Apocalypse

Who is going to be awake?

I have a neighbor with a bumper sticker on his truck proclaiming, "Vehicle ready for the Zombie Apocalypse." Advent begins this year with a plea to be ready for the Jesus Apocalypse. The day is coming when we will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. The question Jesus asks is will you be ready?

 

Many people skip the apocalyptic passages of the Bible. Historically, religion in America cycles through periods of high apocalyptic awareness about every fifty years. The most recent peaking being thirty years ago, as captured in the book title, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988. These times are always followed by decades of exhaustion, when main line churches forsake the Book of Revelation like it was the actual plague, not just the messenger. Popular culture takes up the banner that religion drops, so we have Y2K, the Zombie Apocalypse, and the tragic over-response of the Bush administration to 911. This leads me to wonder if our failure to consistently incorporate eschatology into our personal theology won’t have real consequences. Why do we fail to involve our church in saving the planet? What if our lack of concern about Global Warming is related to our dismissal of all apocalyptic thinking?

Sunday, December 3, 2017
Advent 1

Advent and Uncertainty

The bumper sticker on my neighbor’s truck says that he’ll be a first responder in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. One popular TV show chronicles doomsday preppers while another show gathers survivors of a nuclear holocaust in Jericho, Kansas. The movies, Ender’s Game and Hunger Games, are not about games, but about the loss of childhood innocence in a post-apocalyptic world. One of the unexpected consequences of the shift to a secularized/post-religious worldview, is that the end of days can be spoken about without any reference to the Book of Revelations or Judeo-Christian prophesies.

 

Suddenly, Jesus’ “Nobody knows the day or the hour,” has become very main stream. We have seen enough of the horrors of 20th century technology and violence to almost believe that every day of the 21st century could be our last. Having said all of this, I don’t think Jesus is calling his people to master the crossbow, stock their basements with years of rations, or wear a gas mask clipped to their belt. He is instead inviting people to be spiritually ready. This seems to be a good place to begin Advent.

 

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Advent 1

You Never Know, Do You?

I’m posting this blog the night before the election. It reminds me how often preachers make plans for the week’s worship, only to see something unexpected happen after its all gone to press. A lot of newspapers last week missed the opportunity to print the winner of the world series because the Cubs kept us awake past midnight. You never know, do you? The only thing that is certain is that God is in charge of history and his plans are inscrutable. That is what makes Jesus’ comments about the apocalypse so much fun. Jesus says that both those who put their certainty in sound foundations and good planning, as well as, those who look for portents in the sky and signs in their tea-leaves, will be wrong. No matter what tomorrow brings, we must decide before hand to be compassionate and faithful (Luke 21:13-15, 19). Christians don’t know who will be the best for America. They only know that Jesus calls them to love their neighbors, feed the hungry, give aid to the sick, visit those in prison, turn the other cheek, and to do unto others as we would wish them to do unto us. 

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Pentecost 28

When Children Weren't Optional

This Sunday is about midway between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It also is the Sunday we often use to recognize those who are graduating. Jesus (Luke 7:11-17) and Elijah (I Kings 17) both raise from death the only child of a widow. Jesus, we are told, has compassion. He has compassion on all of us, but one assumes that why it was mentioned in this circumstance is because the widow’s economic survival and status in the community is dependent upon her son. Many parents live vicariously through their children, but we have to go back several generations to hear what it is like to depend upon your children to keep you from poverty — that is — to provide a home for you when you are old, to work the family farm, to carry on the family name, to immigrate to a better land and send back needed cash, or, and think specifically of your graduates here, to be the one who is first to get a real education. Imagine a time when children weren’t optional.

 

Sunday, June 5, 2016
Pentecost 3

The Kingdom is Near

There is a difference between our current culture, and the people described in Mark  Chapter 1. People today do not expect God to intervene in their personal lives, nor do they expect God or Jesus to suddenly appear in the sky and kick their oppressors to hell and bring his faithful into a new kingdom of peace and justice. We have become un-apocalyptic as a culture, in spite of social media’s trending of fake stories about zombies, ebola, and the muslims in burkas.  The hope that underlays Jesus (and John the Baptist’s) message is that God’s kingdom is near.

 

It is good news, however, to know that God is at hand, literally as close as our fingers. He refuses to allow our apathy, or our secret sins, to chase him away. The good news is this loving presence that is simply there. I spent the past few days in Big Bend National Park — a place of impressive silence. When the sun sets behind the mountains, and another day ends in peace, having been spent distant from cell phone reception, TV, and traffic, it is hard to ignore the quiet one at my side. The conversation on the lodge porch is in whispers. Everyone seems mindful of an ineffable spiritual presence.

Sunday, January 25, 2015
Epiphany 3

It's About Time

Today, we have a problem with Time. Not just the lack of it, or our capacity to waste it in trivial TV watching, but in our very understanding of it. Today, we process Time in very short chunks. We abbreviate it, as we cook our food in the microwave. We truncate it, forsaking even the dumbed-down daily half-hour news show (17 minutes when you take out the commercials and feel-good fluff), for Facebook posts and Twitter-feeds. We rape Time by our reluctance to ask the big question about how history is shaped, and where it all will end. Apocalypse is not just a prelude to Zombies, it is one answer to the vital question, How will Time end?

 

We care so little for Time that we have stopped asking about it. Not so, the people of the Bible. John takes us back to the beginning, before the big bang, when the word was with God and was God. Later, John will take us to the end. Paul, in Ephesians 1:3-14, gives us the long-view on Time. In the beginning, God had a plan. Here and now, we experience Jesus as the mysterious manifestation of that plan. In the end, we will all share in God’s Glory as Time comes to its resting place.

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015
Christmas 2
1st Sunday of New Year

Keep Awake

There are times in our lives when someone needs to shake us. We sing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Something’s burning. We open a window and spray air freshener. The snooze button of our alarm clock has been taped down. Advent is meant to take a double edged sword to our post-turkey somnolence.  First, it reminds us of the generations who longed to see the wrath of God come and break the mountains of oppression that bound them. Then it tells us that the Jesus whom we want to receive on Christmas morning with Walmart gifts and egg nog, belongs to those who are awake, looking for him in the cold night.

 

One way to understand the first half of Mark 13, and particularly verse 13:30 (these things will happen to this generation), is to see Jesus warning his hearers and their children, not to get caught up in the Zealot rebellion against Rome. When they see the legions building siege ramps against the Holy City (in 70 AD.), they should wake up, and flee to the mountains. I hold to the theory of periodic apocalypse. Every so often, the Book of Revelations becomes real and personal to a generation. God shakes a people and says, “Wake up.”

 

Sunday, November 30, 2014
Advent 1

The Roof Might Fall

Jesus is blunt when talking about the temple, “not one stone will be left upon another” (Luke 21:6). One day last week, a church near me received word that its roof might fall in. An engineer was invited up to look at the rafters because the roofer the church had hired was concerned about the funny line of the roof. The engineer said, “Look, there’s only an inch of wood holding that truss in place. I don’t know why the whole thing hasn’t fallen in yet.” That was Wednesday, and within an hour the borough had condemned the building and kicked the community dinner scheduled for that evening to the curb. Like the apocalypse that Jesus warned his disciples about, this occurs as winter is coming and while the pastor was on vacation.

 

Jesus’ words are also timely, when one considers the devastation that has occurred in the Philippines this week. Should we be mindful, when we build our buildings, that a 200 mile per hour wind might come and the roof might fall? 

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013
Week before Thanksgiving
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