Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov. 15 Sermon: Signs of the Times

Texts: Romans 8: 25-29
Mark 13: 1-8


Contending with the “2012 Phenonmenon” that some churches in the area seem to be instilling in their unfortunate adherants.

Mayan archaeologist Jose Huchm complains that, "If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea. That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain."[21]

I worked at a bookstore in W. Hollywood where many books were sold that have posited theories of a “new era of consciousness” that will begin on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Mayan Calendar ends.

Many of these “new age” books are “channeled” from “extra-terrestrial beings” among other things. And no, they’re not thinking of Jesus as an “extra-terrestrial” being.

I just can’t understand why any church would take their cues on the coming of the Kingdom of God from the end of the Mayan Calendar (which was developed by a culture with no knowledge of what an “apocalypse” is) and Hollywood.

Yes, many people “in the industry” shop at the Bodhi Tree, and it would not surprise me if the screenwriters and producers of the upcoming “2012” movie, which is fueling this hype, were inspired by the movie by one of the books at the Bodhi Tree, such as

This show proved popular and was followed by many sequels: 2012, End of Days (2006), The Last Days on Earth (2008),Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2008), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008).[62] Discovery Channel also aired "2012 Apocalypse" in 2009, suggesting that massive solar storms, flipping of the magnetic poles, earthquakes, super volcanoes, and more may occur in 2012. [63]
On November 12, 2008, the studio released the first teaser trailer for 2012 that showed a megatsunami surging over the Himalayas and interlaced a purportedly scientific message suggesting that the world would end in 2012, and that the world's governments were not preparing its population for the event. The trailer ended with a message to viewers to "find out the truth" by searching "2012" on search engines. The Guardian criticized the marketing effectiveness as "deeply flawed" and associated it with "websites that make even more spurious claims about 2012".[83]
The studio also launched a viral marketing website operated by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, where filmgoers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population that would be rescued from the global destruction.[84] The fictitious website lists the Nibiru collision, a galactic alignment, and increased solar activity among its possible doomsday scenarios.[85] David Morrison of NASA has received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine and has condemned it, saying "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong."[86]
Fred Craddock once said, "Maybe people are obsessed with the second coming because, deep down, they were really disappointed in the first one."

Stones thrown down our world and our idea of greatness will crumble, when compared with the New Reality of the Kingdom.

Earthquakes, Wars, Rumors of Wars: These are but the birthpangs: and perhaps the birth involves our response to the pangs. Perhaps we are to be midwives of the Kingdom of God.

There is also "birthpangs" imagery in Romans 8: 22 that I may link to this text, to speak about "Creation herself, groaning out in birthpangs for her redemption." And the lectionary choice of Psalm 113 also has childbirth imagery as well. "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!" We are those who are called to minister to the suffering, to stand in the midst of wars and famines and cataclysms and "share the gospel." (As Jesus says in Mark 13 must happen.)

I'm not referring to "sharing the gospel" as simply telling people about Jesus, I'm referring to it as showing people Jesus, showing people the gospel. "Faith without works is dead," says James.

So, in short, the idea of the apocalypse shouldn't prompt us to sit around and obsess about all the speculations that are proffered by the latest con artist preacher. (I say "con-artist" since preachers should know that stoking the flames of people's fears and anxieties about the End of Days is a cheap trick for cheap faith.

If Jesus says that even he doesn't know the day nor the hour, then what would prompt a preacher to have the gall to believe that he or she does. Jesus himself warns against these kinds of cons in the passage. I admit, speculating about the apocalypse has an allure. It is mysterious. It is fun. It is intoxicating. And some people who are intoxicated on speculation about the apocalypse spew out some of the most hateful and anti-Christian things I've heard.

The idea of the apocalypse should instead prompt us to action for the sake of Christ. Jesus says "Be alert!" (Mark 13: 33) Being alert doesn't mean alert and alarmed about latest prognostications about an occasion that we can't possibly fathom, let alone predict.

"Alert" means "awake" and "about the tasks that we were left with." That's the summation of the whole passage, in the parable about the man leaving his house to the care of his servants. We don't want to be caught sleeping or daydreaming.

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