Monday, May 23, 2011

Judgment Day

Sermon given 5.22.11 The Hang Church 
1 Peter 3:13-22 and John 14:15-21


The good life! Yes, imagine a life fill with adventure. Imagine living a life revealing its newness, each moment having the potential of meeting another human beyond fear, and with a deeper connection. Could we begin to live again? Each moment meeting our own lives as it unfolds! Imagine. Can we be with our lives so powerfully?

Unexpectedly, a chance encounter becomes a place of where love, the fullness of live, reveals itself. Can we live life as we did as children, with each moment full of hope, with each moment full of joy and passion, with mystery and discovery? Could we, despite our how many years have flipped on our calendars, befriend life again? Live.

There is an old fable that goes like this: Once a preacher started predicting the judgment day would be on this certain date. He proposed that all who believed to come on that date and join him on the roof of the church to get a better start on meeting the Lord in the air. At first few believed, as the day approached, those who believed in the preacher started to swell. On his predicted day, the preacher went straight up to the roof. Thousands joined him. As the last person made it on the roof, the combined weight on the roof was too much and roof collapsed, sending everyone with the preacher crashing down. For those who had joined the preacher, judgment day had indeed come.

As many you know Harold Camping, a retired engineer and radio personality, predicted yesterday to be judgment day. Not to make light of this, because many of his followers have to face judgment today. Many will have to answers the mocking of friends and family. Some had spent all their money and ran up their credit in anticipation that they would not be here today. Hearing some of them interview in the last few days, many were motivated to follow Camping out wanting to escape burdens of this life. One said that believing in the rapture on May 21 relieved his stress about the possibility of losing his job. Another poignant family had sold everything and had timed their money to run out on the 21st. They moved from friends and family to Florida to pass out tracts and prepare for the end. They have a two year old and expecting another in June. Pregnant, broke, far from home, disillusioned and with no family close, today they do face judgment day.

As it happens, today’s text has a bit of controversy over eschatology as well. Eschatology the theological term for end times doctrine. John 14.2 is a topic of debate among
Scholars. When Jesus says he is preparing a room in his father’s house, is this realized eschatology or is it future eschatology? Or in other words was Jesus speaking of Easter or was he speaking about his second coming when he told the disciples that he preparing a place for them? Far from a technical point of theology that only matter among Scholars, the question can get us to heart of the Gospel.

Many people I talk this week hearing about May 21, played the parlor game of what would you do if you knew the end was on that day. Many said they would go to Vegas, run up their credit, and buy what they wanted. In short, they thought the best use of their time, if they knew their times was limited, would be to indulge their desires. The teenage daughters of another one of Camping followers told the NY Times that her parents believed they would be going without her. Camping claimed that yesterday only 200 million people would make the cut to meet Jesus. Have you ever notice how much glee that many prophets of doom have in saying others will suffer? They indulge their desires to get even with the world. In a very real way, they want to judge the world not by the cross, but by the violence in their own hearts. To live with such revenge in our hearts really real living?

John 14 continues the after last supper conversation before Jesus’ trail and crucifixion. It is before God gets even with us, but by his own blood by the cross. Our getting even has to do with revenge, Gods getting even is about love.

What he says in John 13-15 is his last testament to his followers before the cross. So, we should pay close attention to Jesus use of the metaphor of the house and house building. What does Jesus mean? St. Augustine thought Jesus meant by the preparing the room in house meant building the church. This makes sense with other passages in the bible, especially our other text from 1 Peter.

Indulge me in a bit of explaining ancient building practice. Today, when we build a house, we start with concrete foundation and build up. In the ancient world the started with a cornerstone and built out and up. The cornerstone was the key to make sure the building stood. Archeologist have found human remains under cornerstone, and from other sources we know that blessing animal and human sacrifices were given in order to make sure the cornerstone would keep the building up. The rebuider of Jericho Hiel in 1 Kings 16:34 sacrifices his oldest son to the cornerstone of the city and his younger to the cornerstone of the walls. The cornerstone is what everything dependent on to stand.

For Peter, Jesus is the living stone that is the source of our becoming living stones. Jesus makes us live. This is echoes John 14 in our passage. Peter also gives us advice about living. Be young and alive he says. Be driven by living with Jesus. I think that is the greatest tragedy of Camping’s prediction. His followers stop living for fear and lust for revenge. Jesus told us to live as if today might be the day of Judgment. He meant us to prepare for judgment day, but what does it mean to prepare for judgment day? What does it mean to live understanding that we have limited time? Jesus gave us the best answer, Love God and love neighbor, even if neighbor may be enemy.

Today is Judgment Day. When two or more gather in Jesus’ name, he is here. Today we gather in his name and he is here. Yesterday was Judgment day. Tomorrow is judgment day. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not denying future eschatology, I am not denying the second coming. What I am saying that living, loving our children, loving Jesus drinking this spiritual milk is how we prepare. When we start loving Jesus, we start loving others. When we start loving others, the church starts building around the real cornerstone. We start growing. We start living. Live.

The reality is that any one of us could die today. This fact should draw us back to our lives and not to Vegas or the streets to pass out tracks.

A famous quote attributed to Luther goes like this, “If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree.” Today, we live. Today, we love Jesus. Today, we love each other. Today, we plant a church. Today, we plant a tree. Live.