Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
In recent weeks I have heard a number of people comment that they believe the end of the world is coming soon. Now rather than scoffing at such thinking it is well worth a look at the various texts in Scripture we find in the Lectionary during these last weeks before Advent begins. Certainly the early Christians that Paul was addressing in his first letter to the Thessalonians thought so and in some ways why not. However, there is some thinking around ‘the end of the world is nigh’ that I would want to qualify with a few extra ideas.
1. It will come at a time no-one knows when. “The Lord will come like a thief in the night.” It’s only in God’s time, not ours, that the fulfilment of the kingdom will come to be.
2. What is important for us to do is to live the gospel now. Whilst the end time will come, it is not for us to know and cannot live in the future, only the pre sent. So, why worry about that now. It is responding to Christ’s call daily— listening, praying, doing and being that really count.
3. We must not succumb negatively to the predictions of future, whether predicated on sound reflection of Scripture, or wild theorising that tries to match-up and connect apocalyptic ideas with current affairs.
4. The church, I believe, to its detriment in various quarters has sought to use such future forecasting as a means of inducing fear and thereby a faith response. Whether that worked then or not, it certainly isn’t a way to do so now, particularly in western culture. We would have much more success by living the Gospel. To see that as something normal that people can do which truly makes a difference.
May you journey well with Christ this week.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
“Watch and be ready, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Mtt 24:42,44).
Does this sentence strike fear in us or hope in our lives today?
Hopefully the latter is the case.
Apocalyptic passages and literature we find in Scripture are important, but we need to take care they don’t simply make us stargazers of the future rather than simply followers of the risen and present Christ. To listen and attend to what he is trying to speak through the gospels, whilst we amend our lives in ways we perceive Jesus calling us to do so.
One of the great differences between the writers of the New Testament and people of today is realizing that they expected Jesus return to be immanent and within or close to their lifetime. Today it is much healthier to have the view that it will be in God’s time. God’s time which does not necessarily corelate with our time.
What we are called to be though is people of hope and sometimes today hope is in short supply. However it is hope that needs to be a mindset for us. As we celebrate Eucharist we hope that Christ is among us, and indeed if we take Scripture seriously he is indeed among us. We hope for justice and peace and it is in hoping that gives the reason to strive and work for that in ways at our disposal. Hope and faith are interconnected and we should always hope that Jesus was, is, and is to come.
Along with this you might like to ask yourself the question today, what else do I hope for? Of course there are a myriad of possible answers to this. For me I think my greatest hope today is like what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians: that as followers of Jesus we can stay awake live out our faith with care and consideration for all people and for all of life as we know it.
May your journey well in the presence of Christ this week.
Rev Cannon Ian Howarth is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of St Paul's Kyneton and St John's Malmsbury and is the team leader of the Central Highlands Cluster.