Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Until the End of the World

This past Sunday I preached on Mark 13:24-37 and tried to express the difficulty of preaching on a scripture passage on the second coming of Christ during a season dedicated to remembering the first coming of Christ. Such is the nature of Advent, the season when we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas and simultaneously look forward to Christ's return in whatever form that may take. I tried to navigate between the extremes of obsessing over the vagaries of apocalyptic language (e.g. the Left Behind series) on the one hand and dismissing it altogether (e.g. John Spong).

I do believe humanity and all of creation await some type of culmination of what God began at Creation. No matter how much progress we make as humans, we still cannot free ourselves of the chains of greed and violence. For every technological advance that brings healing or prolongs our lives, we find a corollary new way of killing one another. At the same time, Jesus does not give us the choice to go bunker down awaiting the end of the world but rather invites us to be a part of God's work healing the world and making it whole.

I thought about including another conversation I've had recently with my 5 year-old son which occurred on the way to school while listening to his and my favorite band, U2. I chose not to include it, however, because I recently included another such discussion with my son about a U2 song in a recent sermon (see my post about "Where the Streets Have No Name" from a week or two back). It says something about my life these days that the best theological discussions I'm having now occur with my 5 year-old.

This particular conversation started when we were listening to "Until the End of the World" a song from U2's 1991 masterpiece Achtung Baby. The song is told from the perspective of Judas as he speaks to Jesus, and it ends hopefully, yes, even for Judas. Julian asked me what "the end of the world" meant, and I replied that it could happen any time but probably wouldn't happen for a long time. It is the time when God will stop everything in the world and finally there will be no more sadness or pain and everyone will learn to be nice to one another. I told him that some people think Jesus will come back and be mad at a lot of people and he will punish them, but I don't think Jesus would be like that. I told him that I think the end of the world will be a good thing whenever if finally comes.

Julian seemed to accept that (for now). It's about the best I can do explaining the second coming to a five year-old or to an eighty year-old.

Grace and Peace,


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