End Times

First Sunday of Advent

 

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

The story of the end, of the last word
of the end, when told, is a story that never ends.

From Mark Strand’s “The Seven Last Words”

Christianity makes the brazen claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the end of history, and the double-entendre is deliberate.

On the one hand, the consummation that Christ’s resurrection makes possible cannot be an event in history, enclosed by history, any more than creation can be an event enfolded in time. On the other hand, the life, death, and resurrection of this first-century crucified Jew is the telos, the goal, the realized hope of all human (and non-human) existence. Jesus of Nazareth is history’s end.

In other words, the crucified and risen Christ not only completes history but ruptures it. Precisely in and through the historical contingencies of first-century Palestine—this specific set of laws and customs, that particular Roman procurator—the future, God’s good future, begins. In a backwater province of Empire, the truth of the triune God breaks history open not through political coercion or insurrection but with a revolution of forgiving, reconciling love. As John Howard Yoder put it:

The point that apocalyptic makes is not only that people who wear crowns and who claim to foster justice by the sword are not as strong as they think—true as that is . . . It is that people who bear crosses are working with the grain of the universe. Read more

A Multitude of Ruptures

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:46-55

“A Christian’s authenticity is shown in the difficult hours…. And by difficult hour, I mean those circumstances in which following the gospel supposes a multitude of ruptures with the tranquility of an order that has been set up against or apart from the gospel.”
– Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The word “preachy” has never been a complimentary term, even less so these days. The ministers rightly highlighted in the national news who have been doing their vital and admirable work are described as “compassionate, not preachy.” Those of us who not only have to preach but believe we should preach have been faced with how in God’s name do we preach the last two Sundays of Advent 2012, and how to do so in such a way in which compassion and preaching are not pitted against each other. Read more

This is Good News?

The Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Isaiah 12:2-6
Luke 3:7-18

Gaudete in domini semper.

These words from this week’s lectionary epistle are also the text of the introit of the mass for the third Sunday of Advent. Thus on Gaudete Sunday, when Advent’s sober mood is broken a little and the pink candle on the wreath is lit, we remember that we are invited to “rejoice in the Lord always.”

These words are so familiar that perhaps we have lost the sense of irony in saying or singing them during a season and on a day when much of what we recall is rooted in scandal and gloom: the disgrace of pregnancy outside of wedlock in a strict patriarchal culture and John the Baptizer’s wide-eyed, fiery condemnations.

James Wright‘s poem, “Trouble,” evokes the first (while it also subverts, as do the gospel accounts of Mary, the social norms surrounding teenage motherhood) : Read more

Outside the Inn-siders

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 1-6

The word of God came to John out in the wilderness, so says Luke. After giving us the names and offices of the powerful in his day – Tiberius Caesar, Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas the high priests – Luke says the word of God comes to none of them. Bypassing the centers of power, the word comes to one outside. Read more

Preparing for Disaster

First Sunday of Advent, Year C (RCL)
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

We’ve become all too familiar with disasters and the whole genre of reporting them (is there a disaster TV cable channel yet?).  The reporter, looking like some alien that dropped from the sky, surrounded by a landscape of devastation. There are the stories about hope, the stories about good neighbors, the stories about this or that agency not doing enough, and then there seems to always be the guy who didn’t see it coming.  The “I was just going to wait it out” kind of guy.  You have to wonder about those people—every siren is going off, the new channels shriller than ever, big winds sweeping through and yet they decide to just sit there until the flood waters come in and they swim through their front door.  They just can’t believe that the way things were is all going away. Read more