Monday, November 26, 2007

When will the time come? Matthew 24:36-44

Jesus spoke about a deep mystery as he and his friends walked away from the temple: THE END. There are very few topics as steeped in uncertainty in our world as death. Reading Matthew 24 stirs up two very different ways to think about THE END. The End is both our personal death and the collective end of all things.

First: THE END is personal.
There are books and TV shows about the border between this life and the next. Christians should listen very closely to Jesus words on the subject because he spoke knowing inside information about heaven and hell, immortality and mortality. He knew that "THE END" was coming for himself; and he knows that it comes for each of us. He spoke of people at work taken and others left. He told of some who will meet God living as he wished and other's who will meet God oblivious to His presence and will for their lives. Jesus' imagery is vivid because the truth is that clear. The End will come for each of us at unknown hour.
Perhaps you have seen families left behind in the wake of a catastrophic loss of a loved one. The whole world, as they knew it and imagined it, ended. The End came in flash. They are left with memories and unfinished dreams. The End of life as they knew it came in an accident or disease that claimed the life of a key member of the family.

Second: THE END is coming for us all.
Jesus said there is no time line. He said that, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven..." We could argue using the most sophisticated logic trying to unpack Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:36 and completely miss the point. Some say that God's unlimited power allows the Father foreknowledge meaning he knows the time when The End will come. Others say that God all power always has the choice to determine the future at any time. We can argue about these and other logical positions; but Jesus isn't entering into a debate here with logicians; he's offering us an inside view of what will come for each of us in time. Be ready he says. The End will come for all. Live ready to meet him; at any hour.

What does this mean?
THE END is real. It is real because we are mortal. It might come for us all at once or it might come for us one at time. That doesn't matter; what matters is the one who we will meet after either we mortals or heaven and earth have passed away.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christ the King? Luke 23:33-43

Where do you expect to meet your king?
Maybe you think he'll be in a palace. Perhaps you think he'll be riding in triumph in a parade displaying symbols wealth and power. In Luke we meet our King on his way to glory dying on a piece of tree. Two criminals were there with him standing, both were struggling for breath on their own crosses waiting along side of Jesus for death to come. One criminal mocked Jesus. The other believed. One made fun of him as he stood dying, the other asked, "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Is this your k
ing? The crucified one.

Most people in our world don’t know that Jesus is a king, let alone "The King". If you only come to church on Christmas and Easter you wouldn’t even understand what kind of a King he is. Other's say he was only a teacher and a prophet, a model of what it means to follow God. Christians say He is a king, but his kingdom isn’t always visible. He is a king, but his subjects are the citizens of heaven, not just the residents of this earth. Jesus is the king who you meet today hanging on the cross. In Luke’s Gospel he is the one who turns to another dying man saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” There is your king, on the cross, his body given for you, his blood shed for you. There is your king. And you are his people not permanent residents of this planet but emissaries of Kingdom of Heaven; in your flesh and blood you carry the Good News that Jesus is King to all the world.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Temple's Coming Down Luke 21:5-19

Reading Luke 21 this week is a reminder that context is everything Luke. Jesus and his friends were walking along side the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the heart of Jerusalem. Jews came from far and near to worship God offering their sacrifices and prayers. Jesus and his disciples were Jews and they had a place in the temple and its worship life. They were welcome in the temple's outer courts to meet with others who came to talk about God's word and their faith. They would have been welcome with the others who came to offer appropriate sacrifices to fulfill the law.

But there is another context to this reading the context of time. This was the week of Jesus death. In one week Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on an ass celebrated by the crowds. In that same week he entered the temple with a whip in hand and on Friday he went to Galgatha carrying the cross where he would die. He was teaching boldly and soon that teaching would lead to his death. The plot to kill him was fast taking shape. Judas would soon betray him.

Reading Luke 21 we listen as Luke retells Jesus teaching outside the temple. Jesus'
friend spoke in admiration of the temple. Jesus responded prophetically with words of discomfort. "Not one stone will remain upon another." And then the prophecy turned darker still. Not only would the temple fall; even these men would be subject to great danger for holding fast to their faith.

The temptation's always present for Jesus' followers to minimize the danger that we may face following him. The temptation is ever present. It tempts us to make Christianity into a religion of public morality rather than a radical belief in the transformative power of God. The temptation is to just be nice and to just get along; but Jesus came not to be nice but to see the world transformed in all places. He came knowing that we would see the temple crumble. He came knowing that everything we hold firm to can crumble and offering us hope in the middle of our fall. He came with a promise that in him all could be brought closer to God.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What were you expecting Luke 20:27-38

A few years ago I shared the Sadducee's story from Luke 20:27-38 with a woman in her early 90's. She listened carefully as we shared coffee and a story at her kitchen table looking over a neatly kept yard in the middle of a once active farm. The building stood as reminders of a once lively farm that was now home only to Alva and a friendly on German Shepherd.

As the line of husbands unfolded in the story she responded almost like this was the juiciest piece of gossip that she'd heard. Her imagination ran with the thought of a woman marrying 7 brothers. "Oh my how can that be.." she asked. That's the point that the Sadducee's wanted to make. Their imaginations had run wild pressing against the idea of eternal life. They came up with a story that was too juicy to be credible; but was just realistic enough to illustrate their belief that there was no eternal life.

Then came their question, "Who's husband would she be after death?"

The Sadducee's were looking to trip Jesus up. They wanted him stumped. He replied with a answer that stretches beyond our imaginations.

36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Luke 20:36-38
Jesus invites us to start thinking beyond today to start realizing that eternity is only glimpsed from here. The Sadducee's questioned what it could be like and Jesus offered a glimpse. They didn't ask what it would be like; only what it could maybe possibly be like. Jesus offered a promise not of what could maybe be but what will really be in the life to come.