SERMON from 6-17-12: “Questions My Neighbor Asked Me: Why Are Christians So Obsessed With the End of the World?”

 

No Father’s Day Theme this week.  Sorry, dads, our day is bereft of the pomp and circumstance of our maternal counterparts.

 

Matthew 6.25-34

 

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

 

Questions My Neighbor Asked Me: Why Are Christians So Obsessed With the End of the World?

 

So, we are still looking at questions that our neighbors ask us about being Christian.  What do we hope to accomplish?  By looking at these questions and attempting to answer them, we have a much better chance of answering them with some sort of clarity.  If we don’t have clarity, we may lose credibility.  If we lose credibility…well, we just lose.

 

I finished the first book from my summer reading list this week.  This may sound a bit geeky and teacher’s pet-like, but this book is going to be a textbook for one of my seminary classes this fall–on Church Renewal.  The book is Minding the Good Ground and is written by Jason Vickers.  One of the conclusions Dr. Vickers comes to is that our culture isn’t as anti-religion as we like to believe.  In fact, there is evidence that suggests that our culture is becoming more spiritual and interested in the things that religion has to offer.  The argument in his book is that the church needs to understand itself and be able to live as the church–with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 

How do we better understand ourselves?  We understand answers to questions.  Thus, you have “Questions My Neighbor Asked Me.”

 

Today’s question is about the end of the world.

 

The space surrounding the subject of the end of the world has not been occupied by Christians–as of late.  Recently, when you ask someone about the end of the world, their minds track thoughts to the Mayans.  According to the Mayan calendar, December 21st, 2012 is supposed to be the end of the world.  Of course, there was the movie which was inspired by this date, and there has been plenty of speculation as to what might happen on this date.  However, that is all a fairly new phenomena.  According to Mayan scholars, the Mayans didn’t believe there would be a cataclysmic disaster to befall the earth.  In fact, their belief is that the calendar just stops.  Like running out of paper, the calendar was just supposed to stop.

 

This is not to say there hasn’t been any Christian influence in end times prophecy.  If you don’t know the name Harold Camping, I won’t hold it against you.  However, you might recognize his name as the last famous Christian to claim an exact date upon which the “Rapture” would happen.  It took him a couple of attempts, but he would eventually get the answer right.  First, he said the date would be May 21, 2011.  Then, it was going to be October 21, 2012.  Then, he came out and said he got it all wrong and that it was sinful for him to attempt to guess the date of something of which God was supposed to be in charge.  I was surprised by his apology, but I respect him for it.  Not many people are willing to apologize for a very public wrong.

 

Then, there’s TBN.  If Benny Hinn isn’t “healing” the masses, then John Hagee and the rest of those tele-preachers are talking about the book of Revelation and the end times.  Now, I don’t usually have tons of time to watch TV, but if I have a few loose minutes, I’ll check in on my friends at TBN.  It seems like John Hagee is always preaching a series on the end times.  He has a huge set placed behind him, and it is full of images that we pull from the Bible–that typically have to do with the end times.  If he’s not talking about the Great Whore of Babylon, he’s talking about the book of Daniel the “Rapture.”

 

There are plenty of other examples–I didn’t even get to the Left Behind stuff.  And I won’t.

 

It is clear, however, that Christians do spend considerable amounts of time worrying about the end of times.  The apparent obsession–in my opinion–comes from the fear that is inherent in such an idea.  Considering most of the ways in which Christians are exposed to the book of Revelation–usually through some wildly speculative ideas about numerology and the reading of signs contained within the literature of Revelation.  People hear these things and become scared.  If not scared of the events themselves, they get scared for their eternal salvation.  No one wants to find themselves on the wrong side of this cosmic battle.  They study the events so they know what to look for, pass along the information to people they care to pass it along to, and wait for the day to come.

 

There are really so many facets to this idea that I cannot possibly work them out with you this morning.  I could recount all the passages of scripture which speak to the end of days.  I could go into how the Rapture is an idea which has only come into vogue in the last 200 years.  I could also go into all the literature which has been written about this subject.  However, I would expect most of you to fall asleep.

 

What we can talk about is hope.  End times prophecy and the talk about the prophecy is so concerned with the ultimate battle of good versus evil.  So many of those who have written about the end times like to get into the minutia of who will be the antichrist and what political and cultural situations might arise that indicate to us that we are in the end times.  Then, after so much speculation about what numbers represent which thing, there’s a small amount of time at the end dedicated to telling you that all you have to do is say a prayer and Jesus will remove you from all this.

 

In a way, that is hope.  But when Jesus said that he came so we may have abundant life, I don’t think he meant that we should be relying on a single prayer to make us whole.  When Jesus talked about his second coming, he said the moment would come at a time no one would know.  When he would say these things, he would say them in concert with how we should live.  When we think about the end of time, we shouldn’t be preparing for our death, we should be preparing ourselves for life.

 

In the wake of receiving the news we did about Carter’s future, we heard some interesting things.  People would give us their advice as to how we should handle different facets of our lives because of it.  There were those offering parenting advice on how we should keep the news from our other kids and not show any emotion over it.  There was also the standard Christian niceties.  One of the most intrusive pieces of advice we received was that we should get a second opinion.  On its face, that doesn’t sound like bad advice.  But when you consider that Carter has some of the best doctor’s in the entire state–and those doctor’s are the ones who referred us to the last doctor we saw–there aren’t many courts left to appeal to.

 

At some point, you’ve got to decide to have hope and live for today–no matter how many “todays” you think you might have.  If Carter’s doctor is wrong, then there’s no problem.  If Carter’s doctor is right, then it makes to live each day with the hope we can have that Christ says we can have abundant life through him.

 

Hope is not our ability to hunker down into a tight enough ball that nothing bad ever happens to us.  Hope is grabbing ahold of the promises made to us and living beyond the impending storms of life.

 

It’s fun to have a hobby or interest.  That’s what the doctrine of the end times should be for the Christian.  It shouldn’t be an all-consuming infatuation.  The Christian should be all-consumed with today, and how we best live that out to God’s glory.  Paul says that, of all the things of this world, faith, hope and love remain.  He does say that the greatest of them is love.  Hope made the top three.  Faith is also there.  What’s not there is the end times.

 

Jesus says that that our worry (concern) shouldn’t be for what happens tomorrow.  We have enough to worry about for today.  Our concern today should be understood in light of the hope we have in Christ’s return, and his promise to be with us always.  So that we may live abundantly.

 

And thanks be to God for that.

 

AMEN.

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