Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 14 Sermon (proper 28)

The end is near. Repent. This theme of the end times, thoroughly biblical has always struck me as strange. I know for many it has been helpful, some have been obsessed. I have never found predicting the end as useful. As humans we have expected the end around certain dates on the calendar: the year 1000 was one such moment, Y2K (the year 2000) another, others used elaborate (or not so elaborate) mathematical means to compute the date from biblical codes or clues from the bible. Some have looked to plagues, earthquakes, astrological signs all as predictors of the end times.

Of course, all of those predictions failed, there were many great disappointments, many lay folk angry at clergy for giving dates that proved to be untrue. But we still think about the end times, its been in our music… In 1969, there was a hit song called “In the Year 2525” – a one hit wonder that explored our unease with technology and wondered if life would ever end, and in the year 7510 the song said, if God’s a coming, he ought to be here by then…The song writer Prince had a hit song called 1999 an apocalyptic, yet upbeat party song. In 1987, the rock band REM came out with the song, “It’s the End of the World as We know it, and I feel fine.”

Many may remember that this song was played on Fox after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. [Some did say that the Red Sox victory was a sign that the end times were near, however, such thinking really only holds for the Chicago Cubs if they ever win the world series.] The end times have been explored in countless movies from the recent 2012 (based on the Mayan Calendar) with oceans covering the earth, to asteroids, nuclear war, etc. You have the great poets who wonder too…
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great And would suffice. Robert Frost
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper. TS Eliot
So what should we think about the end times? When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said,
"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
Such words from Jesus must have surprised and frightened those who heard it. The temple, destroyed !?! And in fact, the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans – many of the items being taken to Rome as the spoils of the sacking. But Jesus words weren’t predictions but reminders that the things they will build, even beautiful, God dedicated buildings, like everything else will one day end.

Where our hope must be placed, is on what God has given to us, our faith, not on an earthly thing. There will be others claiming to be Jesus, offering salvation, do not believe them says Jesus. Don’t be terrified of natural events, these are just the beginning. Some will even be persecuted for following me, says Jesus. And we have seen that in today’s world.

But this doesn’t give us clues about the exact end date, it is as if Jesus expects us to live our lives faithfully no matter what happens.
“It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; and in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As we number our days on earth, we know that no one will live here on earth forever. The challenge from Jesus is for us to live faithfully right now, building a better future for our world, gaining the endurance for our souls as he put it, and to live even if we don’t know when it will all end for us. In 2009, a song was released by Kris Allen, an American Idol winner, entitled Live like were Dying, with lyrics saying…
Looking at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that's ticking
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying
Indeed, we gotta live like we are dying, for that would be to live faithfully even in the midst of death. No matter when the end comes, if we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, if we do what is right, we have it covered and need not fear what is to come, today, tomorrow or the year 7510. Amen.

No comments: