We experience God both in the present and in the future tense.
Union with God is in the present tense is about Jesus’ phrase, “Before Abraham and Sarah were, I am” (John 8:58). Union with God in the future tense is about solidarity with oppressed people who have yet to be freed.
We look to something God is going to do in the future. God will bring us through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. It may not happen in our generation or in our lifetime. Like Moses we may not live to see the promised day of freedom and justice (Deuteronomy 34:1-8). But one day we will shatter oppression in its numerous guises, which currently abound…sex trafficking, preemptive military strikes, insane nuclear arsenals poised to kill millions, the ongoing decimation of the Amazon rain forest, unsustainable dependency on oil, unsustainable human population growth, the proliferation of weapons in developing countries…
Contemporary disciples work toward God’s realm both in the present tense (changing the reference point for our lives through prayer) and in the future tense (changing the world). The love of God is cultivated in the monastery or in some form of sustained spiritual practice and the love of neighbor is cultivated in our world. Jesus demonstrates the symmetry between the two with his forty days in the wilderness and his frequent retreats and prayers lasting “all night” (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13; 6:12). Yet Jesus is fully engaged in the world, regularly tolerating the crowds pressing in on him (Luke 5:1; 8:45).
Jesus was contemplative and activist, mystic and prophet, Spirit and form, God and human, absolute and relative, Creator and creature, existing for eternity and existing in time. He was liberating the present moment and working toward the liberation of the opressed in the future!