“Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)”
- Mark 15:43
A few weeks ago in the I am a Witness series, I challenged our church to be a witness to our city. I mentioned during that message that one of the most important calls we can answer as Jesus-followers is to have a faithful presence in our city. It was a small fill-in for your notes that said ‘Seeking peace and prosperity means I have a faithful presence in my city.’
I’ve been reflecting recently on what faithful presence might look like for you in the coming months, and remembered a small and awkward detail at the end of the Gospel of Mark.
Remember the man who buried Jesus? His name was Joseph of Arimathea. We don’t know much about him, and scholars can’t even agree on where Arimathea was even located. But strangely, Mark gives us a one-line, parenthetical, biography. ‘Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.’
I started to think about what it might mean for us to be principally, people who are waiting for the kingdom of God to come.
We talk at length in the church about the end of times. ‘Jesus is coming back,’ you might remember from an old Sunday School lesson, ‘so be ready. Get straight with God now or else!’
It all seems too distant. ‘We’ve waited 2000 years,’ you might think, ‘so when is he going to come.’ Well those first followers of Jesus, Joseph included, lived each day with a palpable sense of not only Christ’s return, but also of the arrival of God’s Kingdom. They were, very literally, waiting on the kingdom of God.
And today, the default model of church is to turn inward and isolate ourselves in quiet solitude while we wait for Jesus to come back. We look inward, instead of pushing outward. We begin to think that faithful presence means being ‘faithful’ and ‘present’ at church!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about enjoying the (partial) arrival of God’s Kingdom, which I do believe is visible in the fellowship of the church.
But what about our faithful presence ‘out there’. In our community?
It’s our job to be faithfully present as the church in those places. We are called to let the rest of the world know Jesus is coming -- to let them know he is Lord and Savior.
So faithful presence doesn’t just mean that we should have more ‘faith’ or be more ‘present’ at church. It means that we should be ‘present’ out there, choosing to blur the boundaries of our church walls. That’s the way you’ll experience an increase in your faith.
What if tomorrow we started talking about the size of our church not in terms of how many people are ‘present’ on Sunday? But instead, I asked each person to name those to who they were demonstrating the faithful presence of Christ.
What might it look like for us to blur those lines, and start to see our size and Gospel impact, not through how many people are in here -- but instead how many are out there?
Let’s embrace this new way of thinking together. Let’s start to see ourselves not as a church building with four walls, but as a collective of individuals who are waiting on Christ to return. Not inside this building, but in our faithful presence out there, where so many need to know that we’re waiting on a better day to arrive for them. The day of the arrival of God’s kingdom.