Ending…or beginning…?

It’s 2012!  According to some, the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world, this year. (I like this comic‘s take on that thought…)  This blog is, essentially, to direct you to a colleague’s reflection on ‘doomsday predictions.’  Pastor Dennis Hendricksen, of Christ Lutheran Church in Regina, offers an excellent overview of such predictions in recent years.  Go read it!

Whether it’s people who have been trying to pinpoint a date, and those dates come and go, or whether it’s holy texts that may or may not be saying something about when time will end, no one really knows.

A recent article says that the world has about another 500 million years to go.  …given the amount of time that we’ve had recorded history – I think we can say ‘things will go on indefinitely, until further notice’ (!).

With Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, yesterday, I appreciate what John Dominic Crossan writes about John the Baptist and his movement, versus the Jesus movement…
“John [the Baptist]’s theory was […]: oppression by Roman power was a punishment for Israel’s sins, and that sinfulness impeded the promised advent of God. What was needed, therefore, was a great sacrament of repentance, a popular repetition of ancient Israel’s coming out of the desert, crossing the Jordan, and entering the Promised Land. In that process, the Israelites would repent of their sins as they were “baptized” or immersed in the Jordan, their moral cleansing symbolized by the physical washing.

A critical mass of repentant people who had “retaken” their Promised Land would prepare for, or possibly even hasten, the start of God’s Great Divine Cleanup. In the meantime, of course, and no matter how nonviolent his proclamation was in theory, John was planting ticking time bombs of eschatological expectation all over the Jewish homeland. So Antipas executed him. Notice one very important aspect of that action. If Antipas had considered John a violent threat, he would have also rounded up as many of John’s followers as he could catch. The fact that he did not, and that he executed only John, tells us that Antipas was responding to somebody who opposed the Roman system nonviolently.

One of the surest things we know about Jesus is that he was baptized by John. This means that Jesus had, at least originally, accepted John’s message of the imminent advent of an apocalyptic and avenging God.

It seems that Jesus started by accepting John’s theology of God’s imminence but, precisely because of what happened to John, changed from that to a theology of God’s presence. John expected God’s advent, but Antipas’s cavalry came instead. John was executed, and God still did not come as an avenging presence. Maybe, thought Jesus, that was not how God acted because that is not how God is. Jesus’ own proclamation therefore insisted that the Kingdom of God was not imminent but present; it was already here below upon this earth, and however it was to be consummated in the future, it was a present-already and not just an imminent-future reality.

Jesus could hardly have made such a spectacular claim without immediately appending another one to it. You can speak forever about the future-imminence of the Kingdom, but unless you are foolish enough to give a precise date, you can hardly be proved right or wrong. We are but waiting for God to act; apart from preparatory faith, hope, and prayer, there is no more we can do. When God acts, it will be, presumably, like a flash of divine lightning beyond all categories of time and place. But to claim an already-present Kingdom demands some evidence, and the only such that Jesus could have offered is this: it is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us.  The present Kingdom is a collaborative eschaton between the human and divine worlds. The Great Divine Cleanup is an interactive process with a present beginning in time and a future (short or long?) consummation. Would it happen without God? No. Would it happen without believers? No. To see the presence of the Kingdom of God, said Jesus, come, see how we live, and then live likewise.” (Crossan, God & Empire, pp. 102, 111 ff.)

It is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us.

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Posted on January 9, 2012, in Tyler's occasional web log. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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