Monday, November 12, 2012

Looking Ahead to November 18, 2012 -- Proper 28B 25th After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Daniel 12:1-3
  • Mark 13:1-8, 24-37
  • Revelation 21:1-8

The Sermon title is The Day is When?

Early Thoughts: As the liturgical year draws to a close our readings encourage us to look to the end times.  The Day of the Lord is coming we are told.  BUt when?  Should we be worried? afraid? noncommital? hopeful?  Do the Mayans have something to do with this?

The last question is the easiest so let us get it out of the way first.  NO.  The Mayans have nothing to do with it -- despite all the hype about the supposed end of the Mayan calendar next month (so yes we do still have to get ready for Christmas).

The first question is also relatively easy, although the answer may be less clear than some would want.  The Gospels make it plain that Jesus told his followers "no one knows the day or the hour".  In this I see a suggestion that we should not spend a whole bunch of time trying to figure out when it will happen --although I note that several people over the ages have spent hundreds of hours (and thousands of pages) analyzing the world so as to make a specific prediction of a day and hour.  And to be fair it appears from the Scriptures that both Jesus and Paul expected that the Day of the Lord, the changing of the world, was fairly imminent -- that some who were alive then would still be alive when it came.

Before we continue on the when question (because it gets more complicated), a quick diversion into the middle questions.  On one hand the readings this week suggest we should view the coming of the Day of the Lord with great trepidation.  It does not sound like it will be a very positive experience.  On the other hand the changing of the world, the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God is a cornerstone of Christian Hope.  We live in hope for the time when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, when all will live in peace and all will have what they need.  But given how humans deal with change (and changing from how we currently live to the full bloom of the Kingdom of God will be a very substantial change in lifestyle and expectations) getting to the endpoint, however promising that endpoint may be, will be a somewhat torturous process.

In a way this brings us back to the when question.  Because in Christian theology the traditional answer to the when question is "now and not yet".  The Gospels and Paul proclaim that the Kingdom is present in the life and resurrection of Jesus.  So it is already here.  But obviously it is not here in all its fullness and potential.  So it is not yet.  Maybe the real question is "how is it growing closer?"  Are we moving toward or away from (or possibly remaining stuck in one place) the fullness of the Kingdom of God?  Are we responsible for bringing that fullness to existence or are we to wait for God to do it? 

And no, there is no easy (or universally accepted) answer to either of those questions.  But we continue to wrestle with them as we try to figure out how to live as faithful people in a sometimes very confusing world.

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