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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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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