Waiting Two Thousand Years and Never Wrong


Waiting Two Thousand Years and Never Wrong

Being diagnosed with a serious illness has been the occasion for me to reflect back on my life and to see God‘s hand at work long ago. I wrote a poem almost 45 years ago. At the time the poem “came” to me with a musical tune. As a young man I had been traveling in Pakistan and India, often staying in the homes of people I knew or met. On more than one occasion, someone had asked me to “sing them a poem.”

Once in Kanpur India, staying with the Muslim father of a good friend from Pakistan (Abul Khair Kashfi), his elderly father asked me to “sing a poem.” I knew his was a pious family, and the songs I chose to sing were really hymns—“Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Amazing Grace.” He liked both hymns but especially liked the last verse of Amazing Grace, “when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
Later, as I was leaving Pakistan to go back to the west, I wrote my own “sung poem” or more accurately, it came to me. I had begun to rediscover Jesus while traveling in India and living among Muslims in Pakistan and so, unnamed, Jesus Christ figures at the end of the poem. It is a poem about leaving—which I find my mind turning to of late.

I wrote, and sang, as part of a larger poem, these words:
“The bough must bend, leaves must fall. Acorns gathering up in heaps outside your garden wall. And the old stone bridge a breaking beneath your tread, while visions of that chariot keep popping up in your head.”

“the bough must bend and the fragrance falls so sweet, of the flowering tree without a name growed up across your street.”

“the bough must bend, leaves must fall, we never know for certain when that riverboat will call. He’ll be coming any moment now, it won’t be long. They’ve been waiting nigh 2000 years, they’ve never been wrong.”

When that last sentence came to me, it articulated something about Jesus Christ which I had previously not been able to put into words: At the University of North Carolina I had had occasion to re-examine, and, sadly, partially discard my childhood faith while taking courses taught by scholars steeped in biblical historical criticism. As part of these courses, I read biblical scholars who asserted that the early church had been quite wrong about the swift return of Christ. But in the moment that I wrote this poem I knew that early Christians and Christians since who expected the swift return of Christ had never been wrong —though I was not quite able to say why. Now, almost 45 years later, I might be able to explain a bit more about why I think the early church (as well as Jesus himself) were not wrong, but most of it is still beyond words.

I suppose much of my conclusion has to do with my thoughts about time. During certain seasons of our lives time seems to move with incredible slowness. In other seasons it seems to move much more quickly, and some of us feel that the speed with which time moves accelerates as we age.

Increasingly I am convinced that from God’s perspective (and from the vantage point of eternity) our whole lives will seem to have been a brief passing moment compared to eternity.

I believe that Jesus promised to return swiftly, and that from the vantage point of eternity it will be seen to have been so. Even from the vantage point of individual believers who lived and died thousands of years before his return, living and dying “in the blessed hope of the resurrection,” their reunion with him and his return to judge the earth will (I believe) be seen to have been swift.

And so I thank God for giving me these words almost 45 years ago:

“He’ll be coming any moment now, it won’t be long. They’ve been waiting nigh 2000 years, they’ve never been wrong.”

Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at wrjones2002@gmail.com. This first appeared in the Pearland Friendswood Reporter News.


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