Schedules. We all got ‘em. And for better or worse we got ‘em to keep. And love them or hate them, our schedules are kept by the almighty calendar—we live by our calendars—all so that life will be full, complete, ordered happy, and blessed.
There was a time when many of us carried them in our pockets, briefcases or purses, always showing us when we had to be where.
Then came the digital revolution, and folks traded in leather-bound planners for personal digital assistants—PDAs, where you learned a new way of writing the alphabet so you could quickly add new appointments to Palm Pilots using a stylus.
Then Steve Jobs and Apple combined the PDA, phone and MP3 player into smartphones that now we can’t live without. Digital calendars can do things our paper calendars never could. They remind us of things we need to do based on our time and/or location. “Siri/Cortana/Alexa/Google, remind us when it is time to leave for a doctor’s appointment, then, based on our location and the traffic, will tell us the best route to take in the shortest amount of time. Once we put an appointment into our phones, we never have to look at it again. We can simply wait for that little buzz to interrupt us, sometimes during worship, and remind us of what we need to tend to later in the day.
At my house though we still have a large paper calendar on the fridge, and as far as my wife is concerned, if it’s not on that calendar, it ain’t happening—which is problematic because, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s in my head, it’s on the calendar.
Digital, paper, or in our heads, our calendars drive our lives, and because we rely on our calendars to organize our lives—so that life is full, complete, ordered, happy, and blessed— because it’s hard to get by without knowing what’s going to happen and when. Unfortunately, this is not how God works—God doesn’t work on our schedule—which is what Jesus teaches us in the book of Acts.
So what do we do when there seems to be, between our lives and the life God calls us to, scheduling problems? How are we to manage this Jesus Schedule that responds to our question, “When Lord?” with, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”
Given such a perspective about scheduling problems, we can imagine how the first followers of Jesus must have felt about his answer when they asked what was next. Jesus is having a final debriefing with his Disciples before leaving—which is known as the assentation. And, naturally, they have questions.
The question Luke tells us the Disciples asked was, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” My guess is there were others as well. But this primary question makes sense. They had been on an emotional roller coaster with Jesus in recent days, let alone during the last three years, and now he’s leaving.
They heard him talk frequently about a special time to come. He started his ministry telling them that the kingdom of God was at hand. They listened as he told stories about banquets; mustard seeds and treasure buried in a field that he said were ways of describing this new reality to come. They were with him when he entered Jerusalem weeks earlier, with crowds waving palm branches and shouting their praises. By riding a donkey into the city, Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that announced God’s rule and reign. It was a huge statement. Surely, they thought, this must be the time. At the Last Supper, he seemed to confirm it, again, “I will not drink the fruit of the vine again until I drink it with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The Jesus Schedule clearly read, “Next stop, the kingdom of God.”
But instead of a coronation, there was a crucifixion. It appeared to be over. Their hopes were dashed. The dream of the restoration of the kingdom vanished. What now?
Then, as quickly as it was over, it was back on. Jesus is alive—risen from the dead! Hope is not lost. Certainly, the kingdom must be coming.
And now, after 40 days of being with a post-resurrection Jesus during which he continued to teach them about God’s kingdom, he calls a special meeting. Expectations must have been high. It had to be time for him to announce how the kingdom of God will come on earth as it is in heaven, just as he taught them to pray.
Their question, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” must have hung heavy in the air, the tension almost palpable. And then that bewildering answer from Jesus, leaving the Disciples to say, “It’s not now? Ok. But if not now, when?” They, like us, want to get this on their calendars. They, like us, want to know which week they need to clear for this world-altering event. They, like us, want to know the deadline so they can be sure to be ready.
To these questions, Jesus gives a bewildering answer. “That’s none of your concern.” He actually says it more politely, but that’s the gist of it. “Let me worry about the timing. You just get to work on what I have told you to do.” Then he’s gone. The disciples and the rest of the followers are left dazed, staring into the sky. No date. No time. No when. That’s the Jesus Schedule—and it just doesn’t work for us.
The disciples have a scheduling problem, and for them, and for those of us who live by our calendars, Jesus’ instructions are frustrating. It’s hard to leave things in the hands of God. It’s hard to let go and let God take care of details. It’s hard to trust in divine providence and be faithful to promises made.
How are we to respond to this? It’s not for us to know the “times and seasons”? Really?! How are we supposed to function with so little information?
The problem is that the kingdom of God doesn’t fit into our calendars. Jesus doesn’t give us a list of dates and tasks we can put in our phones. Instead, he calls his followers to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. The timing concerning any ultimate physical expression of the reign of God on earth, he says, is for him to worry about.
Our concern is to live into the mission of the church and the call of God today and every day. It is not about getting ready for some later date. Our role is to be the people of God, and do what God wants us to do. But with no known deadline, what happens? With no one around to make sure we’re doing what we’re called to do, what happens? With no Jesus Schedule programed into our phones and calendars, what happens? We know what happens. And what happens is that everything else happens. Our schedules move ahead of the Jesus schedule.
Now I realize I am taking a very big risk here—speaking things none of us wants to hear. And truth to be told, I get it. We say there are not enough hours in the day, when really our schedules are such that there aren’t enough minutes in the hour to get it all done. So what are we to do? What are we to do?
This is where you now expect me to tell you what to do. This is where I am supposed to give you the biblical insight that will make it all better. This is where I am supposed to tell you how it’s all going to be ok.
But I can’t do that. Because the truth is, it’s not about cramming for a final exam. We aren’t trying to meet a deadline before the Supervisor in the Sky calls us in for our performance review. This is a here-and-now, everyday issue.
Jesus calls his followers, both those on the hill that day and those in church pews today, to live for him at home, work and school, in our traveling; while running errands, at soccer practice, and everywhere else life takes us.
Jesus calls us to have on, and in, our calendars, every day, every minute, the Jesus Schedule that says “be witnesses to me and my ways, in all times and places—even to the ends of the earth.”
No, I’m not talking about confronting people with questions like, “If you were to die tonight would you know where you would spend eternity?” But I am talking about meeting people where they are, without judgement, ridicule, or condemnation; seeing all people as children of God and treating them as such; and extending welcome, grace, and peace as Jesus did. That is how we are called to witness to the ways of Christ.
As followers of Christ, we are called to fit our lives into the Jesus Schedule, not trying to fit Jesus into our schedules. It’s not about blessing our calendars and saying a prayer over them, but rather it’s about doing something to sanctify our time and put it wholly in the service of God and for God’s work.
This means giving of our time for worship, prayer, Bible study, offering ourselves in service to God and the church, performing random acts of charity, being faithful to our relationship responsibilities, and being open enough to respond when God interrupts, messes with our calendars and calls us to minister in some unexpected way.
That is what our schedules are to look like. Yes, it still includes all the demands our calendars dictate, but it means putting God first in all things—that is the Jesus Schedule.
No it is not easy. Yes it is constraining. But it is faithful. And it’s our faithfulness to God—not our calendars—that makes life full, complete, happy, and blessed—for us. For all. Amen.