The God Who Is To Come
Finally, I would like to look at the third piece of the Doxology which is recited many times daily at Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery where I visited recently. The Doxology begins by praising the God Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.” In some ways this God Who is to come is the most difficult to describe.
Clearly, the language is future tense. The verb indicates the not-yet quality of this aspect of God. (I am assuming there are not three gods being affirmed in the Doxology!). It is the one true God who is the God who worked in the past (tradition), who works in the present time, and the same God who will be at work in the unfolding of future time. The good news is this God Whom we knew yesterday and today will be the same God Whom we will know in the future time.
I have no doubt, the popular understanding of this God Who is to come is that God Who will inaugurate the future judgment. For many people this is probably the era of the Apocalypse. In addition to the judgment, there will be the wailing and gnashing of teeth. In this scenario one certainly hopes to be on the right side. Typically the story goes, the earth will be finished and the Kingdom will come for some. And for the other, unlucky ones, well….
I do not dismiss out of hand this popular view. It may be correct. There is biblical evidence that can be read to support this viewpoint. And certainly the God Who was often is portrayed as judging the people. So it might be true.
However, I want to suggest an alternative view of the God Who is to come. I believe we have hints of how this aspect of God will work if we pay attention to how that God worked in the past. One of the most important characteristics of our Divinity is the creative. Genesis begins with the account of creation. It seems to be God’s very nature is to be creative. That is why you and I are here. God wanted us and, therefore, brought us into being.
Love is as good a reason I know to account for why God wanted us. God needed some lovers! And look at what God got: you, me, and a bunch of others. But it did not go too well. We turned out too often to be lousy lovers. We became too self-focused. We did not always honor our gift of life, our blessing of free will, and our need to be careful.
So the creative God---the God Who is to come---still is present in creative ways to bring us back into relationship. And it seems clear to me that God is going to continue to be Lover and not Boss. This is the cue to understanding the God Who is to come. That God will be found in desire, not despotism. That God wants us and will not whop us! I do not think the God Who is to come will come apocalyptically. I am convinced love is the key.
The God Who is to come will love us into new being just as much as we were loved into being in the first place. It will be a slow and, sometimes, painful work. It will be slow for God and it seems slow to me. I am convinced this is the only way the kingdom can come. The God Who comes will be appreciated as Host and not Henchman. The gift is life. One needs life to love. That’s the kingdom secret.
The job of all of us who want to work with the God Who is willingly sign up for some hosting of our own. As harbingers of the kingdom, we seek ways to bring life into death-dealing places and situations. If we are alert, we can see these all around us. We will seek ways to inject love into places which become seeds of hope.
Hope is the currency of the God Who is to come. Hope is how we participate in tomorrow today. I am ready lovingly to do my part to plant seeds of hope…hope grounded in the God Who is to come.