Go Ahead – Look!

Mark 13:24-37

We have 1482 days, my friends. Alternatively 4 years, 21 days, or 35,568 hours or 2,134,080 minutes or 128,044,800 seconds until the end. In the car the other day, Eric informed me that in about 211 weeks (rounded down), we will reach December 21, 2012…when the world will end.

2012 is claimed by many to be a great year of either spiritual transformation or, alternatively, an apocalypse. For these foreseers, we will see some kind of end. The date, December 21, 2012, is the completion of the thirteenth B’ak’tun cycle in the long count of the Mayan calendar. Coinciding with this is the “extremely close conjunction of the northern hemisphere winter solstice sun with the crossing point of the Galactic equator and the ecliptic”, an event that will not be repeated for thousands of years.

Michael Drosnin, in his book The Bible Code, claims that, according to certain algorithms, an asteroid or comet will collide with the Earth. Another author connects a possible global awakening to psychic connection that will arise by the year 2012 creating a noosphere (don’t ask me what that is, it’s in wikipedia). Another claims that Biaviian aliens will allow passage aboard their ‘Great Mother Ship’ when the Earth is ‘transformed’ in 2012. Numerological novelty theory suggests a point of singularity in which humankind will go through a great shift in consciousness. Various versions of the end, all in 2012.1

We are even getting a movie version directed by Michael Bay, the director who did The Transformers. We can be comforted in two ways by this: 1) Optimus Prime will be here to protect us (you have to see The Transformers) and 2) planned release for the movie is 2010, in plenty of time to enjoy it before the apocalypse really comes (we’ll even have it in DVD by then).

Some might be uneasy about my making light of the end. I am not (making light of the end). I am making light of many of our all too human attempts to predict/deal with it. In fact, I take the end of the world very seriously. I take it scripturally, for the Bible does happen to talk about it quite a bit. While many simply go to the other end of the interpretive spectrum and dismiss all biblical discussion of the end as mere ancient belief that we have “outgrown” (and therefore easily disregarded), I do not.

I believe that the Bible’s talk about the end is no mere accident. Jesus, in all of the gospels, talks about it different ways. Paul the apostle focuses on it in a fundamental way.

Don’t forget the book of Daniel, and Revelation’s graphic imagery of the end. To the contrary, as the Word of God written, these end time texts place belief about the end at the center of our theology, and in such a way that it colors all that we see.

Much of the Bibles discussion of the end of time comes to us in the form of “apocalyptic”. Inherent in apocalyptic is a particular way of seeing the world. Much of the Bible is shaped by this ancient way of seeing. It draws its imagery from other ancient traditions. It views history as a cosmic struggle between darkness and light–between good and evil. It is a worldview that arises when times are particularly challenging and uncertain (like today…and worse). Though it employs ancient mythology and imagery, I believe that this way of seeing reveals truth–deep, profound truth that is relevant to our lives today.

In this morning’s text, in light of the end times, and when faced with the end of his own life here on earth, Jesus exhorts his disciples to “keep watch” (literally “keep awake”).

When Jesus says, “keep a sharp lookout,” he is telling us, I believe, not to be afraid to see the world for what it really is. He is telling us not to be afraid to face the challenges of the present time in your life and the world. Last week’s apocalyptic text about the sheep and the goats taught us about where Jesus will be until the end. This week’s text tells us where we are until the end.

You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to live in denial. You don’t have to get lost in ever more creative ways of escapism. Go ahead, read the leaves of the tree. Know what is coming. Go ahead, grapple with the science that tells us that the world is nearing its limit, and that if we don’t change, some kind of end is on its way. Go ahead, read the headlines about war and acts of terror, about politics and world affairs. Go ahead, look at the circumstances of your own life. Face the challenges in your relationships. Look at the limitations of your resources and energy and time. Go ahead and feel the wounds of your past. Open your eyes. Go ahead and look…and do not fear.

That second part, by the way, is the other message of apocalyptic end time texts. We don’t need to be afraid of darkness. We don’t need to be afraid of evil because our lives rest in the hands of a loving, generous, and wondrous God. Though times are dark, keep awake!

Because then you will see not only the world as it really is, but you will also see God as God really is.

Our lives and this world rest in the hands of a God who time and again proves to be larger than our limited ways of seeing. (Scripture reassures us of this time and again.) This larger God is a God who loves us, and is even now reaching out to pull us out of the depths of despair and crisis and place us on the road to life. This is the God whose coming we anticipate in this season.

What the story of the Bible tells us is that on the other side of this darkness that we face is Sabbath. That kind of time that we find both at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis (in the garden, Gen. 1-2) and at the end (in the new Jerusalem, Rev 22). It is a time of harmony and peace, intimacy and life as God always intended (and intends).

We don’t need to fear the end because when it comes, the day of the Lord “will be a Sabbath, a day when no labor is permitted and required, because all that God desires and all that the faithful seek will be achieved. It will be finished, done, accomplished, and not destroyed, but fulfilled, just as it was on the seventh day of creation.”

“We need fear nothing the future has to offer, and before that time comes and ends, we might emulate that generosity of God in the conduct of our own affairs, for as the great reformed theologian Matthew Henry wrote, “Our duty as Christians is always to keep heaven in our eye and earth under our feet.”2

So go ahead and look, my friends, and do not be afraid of 2012. Our lives rest in the hands of this Sabbath God.

1 See Wikipediaʼs entry for “2012”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012#2012_metaphysical_speculations

2 See Peter Gomes, “The Gospel and the Future” in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, HarperOne, p.158.

November 30, 2008

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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