Sunday, November 19

Sermon November 19, 2006

With being away unexpectedly at the end of last week I didn't have time to get a full manuscript together. But then while I think the I followed he basic idea of what I had brought together in preaching the sermon I soon left what was written. So, I am not sure how much what follows actually matches what I said on Sunday.

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

(from official lyric sheet)

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. Feed it up a knock,
speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,
down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furies
breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered
crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,
common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its
own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear - cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine...fine...

(It's time I had some time alone)

I- Introduction: How do we see?

What follows is not exactly the sermon I had intended to preach. As many of you know my wife’s grandmother passed away this past Tuesday, and we flew out on Thursday to be there for the funeral and memorial service on Sunday. So as I have been finishing preparation for this sermon I have been amongst what is called in Systematic theology “The Last things”. Death, dieing, the afterlife are all part of what systematic theology calls the last things and so is what all three of our Scripture texts are addressing, the coming of the end of the world. Apocalyptic visions like we find in Mark are also “last things”, what this ordering of theology tells us is that in some sense every death is the end, the apocalypse. To properly understand our own death and the death of others we must also have some understanding of the coming to the end of all things in God. What I hope you hear in my words tonight what I hope you take away is a true sense of the source of our hope. Our hope as the church is in what God brings to completion, of a an unveiling that reveals and disrupts, that the conflict between the world passing way that we know and the world to come that until that final day we only come to know in death. These texts are not texts of despair but of hope, the only hope there truly is.
Tripp encouraged us last week to look away from people (politicians, celebrities, whoever functions for us as a prince) and to look to God and see what God sees, we are to advert our gaze towards God. Looking to God is to look towards the poor, because God sees the poor, what I want to add is that this sort of vision is apocalyptic. Apocalypse literally means the lifting of the veil, an uncovering. God sees the true causes of poverty and domination. From this I think we must also assume that it is from God that liberation from all forms of oppression comes. This is apocalyptic not only because it unveils the true nature of things but also because we find hope in God turning the systems of the world upside down. In small ways I have seen the world turned upside down in my 37 years, and there have been many ways this has happened in the past half century. As I graduated from high school and entered college REM’s song “Its the End of the World as We know it (and I feel fine)”was released,. Perestroika had just begun and The Soviet Union had not fallen and there was still a Berlin wall. That song for me at least became the theme song of various events occurred including the disintegration of the soviet union the fall of the Berlin wall and the first Iraqi war. All these events presented so many different commentaries, some full of fear some proclaiming the beginning of a new world order, others protesting this new world order. Though it still was only birth pangs. I also will admit that REM’s song played in my head in the days and weeks after 9/11.
There are a number of reasons this song came to me as I prepared for this sermon. There are various ways to encounter this song, on one level it is a rant, at times nonsensical and stream of consciousness, it is also, obviously, in someway about the end of the world. There is in this rant a protest of all the various versions given to the meaning of the tumult and turmoil of a world that seems to be constantly ending. Also, The refrain “Its the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine, is in part at least what Jesus is attempting to teach his disciples in Mark 13. In the Gospel today it is the sentiment that is what leads the author of Hebrews to call in the face of the End, “he Day” to provoke one another to love and good deeds and to encourage one another as we see the Day approaching. We are not the panic as we see these things but in some sense the end of the world as we know is not only our hope but is what has been happening since the time of Christ and his ascension.
II Apocalypse is about hope

Since at least the time of the French and American Revolutions there has been a sense in our culture and among our intelligentsia that our world is perfectible through political movements, revolutions, and political power. It is not out of apocalyptic nor religious faith that transformation is brought into the world but through economics and politics. This is the arena of real transformation in our world, if the church or believers whish to take part in a transforming world they must do so from these perspectives. And certainly we can point to particular movements and political process that have brought about change: the most positive being the non-violent struggles whether for Indian independence from the British or the Civil rights struggle in this nation. For many in our nation though it is specifically our nations ideals of liberty and equality that bring about change and transformation. God might be there somewhere, and Biblical imagery may be useful, but the Bible is also dominating, God language oppresses, Texts like our Markan passage keep people docile and under domination. After all after Marx religion is the opiate of the masses
However, If Tripp correctly interpreted scripture last week we are not to look to these things or to ourselves, or to our leaders (even Martin Luther King Jr.) to free us, or bring liberation to the poor and oppressed. Revolutions and non-violent struggle themselves are not the answer. Jesus in our text today and last week challenges us to see that domination, poverty, and oppression are deeper more entrenched realities than any political movement or revolution admits. Also, the apocalyptic vision of Jesus shows that the true power does not and never has resided with the oppressor. The coming of Jesus Christ was political not because Jesus was a revolutionary, or non-violent protestor, but because Jesus Christ being God revealed to us the Kingdom of God. This revelation shows us that our systems of government, of economy, of power are not ordered according to God’s intent for their functioning. Created by God like the entire cosmos they are disordered because of the fall. So when we look to the poor it is to see something beyond our ability to change their circumstance, it is to see the depth and source of all dominating systems, of all politics and economies. The question adverting our gaze from leaders political movements and ideologies of liberation should raise is from whence should come our hope? Apocalyptic and Jesus’ discourse on the last things tell us how to see the world (that is passing away) for what it is and have hope, This tells us that our hope is in God turning the world upside down not in human effort to bring about utopia on earth.

III. Apocalypse as away of seeing puts limits on our actions and limits on what we can change. (ref. Paulo Friere, Letter’s to Christina.)
Paulo Friere talks about not only limits to oppression but limits to freedom and movements of liberation. In his Letter’s to Christina he mentions that as far as he understands it true progressive politics and efforts towards liberation must admit limits not just to government but to freedom and liberation itself. The concept of limit is essential to any truly liberating movement and ideology. Apocalyptic vision gives us the means to see our proper limits. Apocalyptic ultimately shows us that everything, whether it is an oppressive regime or our struggle and resistance, or our freedom, is bounded by the action of God and God bringing his system/kingdom on earth, through Jesus Christ. Even something good and prescribed by God, like the temple and sacrifices God set forth for his people has its limits. There is nothing we can build no economy no politics not system that will stand the ultimate cataclysm of God coming into God’s creation as a human being Jesus of Nazareth the Christ.
Lyon Reynolds in her past few years suffered from dementia and yet I was amazed at how peaceful she was and the strange but wise things she say, the time she spent on (one time a pillow her mother had made with lace her mother had made), Her world became upended and she was on the edge of two realities, and while at times the dementia created for her disturbing dreams and visions of darkness and fear, it also in Kate’s and my visits with her produced in her a deep calm of a deep and strong river, a river that was not just her spirit. If you could sit still with her and say nothing this world and its cares melted away, not because of Lyon, but because Lyon had been disconnected from this world in significant ways and being with ones she loved became all there was her end was near and coming. In a sense since the time of Christ our world is in that state of coming to an end, we are to take hope in this, even when the dementia of the world produces horrors, the Desolating Sacrilege.

IV. How national mythology can speak truth falsely co-opting for itself only what God can do. National Mythologies as potentially the Desolating Sacrilege, replacing God by the nation and its symbols of power.
Barrack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.
The truth and falsehood.
The multiple the appearances of the desolating sacrilege.

V. For systems of power, economy and politics to be transformed they must be upended, our only hope is the fulfillment of the cataclysm of the incarnation, the complete and total turning upside down of the cosmos.

We do not know what will be.

Conclusion- We are at the end. This is the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine. REM.
Because our hope is only in the up ending of the world by God, if we see what God sees, if we Gaze at the poor and then have the veil removed in apocalypse, we can only attempt to live as though there is only the system of God. This is the prayer Thine Kingdom come Thy will be done, it is commitment to struggle to live at the end knowing the systems of the world (including the systems of democracy) are not the final word, knowing that even good systems will pass away as they are upturned by God’s invasion of history in the person of Jesus Christ. We must not forget that the temple which was destroyed by the coming of Jesus Christ the God made human, was a good thing set up by God for God’s people, as a sign of the Kingdom of God, its destruction heralded that God had come, and was asserting God’s system in a world of systems that were not of God, or were only partially true. We should rejoice in what liberation or any system of government can bring to the world is at best birth pangs. We should always remember that until the end until our cosmos is upturned completely by the incarnation these are but signs of what is to come, signs that the final cataclysm when the veil of this current order is lifted and the terrible and beautiful day of the Lord shall be seen and the son of man in all glory and power. The luminaries of this world, all those things we look to for our well being will be shown for what they are either God’s servants or those thing we have lifted up as idols replacing God as our true hope. The Sun in the end does not sustain our world, though it may be the means of that sustenance, rather it is God, who sustains and upholds the whole universe even as in various ways it is infected with a rebellion. Sin and Death are not minor faults, this is not a little bit of surgery, no this is a remaking of our universe to which God is not only creator but one with it through Jesus Christ fully God and fully human, flesh of this universe, or our reality. There can only be cataclysm, and we are now only seeing the birth pangs, the contractions of what is to be born from the coming of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
The end is not too come but has come and is coming and this is our hope, not some politician, not protests, not voting, not America or the constitution of the Unite States, not philosophies and doctrines of human equality of our own invention, but the fulfillment of the life death resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.