Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sermon for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, November 19, 2006

There is a multi-million dollar industry based partly on our readings for today. It is the “end times” industry. Millions of dollars have been made in books, tapes, and sermons trying to explain the details of the end times to people.

Sadly it is a terrible waste of money. Christians throughout the centuries have been sure that the end times were “just around the corner”. And they were wrong. Paul himself was sure that the ends times were going to happen in his or his hearers lifetime. And he was wrong. You have to think that if Paul couldn’t get it right, what chance does anyone stand today? And yet there are people out there in books and in pulpits still convinced that they can figure it out.

Much fear and uncertainty surrounds the entire end times issue. You can feel the fear in the books and article written about it. And if you hear sermons preached or read book by persons from the end times industry you can feel the fear as well. Fear of being left out. Fear of isolation and desolation.

One member of the parish did observe that perhaps this fear could be used to good purposes. The member suggested that we remind everyone to get their tithes up to date before the end times occur. After all, you don’t want to be behind at the end of the world.

Another problem with believing that the end is just around the corner is how it colors are attitudes towards those things that Jesus has called us to do. After all, if the world will end next week why bother collecting food for the hungry, or clothes for the naked, or visited the sick or imprisoned. That will all be taken care of very soon by God so no need for us to bother about it.

But this would be wrong, very wrong. Not just because the odds are that the world will not end today. But because it is an abrogation of our responsibilities to those in the world around us who are less fortunate that ourselves. God calls us to serve them, to feed them, to cloth them and to visit them. We must follow this call until the end does indeed come.

But there is more than just fear in the readings for today. There is also hope. I don’t actually mind people spending their hard earned money if they are interested in reading about end times theories. What does concern me is my perception that the end times industry panders to fear rather than hope.

No where in the Gospels do we hear Jesus call us to spread fear and concern about the future. In fact some passages advise us to not worry about the future at all. But what the Gospels clearly do call us to do is the spread the Good News of Jesus. This is a message of hope, not fear. The Gospels also call us to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit and sick and those in prison. This is also a message of hope, not fear.

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