Saturday, May 24, 2014

End Times not Last Days (Easter 6A, 25 May 2014)

RCL Easter 6A
25 May 2014

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Focus text:  John 14.15-21

Click here to listen to the Sermon as preached at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church at 10.00 a.m.

On Tuesday of last week I went downtown for a meeting at the Synod Office.  As I was waiting for the elevator, a gentleman noticed my clerical collar and asked me, 'These are the last days, right?'  I answered as truthfully as I could by saying, 'Yes, these are the last days, but I think that we'll still have work to do tomorrow.'  My elevator arrived and our conversation came to an end.

For the average person the phrase, 'the last days', tends to have a catastrophic meaning, what it often called an 'apocalypse'.  Children play electronic games that portray 'zombie apocalypses'.  Environmental organizations speak about the apocalyptic consequences of global warming.  In some cases we are right to speak of apocalypses, especially when we are describing the consequences of human inactivity and carelessness.  But in other situations our fascination with apocalyptic scenarios arises from a dark interest in destruction, violence and doom.

Some Christians think of the 'last days' as apocalyptic, a time when this world will not only pass away but disappear in fire and the separation of the goats from the sheep.  I must acknowledge that there are scriptural texts that support just such a dark and, I think, fatalistic view of human history.  This understanding of the coming judgement is, however, not the only way the New Testament, especially the Gospel according to John, imagines the 'last days'.

In John's gospel we are already living in the last days.  With the coming of the Word, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, God has begun the final restoration of the whole of creation to its proper relationship to God and the relationship of every creature to each other.  Instead of an apocalypse, John's gospel imagines the eschaton, the fulfillment of God's purposes for us and for the whole universe.  This is the 'end time', not the 'end' as the 'last', but the 'end' as the 'goal' God seeks.  In Jesus of Nazareth God offers every human being the opportunity to follow the way, discover the truth and live the life that is genuinely ours.  But the choice is ours and the consequence of choosing a different way, seeking a different truth, living a different life are ours as well.

Forgive me for repeating today's Gospel, but I shall use a different version just to give our ears a variation to hear.

[Jesus said,] ‘If you love me you will obey my commands; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another to be your advocate, who will be with you for ever --- the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because the world neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you bereft; I am coming back to you.  In a little while the world will see me no longer, but you will see me; because I live, you too will live.  When that day comes you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.  Anyone who has received my commands and obeys them --- he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father; and I will love him and disclose myself to him.'  [John 15.15-21 Revised English Bible]

In this last days God invites us, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and in the Spirit of truth, to proclaim and to live the words of Desmond Tutu we shall shortly say together,

Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death;
victory is ours through Jesus who loved us.

This is the spirit of the eschaton; this is the agenda of the eschaton; this is our ministry.

My friends, we live in the 'end' times not the 'last' days.  In us, through us and with us God is shaping the world as God imagined it at creation and desires it to become.  We who have chosen to follow the way of Christ, to seek the truth of Christ and to live the life of Christ are indispensable to bringing about what God is accomplishing.  We cannot deny the reality of injustice and oppression and the misuse of creation in our world today.  But we do not live in fear nor do we envision an apocalypse, a collapse of creation into a chasm of destruction.  We live in hope and in the confidence that God, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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