team championship. James, also known as King James, has been named to 10 NBA All Star Games, won four NBA Most Valuable Player awards, and has twice led his teams to NBA championships. But perhaps he is most well known for his abrupt departure in 2010 from his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers when he chose to leave and play for the Miami Heat. Infamously he announced, "I am taking my talents to South Beach," and sports fans everywhere began to question his reasons for leaving his hometown team. Since that time he has even been ranked as one of the most disliked athletes in all of sports. But his move back to Cleveland has inspired a fresh sense of hope in his fans.
King James is but a shadow of the reality I was referring to in the opening paragraph. It's not unusual for our ordinary life experiences to mirror the greatest story: Jesus came to save His people by conquering sin and death on the cross and He rose again to bring us forgiveness of sins and new life! The anticipation that we as Christians should feel for the return of our Savior Jesus Christ on Judgment Day dwarfs the anticipation that basketball fans have felt about LeBron James in whatever city he has chosen to play. After all, it is at Jesus' return when we will see our Lord face to face and be reunited for all time with our family of fellow believers in Christ.
But let's admit it. Since the time of Jesus's death, resurrection and Ascension we have struggled in our anticipation. There have been many times when we might have felt that Jesus should come back and save us immediately from all the sorrow and pain of this earthly life. There are also many days in which we have constant reminders of how our Old Adam is still with us, perhaps tempting us to be mad at God. We begin to convince ourselves that our current suffering and pain must mean that we are alone and that there is a distance and separation from Christ and His grace.
It is during those times that we cling to His promises and the truth that He has given us in His Word and Sacrament. It is when we feel most separated and isolated that He is actually the closest in His watch over us. In 2 Timothy 4:18, Paul reminds us of that closeness and preservation when he says, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever." And it is good to long for His coming with hope, just like John declares in the last few words of Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
So far in the early part of this NBA season, LeBron James has been incapable of "resurrecting" the championship hopes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and we have to wonder whether he will even be worth the wait. However, we know that our true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has completed His resurrection and that He has conquered the greatest foe: death. And even more than that—we anticipate our own resurrection and it is through that we can have peace and freedom in spite of pain, suffering, and loneliness. Paul encourages us in this regard: "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience. (Romans 8:23-25 ESV). The True King will return. Until then we wait and watch in hope, knowing we are not abandoned and that we have already won the victory in Jesus.
Dr. Joshua T. Mears is a Christian psychologist with Christian Family Counseling. He attends Heritage Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where he is a youth leader.