Tag Archives: eschatology

Abominations and Consolations

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Biblical Text: Mark 13:14-37
Full Sermon Draft

This week we read the rest of Mark 13. The sermon is really divided into a macro and a micro part. The consolations are the macro. If you read Mark 13 as a whole there is a great rhythm to the sermons. The horrors seem to increase, but each increase ends with a promise. The point is not to stoke worry or even less rage as so much of the world’s narratives are designed to do. The point is to restore sanity. He’s got the whole world in his hands. He really does sit at the right hand of God. It’s going to be okay.

The micro part is when you start focusing on the words and tracing out what they mean in scripture and history. One part of that is listening carefully to Jesus’ time markers. When we listen carefully we can make the distinction between those times by which Jesus means the time around AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple and that day and that hour by which he means the last day. Those times have a specific sequence and will end within this generation. And they did. That day and that hour are unknown. That is necessary to set some ground rules, but the word that this sermon hones in on is abomination or more specifically the abomination of desolation. It is actually a well defined term or concept in the Old Testament and history. We can’t use it to make a timetable; that is foolishness, but we can think about endings of old orders. This sermon lays out that groundwork and does what a watchman does, it cries watch.

Musical Note: This morning was our matins week which I always realize when formatting is so defined by its music and continuous in one way it is difficult to cut pieces. But cut I did. I left in two musically bits. Our Choir sang “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” which is a great Last Sunday of the Church Year or Advent piece. And I left in the final hymn, Rise My Soul to Watch and Pray Lutheran Service Book 663, which is fast becoming one of my favorites and captures the key thought of Jesus’ sermon – watch. It is a great tune that you find yourself humming all day. The text is a typical Catherine Winkworth translation by which I mean crisply poetic and poignant if sometimes pietistic. (I’ve been told that her translations are often quite free. Nothing wrong with that because they work.)

A Watchful Hope

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Biblical Text: Mark 13:1-13
Full Sermon Draft

This is part one of what is variously called the Olivet discourse, the Mark Apocalypse or the end times discourse. The Olivet Discourse is so named because of its location on top of the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple. That is actually the name I prefer because I think the other two get things wrong from the start.

There is a way that Mark 13 is about the last days, but it not an easy direct application. Most of Mark 13 I think is talking about the run up to AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple. Jesus condemns the temple, what eventually serves as part of his conviction by the Sanhedrin, and the disciples ask when and what are the signs. Jesus tells them. Within this generation and a fairly detailed amount of signs. But after that, Jesus seems to know that we couldn’t resist attempting to find out the last day, so he says “about that day, no one knows, only the Father.” So Mark 13, for us, is not a step by step countdown. No one knows.

But there is a way it is not a dead letter. The temple was about the end of the old order. The temple specifically was about the sacrificial system. After the crucifixion there is no need of sacrifice. The cross of Christ is the only necessary sacrifice. The old order was over and its symbol the temple came down. But not all of the old order was brought to completion. This fallen world chugs along. Jesus doesn’t answer the when question to that, but much of what he says about the signs of the end of the temple also apply to the world. What are the signs? False prophets, political turmoil and persecution. These are the signs of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God.

And what Jesus counsels is a watchful hope. We know we have won, because he won. Jesus lives. All who endure to the end will be saved. That is our sure hope. Watchful because we know this world hates us. It is dying and we have life. We are on our guard lest it manage to steal that hope from us. We live in that tension as witnesses to the hope.

Musical Note: I have left in our Hymn of the Day, Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers Lutheran Service Book 515. It is a pretty tune absent the often minor and melancholy of other End Times type hymns. The last couple of stanzas carry the watchful hope that I desired to preach about. The of the start of the fourth stanza: Out Hope and Expectations, O Jesus now appear.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Leviticus 23:23-44 and Luke 12:35-53

Leviticus 23:23-44
Luke 12:35-53
Feast of Booths and the nomadic Christian life
Awaiting the fulfillment and the current warfare of the Christian life

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 14:1-21 and Titus 2:7-3:15

Zechariah 14:1-21
Titus 2:7-3:15
The eschatological Jerusalem and the Priesthood of All Believers
Freed for our Neighbor

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 12:1-13:9 and Titus 1:1-2:6

Zechariah 12:1-13:9
Titus 1:1-2:6
The End of Days, Eschatology and the trouble with Universalism
Bishop/Pastor/Deacon and the requirements for office

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Joel 2:18-32 And Romans 11:25-12:13

Joel 2:18-32
Romans 11:25-12:13
The juxtaposition of Judgment and the Eschatological Time Frame
The role of the Spirit in that time
The wisdom, will and way of God

The Marshmallow Test

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Biblical Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Full Sermon Draft

The sermon text is the the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids. The title of this post comes from a comparison I make between the parable, a famous psychology experiment and the situation of the Christian life. If you know the test, it is done leaving a toddler with a marshmallow and a promise. The comparison is made in questioning exactly what type of test this is: willpower, trust, taste or just a cruel joke. I think those are how many people would categorize the second coming of Jesus: a test of holiness, a test of faith, a factor of election or just a joke. The parable would say simply faith. All fell asleep ruling out holiness. The Wise actively prepared ruling out pure election. The bridegroom promises return ruling out joke for those who believe. The over-riding point is faith, with a secondary point of the necessary things to remain in the faith.

And the that secondary point is sticky point. Nobody can share their oil. How you prepare, how you keep faith, is up to you. The church can point at wise ways. It can point at foolish ways or ways sure to shipwreck the faith, but nobody can give you their oil. You must live your Christian life.

Program Note: I’ve left in more than the typical number of hymns as they seemed to record well and were tight with the overall theme. The choir sings Rejoice, Rejoice Believers. I then at that end leave in the hymn after the Sermon and the closing hymn: Rise, My Soul to Watch and Pray (LSB 663) and The Church’s One Foundation (LSB 644) respectively. Take those two as a couple of the wiser ways of preparation.

Where Jesus is, There is the Temple – A Temple built for All Peoples

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Biblical Text: Luke 17:11-19

Full Sermon Draft

I was somewhat shocked this week when I went to read what the church fathers had to say when commenting upon the text. Not shocked in a bad way, but maybe I should say surprised. Maybe it is the limits of my sources which are basically those contained in the ACCS. The ACCS is an updated form of the Catena Aurea or Golden Chain, a string of quotations and gloss that past commentators felt important. But the 10 lepers did not attract much comment, and the comments it did attract were not moralism. While I would not call them moralists, the church fathers were not ashamed to encourage holy living or acquiring virtue. (Again the could be because of later editors felt that was what was worth copying and preserving). Instead what was present was what I would call beautiful and clear allegory.

Now we think of allegory as meaning flight of fancy. I’ve read enough of it to know it can be that, but I also think that is an awful label for what was essentially a method of pondering the scriptures. After preaching for five years week in and week out, what I now recognize is a tool for preaching. The literal level is the basis, and it grounds what you say in history and the text. This is trying to understand the text in its own time. The typeological level is about bringing the specific literal to the eternal. A good reformation way of thinking of this is how does the literal story tell us about who Jesus is and his purpose and work. What does faith latch onto? The third section then asks the question: Knowing that eternal truth how do we live in the now? Having generalized the truth, how do we realize it today. The last section never loses sight of the final day. What is the final fulfullment, the eschatological or resurrection reality contained in the text. What is our hope derived from the text? Over the entire method it is a way to be grounded in the words of scripture and history while connecting it (and ourselves) to the grand story of salvation.

So, this sermon takes the form of an allegory. Not those flights of fancy, but just a way of structuring the proclamation. And to ground it further, the Hymn of the Day was A Great and Mighty Wonder. Celebrating Christmas in October might seem odd, but the hymn dovetails perfectly with what the Father’s said and what I tried to proclaim. As so often is the case, the hymnwriters preach better than the preacher.

The Terms of Unity

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Biblical Text: John 17:20-26
Full Sermon Draft

…But Jesus prayer for unity continues and we might say gets tougher in verses 22 and 23. The basis of the unity in these verses is the glory. The glory that you have given me, I have given to them…that they may be one.

Now we’d love to see glory, because we think we know what it looks like. And our thoughts are glory are not completely false, just out of order. I say that because I’m assuming that most of our definitions of glory would probably be gleaming surfaces, gold streets, never ending crops, basically what John sees in the reading from revelation. But bringing that definition in at this point is out of order. That is the glory of the world to come.

The glory of this world is the cross.

If you want to see how you get from that to Mother’s Day (or at least an attempt) read/listen to the whole…

The False Prophet (Contra the Good Shepherd)

PROMO5A preamble to explain the title and why I am using it. First, I’m more or less Augustinian which means in last things (eschatology) I am an amillenialist (as compared to the various pre/post-millenialists). What that really means is that I read the book of Revelation’s images as cyclical symbols. All these things take place during the time of the church which itself is the millennium. I am not looking for the perfect kingdom and the reign of Christ on earth outside the church before the new heavens and the new earth.

One of those symbols is the false prophet or the second beast. John introduces this symbol first as the second beast in Revelation 13:11-18. The beast is referred to as the false prophet in Revelation 19:20. This is the work of the false prophet: a) makes the earth worship the 1st beast (which has historically been taken as a symbol of political power), b) deceives the inhabitants of the earth by a great show, c) gives breath (i.e. spirit) to the political beast and d) marks those who are able to participate in the market. The ultimate goal of the false prophet is to turn the worship of people from the true God to anything infernal. He will do this by: simple deceit, conversion to a false spirit or as a last resort persecution for those who don’t conform through loss of material goods (or perceived material goods). There have been and probably will be more false prophets through the ages until Christ returns. As Jesus said, many will come saying “I am the Christ” (Luke 21:8-9).

Knowing this, we Christians should be able to do just what Jesus says, “don’t go after them”.

All that for this. Here is a link about a Good Friday Service spoken at by Episcopal Bishop (Ret.) John Spong. Some excerpts from his sermon…

Spong argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”…Spong quickly targeted the church’s historic councils and creeds…John’s Jesus is not about saving sinners and rescuing the lost. It is about moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness…“She [Mary] is there as a symbol of transition from Judaism while the Beloved Disciple is a symbol of new consciousness,” Spong interpreted. “See God as universal and embrace all human differences. These are Jewish gifts to the world,” the Bishop added, naming race, gender, and sexual orientation as the differences to be embraced. “Christianity has not embraced this fact, but it will, and it must”…Spong also attacked atonement theology, dismissing blood washing away sins as an “evangelical mantra” and a “barbaric theology” that turns God into an ogre…John’s Gospel would never say ‘Jesus died for my sins’…As evolving creatures, the problem is not that we have fallen, but that we are not yet fully human.”…We are not sinners, the church got that wrong, we are rather incomplete human beings.”

I don’t think you could get a more complete picture of the words and tactics of the false prophet. Simple deceit – “the reality of divine human oneness” – check. Conversion to a false spirit – “Jesus is not about saving sinners…but moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness.” – check. Threats of being made to conform and worship of the political beast – “naming race, fender and sexual orientation as differences to be embraced. Christianity has not embraced this fact…and it must.” – check. It is not that there aren’t good half truths in there, it is that those truths are reached for outside of Christ’s work for us. Spong wants nothing to do with Christ himself. We can speak of divine human oneness only when we are talking of being conformed to Christ, being sanctified by word and sacrament, by receiving and being part of the body of Christ. We can talk about moving beyond self-consciousness not in a work of moving beyond it but in Spirit enabled willful submission to Christ. A losing of our lives in order to find it eternally in Christ, not some vague universal consciousness. We can talk about embracing differences, but not as good things in themselves, but as part of God’s good creation that God wishes to repent and live.

The pastor of that church should be ashamed for letting the devil have his pulpit on Good Friday non-the-less. Irenaeus tells a little story about the Apostle John meeting a gnostic (like Spong) named Cerinthus in the public baths of Ephesus. Says Polycarp through Irenaeus, “John ran screaming from the baths lest they fall, for the enemy of truth is within.” Christians need to learn to recognize the false prophet, the enemy of truth within, and not to go after them. Days are coming when that will make eternal difference.

Note – the image is an icon of the good shepherd, the exact opposite of the false prophet.