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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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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