Thursday, June 6, 2019

Seventh Sunday of Easter - Revelation Part 6

Now we have come to the end of the Revelation to John of Patmos.
(And the end of my sermon series on Revelation.
And there was much rejoicing!)

We have been witnesses to eternity,
we have celebrated with joy,
we have been given the gift of salvation,
we have been transformed by God,
we have seen that God is in all,
hope has been stirred within us,
and at the end of all things,
Jesus gives us the promise of Soon.
"See, I am coming soon."

"Surely I am coming soon."

He says it twice in this passage.

Perhaps because Christianity has become a bit jaded in the two thousand years since John's vision,
We have lost most of that urgency.
We smile ironically at "soon."
Soon would have been a few years ago...
Uh, Jesus,
it's been two thousand years here on earth.
That ain't soon.
Now Jesus is simply late.
And not even fashionably late by human standards.

Although, if you do any kind of athletic events
Races and so forth.
you know, you always tell yourself it will be over soon.
Really no matter if you are at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end.
Having completed my third triathlon two weeks ago, I can assure you of the truth of this matter.
In the grand scheme of my life, that race was going to be over soon.
Even right at the beginning.
Soon is a very loose concept.

Indeed, the God portrayed in Revelation
is a cosmic God.
God commands the stars and the suns,
God reaches into the deeps of hell.
God flows throughout the universe.

And on a cosmic level, soon is more easily understood.

Have any of you heard of Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar?
In order to help people understand the scale of the universe,
Carl Sagan put together a Cosmic Calendar
that maps the estimated 13.7 billion year lifetime of the universe onto a single year.
At this scale the Big Bang takes place on January 1 at midnight,
the current time is December 31 at midnight,
and each second is 434 years.
On this calendar, the Solar System isn't formed until August,
and the first life in the universe started in September.
Humanity wasn't created until December 31st, and that is only at the end of the day.
On this calendar, two thousand years takes approximately 4.6 seconds.
One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi, Four Mississippi...
On this kind of scale,
really no matter when Jesus returns to earth,
soon is the truth.

However, even in looking at the cosmic level,
we are still trying to image God working on a linear time frame.
God exists as eternity
and time works very differently for eternity.
There is only ever soon
because all things exist simultaneously
and experience happens on multiple levels.
God's time is always soon.

I have to wonder, are we really prepared for Jesus to come back soon anyway? 
I'm not sure about that.
We have so many desires and so much we want to do as humanity.
I doubt that we are really ready for the end of it.

But waiting for Jesus' soon
waiting for Jesus to come again,
is part of the spiritual practice
of being Christian.

We are given an expectation.
There is always urgency involved in soon.
If your parents tell you they are visiting soon...
now is the time to double check that there is toilet paper in the bathroom.
You don't want to wait and be called out for it when they arrive.

John incorporates early Christian liturgical sayings into his written book.
At the end of this passage, John includes
the liturgical saying, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
There is desire and longing and waiting and practice in saying,
"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
on a regular basis.
The people who say things like this
are actually waiting for Jesus.
It is part of their spiritual practice.
They invite Jesus to come,
not only on a cosmic scale,
but also on a personal scale.
Come, Lord Jesus!

This is one difference I have noticed in the liturgical nuances 
between the Episcopal and the Lutheran services.
When we do a Lutheran liturgy,
we usually at some point say,
"Come, Lord Jesus!"
Most of the time it is part of the Eucharistic prayers,
there is an urgency and immediacy 
which does not turn up in the Episcopal liturgy the same way.

Today is especially a good time to remind ourselves of our longing for Jesus in our lives.
We are celebrating two baptisms today, (at the 10 am service)
both of whom will become part of the kingdom of God,
are welcomed into the body of Christ today.
Baptism is a celebration of the work of God in their lives,
not just the beginning.

As we baptize and welcome them into the community of saints,
we invite Jesus into their lives,
knowing that God is already at work,
but awaiting the new life and ministry which will come out of them.
So join me in this old spiritual practice,
join me in inviting Jesus to come into the world again,
not only into creation,
but also into our lives.
Let us live into eternity, 
knowing the seconds are long and the years are short.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

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