Summary: If the Lord were to ask what we have done with the last millennium, we would have to report that we never learned peace instead of war or love instead of hate. Our agenda for the new millennium needs to be justice, peace, and mission.
Here it comes again, the end of another year! How soon it gets here after Christmas! Isn’t it astonishing? Don’t you wish they could throw in another week or two before the end of the year? We need to get over the rush of Christmas before we have to face the year’s end?
I know the Post Office wishes that could be done. Isn’t it particularly cruel that just as soon as they finish hauling mountains of Christmas mail, the Internal Revenue Service dumps multiplied millions of tax forms into the system? That’s cruel! But then, who since Jesus has ever supposed tax collectors have hearts?! I’m sure the Post Office wishes we could delay the end of the year.
At the end of the year we are asked for reports and reckonings of all kinds. Somebody wants to know what has been accomplished during the past twelve months. If you’re working for a business, you probably have to climb the shelves and count things and do an inventory. If you’re in the government, your job may require an annual report; you are supposed to tell your supervisors that you met and exceeded your goals, so that they can get the promotion that you so richly deserve! If you’re a student, there’s that little year-end reckoning called a final exam, where you flatter your professors by telling them what they want to hear, whether it’s true or not. I’ve already asked a couple of our students how their first semester at college has gone, and they’ve said, “I’ll let you know when the grades come in.” The end of the year is a time of reckoning.
Even the church wants reports at the end of the year. Quite a few of you should have received little hints from our church secretary, asking you to write something by next Sunday. Non-fiction is preferred, but in a pinch, she will accept your wildest dreams, as long as they sound halfway spiritual! We are supposed to do a report that tells somebody what we accomplished during this past year. Oh my! Another year, another report. What did we get done?
But now just suppose that Almighty God were to look down over the ramparts of heaven and thunder at us, “Well, I see by my calendar that we’ve passed another millennium. I need a report. I need to hear what humanity has been doing. Just what have you accomplished during the last thousand years? I need a report, men and women. Not an annual report, but a millennial report.”
God wants to know what we have done with the last millennium. What could we say?
Well, I’m sure we could throw out some very positive things. Lord, since the year 1000, we have learned to travel. We have gone from horses and camels to cars to bullet trains. Why, we’ve even learned to fly. We started out dreaming with Leonardo da Vinci about wings, but went on to the Wright Brothers and then sailed on to the moon and the space shuttle. We think you should be impressed, Lord. And, Lord, since the year 1000, we have learned to communicate. My, my, can we ever communicate! We have gone from laboriously copied manuscripts to moveable type to televisions and computers. We have gone from smoke signals and drums to telegraphs and telephones to the Internet. That’s progress, isn’t it, Lord? We’ve done a lot with the last thousand years.
And then, in my little fantasy, I imagine the Lord’s reply. He probes us a little more. “Well, yes, you’ve learned to travel. And you’ve learned to communicate. And a good many other things too. But there seem to be some missing items from your millennial report. I think there are some things you have not yet told me about.”
“What have you learned about love, for example?” “Love, Lord? Were we responsible to learn to love?” “Well,” says the voice from heaven, “I seem to remember giving you some commands about that, not just one thousand years ago, but two thousand, no, make that three thousand years. Have you got love done?”
And we hang our heads and report, “No, Lord. We haven’t. In the last millennium we went from Vikings plundering Britain to Hitler slaughtering six million Jews to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. We didn’t get love done.”
“What about justice, then?” the Lord says. “What can you report about your work with justice?” “Justice. Hmm. Let’s see, Lord, about justice. I guess you already know that we missed out on justice. A thousand years ago we were beset with the divine right of kings, kings who felt that they ruled because You put them there. From that we went on to a land where we said there would be no need of kings, because it would be a land conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal; but we found out that was pretty hollow. So we went from the rights of kings to no need of kings to a man named King who worked for the dignity of all. But we’re not finished with justice yet, Lord. Justice; we’ll get back to you on that.”