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Aroma and Appetizers

I am hungry, and I suspect you are, too; hungry for heaven. Our present, persistent famine is killing us. We, the mortals, find ourselves malnourished. We, the fallen, are famished. Sin, in all its forms, is starving us. 

With private anxiety and public malaise, consuming hate and raging war, cruel disease and death’s suffocation, we thirst for the river of a better world. We crave the fresh fruit of a new earth. We long for a magnificent marketplace where our grocer God eternally replenishes the shelves with the sweetness of eternal, abundant life.

So what can we do here and now while we wait?

I very much like the proposal of C.S. Lewis: “The doctrine of the Second Coming … is the medicine our condition especially needs.” Belief in the return of Jesus, Lewis offers, is our best hope. Living into the Second Advent is the only reliable remedy for surviving, and even thriving, in our presently broken and barren world. 

How so? I offer two words, my words, stimulated by Lewis’ reflection: aroma and appetizers.

When my brothers and I were children, anticipation of the Thanksgiving table or Christmas dinner was almost too much to bear. The same was true of weekly Sabbath lunch. The three Bryan boys nearly always pled hunger, but even more so while waiting for these special feasts to begin. Two coping strategies provided comfort in waiting.

First, attention to the aroma. We smelled the future: seasoning and sauces, potatoes and pie. The air prophesied that good food was on the way. Our noses prompted impatience, but also faith. In turn, the Spirit of Jesus, the air of God, provides “a foretaste of glory divine.”

The promises of Jesus, the convictions of Peter, the hope of Paul and the crescendo and climax of John’s Revelation claim it: There’s a banquet on the way. We can smell it. The time of its arrival is unknown to us. The world’s weather provides no specifics. The call to gather and “pray for the meal” will sound in the Chef’s own time. But in the waiting, we have the scent of the Spirit and the spice of Scripture. I can smell it. Can you? Jesus is coming again.

A second strategy that kept three ravenous boys fortified in our hungry hour: appetizers. Mom or Dad would offer up a bite of pie, a spoonful of soup or a lone dinner roll topped with butter. We sampled, in advance, the anticipated feast. Adventists, likewise, do more than sniff out tomorrow’s hope. Jesus, after assuring his hungry disciples “I will come back” (John 14:3), tells them that His followers “will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12). 

His works? Serving portions of heaven on earth. Adventists, Jesus says, practice hope. Adventists, at our best, create and share appetizers of the Advent. Pathfinders and summer camps, hospitals and clinics, Sabbath Schools and congregational potlucks, worship services and community services, grade schools, academies, Walla Walla University — all these and more are forecasts of the future. They are trumpets of joy, clouds of service, elevating buried lives — each a taste of what is to come.

We are hungry. Our world is hungry. We are starving for a better place. Conviction in the promise of the Second Coming of Jesus is our best hope. First, an aroma wafts from God’s kitchen where the dinner of our dreams is busy baking. We don’t know the hour, but we know the Cook. And second, appetizers formed by the hand of the church, savory hints of heaven, help us feed one another and our communities in faith.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Featured in: November/December 2022