Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Coming of Christ: Worry & Promise

Luke 21:25-36 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

11/29/2009 Bethany, Advent 1, Holy Communion
Psalm 25:1-10 (call to worship, 11:15)
Jeremiah 33:14-16 (delivered by prophet "Gregg")
Luke 21:25-36 (message)
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (benediction)
 
Chicken Little: acorn fell on her head, scared, trembled, half her feathers fell out. "The sky is falling! I must run and tell the king!"
To Henny Penny: "where are you going, chicken little?"
"To tell the king: the sky is falling!"
"How do you know?"
"I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears, and a piece of it fell on my head!"
To Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey ...
To Foxy Loxy ... "I’ll take you to the king"

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Worry ... spend lots of energy on a single focus, but accomplish nothing
The alternative:
"Dissipation and drunkenness"
"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die"
... spending lots of energy without focus, and accomplish nothing

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth."

Problem of perception:
Optimist: The glass is half full
Pessimist: the glass is half empty
Rationalist: The glass is twice as large as it needs to be (C&K, 17)
Or, the story about Thomas at the doctor’s office ... hyperventilating, "I’m sure I’ve got liver disease". "Ridiculous, you’d never know, no discomfort." "Exactly! Those are my symptoms." (Cathcart & Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . . understanding philosophy through jokes, 120-121).

Perception: not like dropping marbles in a sandbox but a funnel (de Bono).
Group "inputs" according to pre-existing pathways of the mind
It’s raining and I forgot my umbrella ... how stupid can I be ... sky falls
I tried to tell a joke but only offended ... how stupid can I be ... sky falls

So, how do we perceive, interpret, frame the signs of "the apocalypse", the coming of chaos, like those listed here in Luke’s gospel? Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t get caught up in dissipation or in worry, in escape or control ... but when the sky really is falling what else are you to do?

Jesus interrupts our familiar perception patterns. He tells us that there is something else going on. Sure, we might be pelted by acorns; sure, the oak tree might be dropping branches all over us. But something else is happening that may not be immediately apparent.

Jesus tells us that, when the sky is falling, our focus should not be on disaster but on deliverance. Because, when we see these signs, "our redemption is drawing near". Because, the end of the world is only the revelation of the promise. It is a promise that, as the prophet declares, God will indeed fulfill in the person of "the LORD our righteousness".

In historic Christian theology, we understand that the end of the world, the end times, are both inaugurated by and culminated in Jesus. That, when he died upon the cross and declared "it is finished", that he was speaking not only about his end in death, not only about the end of sin and judgment, but about the end of the world . . . and it’s renewal in kingdom come, in what the Scriptures elsewhere call "the new heavens and the new earth".

Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near . . . . So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Most of us, despite the holiday, gather with our own list of "sky is falling" events. They might be little acorns or even the entire oak tree. But the cross teaches us that Jesus enters into and shares fully in our suffering. And, it teaches us that victory is coming, that promise will be fulfilled. As we share today in Holy Communion, receive that gift from the Lord.

No comments: