Samuel Beckett wrote a haunting little play called Waiting for Godot.
Godot never comes. Vladimir and Estragon are the speakers in the closing scene.
Valdimir: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Godot comes. Estragon: And if he comes?
Vladimir: We’ll be saved.
Then, after further conversation while they are still waiting,
Vladimir says: Well? Shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let’s go.
The last words of the play are: They do not move.
They cannot leave the scene of their waiting, and neither can we abandon the expectation of the coming of the Lord.
That coming was realised in the advent of the Christ in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and it continues to be felt in the specific advent of the Spirit at Pentecost. There is also the expectation that a final ‘coming’ in the future will be decisive for human history.
“From there he will come”, says the Creed, and “from there” is “at the right hand of God.” That is, Christ will come from the heart of God to enter human affairs. But we should also be aware that the Spirit Christ comes to us already, constantly, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and perceptions to feel. What then is this “coming” all about? As John Robinson said, “The Parousia universalises and clarifies what must happen, and is already happening, whenever the Christ comes in love and comes in power, wherever are to be traced the signs of his presence, wherever to be seen the marks of His cross.” “Parousia”, one of the words used to describe the “Second Coming” of Christ, could be translated to mean “Being coming alongside us”.
We are all “beings” but “Being” with a capital letter signifies in this context the disclosing, revealing presence of God. It is what John Macquarie called a “letting-be of Being” a release from within God of supernatural presence and power. This “release”, this “coming” is seen as an awesome focus of what is already present through the work of the “Spirit of Jesus” in the world.
To judge the living and the dead is the purpose of this defining release of Being according to the Creed. It is given both an individual and a general application in the Scriptures. That is, a judgement at “the hour of our death” and a judgement that affects all of humanity at the Last Day.
There is also something deep within us that resonates with the statement in the letter to the Hebrews: “And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare
to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:13). “Count up time” comes in every human life and without it we would just drift along like a stick on a fast-moving current.
It is accountability that shapes our humanity and slams its selfishness. Those who feel most deeply about us have the capacity to heal us. Niall Williams writes of a character called Moira Fitzgibbon that “the response of her heart, like the purest of souls, felt the grief of another like the grief of herself and by healing it could heal the world.” “God so loved the world” is the biblical way of pronouncing this kind of healing love. It is what the Cross is about, and it is what judgement is about.
Judgement is the search for the deepest love, refined and true, and the rejection of all the muck of human endeavours that gets in the way. Judgement is not condemnation but the rejection of evil. Those who cling to evil when they are “naked” before the one to whom we must “render an account”, condemn themselves. It is the letting-go of evil that brings joy to the heart of God. The lost sheep is found and brought safely home.
The early Christians cried out Marana tha, “O Lord, come!” when they met for the Lord’s Supper. May the Lord indeed come and take us by the hand and lead us home, freed by faith and love after all the years of worshipping and serving from anything that binds except the bind of love before the one who is also the Counsel for the defence of our life. He will come to judge the living and the dead.