Executive Minister's Desk

The Regional Synod of New York

Lenten Message: “Already/Not Yet”

I have been thinking lately about the phrase, “already/not yet.” It’s a phrase I learned my very first week of seminary in my New Testament class. The professor, Dr. Jim Brownson [1], was one of the most influential people on my journey to ordination. He taught our class about the nature of God’s kingdom or reign as already/not yet; it has already come to earth with the person of Jesus Christ and it has not yet come in its fullness — that will happen when Jesus returns. When I first heard already/not yet it seemed to me to be a cop-out. Has God’s kingdom arrived on earth in the birth of the Messiah or not? We claim it has, we sing, “Hallelujah!” because Christ the King reigns over all the earth so why would we also say, “not yet?” Which is it? I really wanted answers.
But as I have grown in my understanding of my faith through study, preaching, and experiencing the body of Christ all around me in the church, I understand that already/not yet applies to many areas of my life. My sons have already become adults and live on their own but are not yet ready for families of their own. Anyone who has owned a home knows that the home may already belong to you and you may already be living in it but projects and maintenance are not yet (if ever!) complete or the mortgage may be not yet paid off. I have already begun a diet and exercise program to shed those winter pounds but I have not yet seen the desired results. (!)
Already/not yet is a thread through all areas of our lives and through Scripture as well. In the story of Moses, the people of Israel had already escaped their lives as slaves in Egypt but had not yet reached the promise land 30-something years later when Moses died. There will always be something yet to do or see and other things that are completed. Jesus already came and showed us what it looks like to live in the grace of God’s will, he already fulfilled the Law and the prophecy and he already suffered and died for the redemption of our sin. But there is more to come. God has not yet fully unleashed her great majesty upon the earth. God has not yet dismissed the enemies of humankind from this earth. God is not yet finished with us; he is still working, she is still preparing, they are still waiting to bring us into eternity.
My prayer for you this Lent is that you may also experience the wonder of already/not yet in your life and in your ministry or church. May God lead you gently into the great mystery of already/not yet and may you know the fullness of God’s love on Easter morning as we celebrate with churches around the world the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. Amy Nyland
Executive Minister
[1] Dr. Jim Brownson teaches New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is the author of the books: Speaking the Truth in Love; New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (1998); Bible, Gender, and Sexuality; Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (2013); The Promise of Baptism; An Introduction to Baptism in Scripture and the Reformed Tradition (2007); Stormfront; The Good News of God (2003).