Elie Weisel, Jewish writer and Nobel Prize winner, tells the story of his mother greeting him EVERY day when he came from school. Every day she asked him the same question. Not ‘What did you do?’ Not ‘What did you learn?’ but she asked him, “Did you have a good question today?”
Once again we gather here to ask and answer questions. We gather as “partners in critical reflection”.
Today as we recall we are at the beginning of the church year, we have two texts that beg us to reflect on the end… the end of all years… the end of all time.
John Burgess, one of the scholars I read this week, wrote briefly about the history of humanity. “Christianity with its Judaic roots is a deeply historical religion.” he says.
“This history begins with God’s creation of the world and ends with
God’s judgment and re-creation of it.” (The 2 ends of the spectrum of human history.) He was using this comparison to cite Karl Barth who said that Christians live “between the times.”
But my question (the first today) is,
“Do we accept one end of the history spectrum more than the other?” Let me pick it apart,
- there’s God’s creation of the world - Do we accept that as the beginning of OUR story? (Y/N)
- God’s judgment of the world at the end - Do we accept that God will judge the world and all in it? (Y/N)
- God’s RE-creation of the world - Do we believe that God will re-creation, re-storing, re-newing the world at the end of time?
Maybe we have to back up further to answer another question,
“What is judgment?” - what do we mean by the word?
Jesus told parables about the END of time and judgment. Do you remember?
(review the following stories prior)
- 10 bridesmaids with oil lamps, half brought extra and had enough to wait, 5 did not and MISSED their opportunity to enter the celebration because they didn’t prepare.
- Story of master entrusting 3 servants with his wealth. 2 invest and are rewarded. but 1 buried what he was given to invest and it was taken from him and he was punished for not using the opportunity he was given.
- King divides into sheep and goats… (ask what they remember)
What DO those stories TELL you about judgment?
Let’s think about what we have heard about judgment through our culture.
What do we typically hear about the end times?
Burgess gives us a reminder of 3 ways: (in case you can’t recall)
- 1 line of thinking is the Hal Lindsey, Time LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins “Rapture and Left Behind” model. What do you know about it?
- 2 another line of thinking is the individual day of judgment at the end of each life. Have you heard that? (do you think it is likely?)
During the dispute about all
owing the BMC to have a booth on the floor of AC a few years ago, I heard one Elgin employee who wanted to open our welcome say. “I voted the way I did knowing some would judge me harshly, but I am more concerned about facing God on my day of judgment and having to explain why I closed the door to some of God’s children.”
Do you think we will face an individual judgment of what has been good and not so good in our lives?
- 3 An alternate way to understand JUDGMENT is to let the character of Jesus’ language put a claim on us in the here and now. God’s radical claims are meant to cause us to ask GOOD QUESTIONS so that we can view EACH DAY as a day of JUDGMENT.
- ALL 3 WAYS ARE VALID - there are surely more.
Prophet Malachi was sent to warn an ancient people about God’s judgment.
Some of the warnings were good news to them. These were a people long awaiting God to judge and punish their enemies. They sought ‘vindication’ but Malachi said,
‘sure God is coming.. to judge us ALL’ You’ve been pointing the finger at your enemies and forgetting the fingers that point back at yourself.’
“Who can endure the day of his coming?”
Actually these people had become a bit skeptical of God and the promise of judgment. They had waited generations and were no longer convinced anything would happen. After long centuries of waiting they saw,
- no divine retribution against their enemies, they saw
- no prosperity for their own community, & no restoration ahead
- We might hear them say, “Surely if God was REALLY coming to judge, we would have seen some sign of it by now?” —- sound a little bit like our day?
When in fact, they had failed to notice their own failures.
Malachi points to 3 areas where they would be judged.
- compromised worship - theirs defined in terms of the inadequacy of offerings
- moral failures - their infidelities in their relationships, and 3rd
- their failure to institute justice in their society.
Malachi, using the silversmith way of purifying as an image, says, God’s judgment will be a process of purification.. . and FIRE would be involved.
|Full Dome Florence wiki pic|
After the week we’ve had and the news of each day, I couldn’t help but wonder how we might be judged.. even in those same categories as Malachi pointed out - in his message from God.
We could examine our worship…
Is our worship so passionate that our offerings adequate by God’s standards? yes, I do mean our financial giving, & our giving of ourselves?
or is our worship and giving compromised? (by all the other gods who demand our time, money and our lives…)
We could examine our morality…
Do our moral lives live up to God’s expectation of the way we are to treat each other? Do we honor our covenants that are made with and before God?
Do we treat our neighbors with the same love as ourselves?
or do we fall short and claim forgiveness, which is THERE for us, but without really repenting of our infidelities and habits?
AND We could examine our world..
Does our society reflect the justice that God demands?
Surely, we have to admit that our society has failed to offer justice for all.
How would God judge a nation where people randomly slay others with easily attained automatic weapons?
Has any of the news this week been acceptable to God?
Do we dare point our finger at others?
Certainly we have developed some ‘good questions’ today and we might appropriately cower a bit to admit that we have grown a society that is far from just.. . (so now what?)
Do we live with an awareness of God’s impending judgment?
should we? . . .
What would life be like if we did?
I want you to envision the other end of history in the time that remains. Maybe if we can get into our heads what God’s world COULD look like, we will find it easier to work alongside God’s spirit in helping to heal this one.
And imagine a time when God returns and recreates the world.
What will look different? What will be restored? (use your imagination)
What do you think God would change?
One more question: What would be different in this church?
(what would God restore here, or birth a new?)
YOUR TAKE-HOME QUESTION:
What will be different in YOUR life?
We need to envision that day and that time, as the prophets said, so that instead of living in fear, we Christians can greet the ‘Day of the Lord’ with hope. Yes hope, because this coming day of restoration has already been inaugurated by Jesus.
The time of God’s justice is a promise for the future AND
it is the time we live in now… because
HOW we live into our hope for God’s restoration can change the WAY we LIVE now.
the NOW is where Christ’s spirit helps us work toward realizing the justice that God will someday complete.
One (last) question for you to ponder:
If this IS the time when judgment begins
if this is the beginning of God’s justice, then
What should be the priority of our work? - OUR work, together in this community? . . .
Jesus reminds us that we won’t know the WHEN. This Gives us hope that we are ‘not supposed to know everything,
but we are expected to DO something’.
We are never alone, but we are on God’s team.
(We are the Advent community of Alertness. watching for the end,)
(We are) watching in HOPE, sure that the END is in the same ‘hands’ as the beginning.
and sure that we exist to participate WITH God in the transforming of all the world, before its final re-creation.
Can we say, with faith, not fear?…
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!