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Apocolyptic Understanding

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rmal style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal'>May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our God – in whom we live and move and have our being – Amen 

I bet you didn’t know this, but we Christians speak a different language…

Language might be a little misleading… to put it another way, we speak from a different world view

            We speak from the language or in the worldview that is Apocalyptic

It is completely integrated in Christianity and yet I would bet that most of us wouldn’t know that we are conversant in this understanding

Language is metamorphic – it changes and adapts over time

One could look back not too far, maybe even with a resource that you have, to see language that is much less recognizable – I am speaking of the Authorized Version also known as the King James Bible –     It is language from 400 years ago and some of it is foreign to our ears

            … Language is like that

Apocalyptic understanding, although common, is misunderstood

            Mostly because people move to the sister word: ‘apocalypse’ and it immediately invokes strong ideas

When you hear the word “apocalypse” what do you think…?

For many it might be a vague knowledge that the last book in the New Testament – Revelations – is Apocalyptic literature –

Many people would understand that it speaks of the “apocalypse” – as the end times

It is a strange book – it has angels and demons – strange visions of hybrid creatures, like part lion and part eagle – there is lamb and there a dragon

                                    All in all it is a confusing book – best to mostly avoid it

Or maybe you are familiar with the popular “left behind” series which takes kernels of Christian beliefs and uses that for a backdrop for fictional stories,

And fictional understanding that claims to be Christian, but in fact is merely a launching point


·         Maybe when you hear of the “apocalypse” your mind is drawn to the 2011 end times prediction made by American Christian radio host Rev. Harold Camping

You might remember that he stated that the Rapture / Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and when that didn’t happen; he said that adjustments to the math needed to be made

And then, the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011.

·         This is not a new phenomenon – over a 160 years ago a popular and powerful preacher William Miller, who followers became known as Millerites

Suggested that the rapture was to occur roughly 1843 – when this didn’t happen it later lead to the “Great Disappointment of 1844”

·         There were end of time predictions from those some known as millennists both in the year 1000 and then with the fears spilling over and were associated with Y2K

Remember the fear of simultaneous computer crashes

·         And of course we have an end of time “apocalypse” in the near future – with Mayan calendar  choosing December 21st 2012

In all these apocalyptic understandings there is only a fragmented, partial understanding

The term "Apocalypse" is a Greek word meaning "revelation"

"An unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling."

            There is certainly a ‘grand narrative’ aspect of apocalyptic writing

And ‘end of times’ or ‘rapture’ could be a component of it

Apocalyptic writing or apocalyptic literature encompasses an alternate world view – a grand narrative layer beyond normal view

Simply put - It paints a picture which includes the spiritual

It can includes numerology (the symbolic use of numbers)

And also it often is the language of Visions

                                                Which we see especially in the books of Daniel and Revelations

Apocalyptic prophets sketched in outline the history of the world… and mankind… the origin of evil… and its course… and the final consummation of all things.

In its time, it was a way of speaking for communities that were cruelly oppressed and using metaphoric, deeply symbolic language which spoke of an alternative to what they were experiencing

                        It was often meant to be comfort literature – giving a vision of hope for people to endure

Think of the people living in Jesus’s time with Roman oppression, or before that, under Babylonian rule, in exile

It tells the story of how, despite what they were seeing in this world – in the heavenly realm there is hope – in the heavenly realm God is the victor and the victor for them

An understanding and appreciation of this apocalyptic worldview is why we are having our “Lay Training – guest lecturer” beginning later this month, Tuesday the 27th and then for two weeks more

– with the series is titled: Jesus and His time – the bible and Jesus will be opened up by understanding the apocalyptic

Apocalyptic understanding is embedded in Christianity

And you would be surprised at how much you already know

Consider the language of our communion service “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world”

Or today, during the baptismal examination which the parents and godparents answered on behalf of Levy - Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Or when the whole congregation restated their baptismal covenant with the Apostles creed and said about Jesus “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead”

Or even the most famous of all prayers – the Lord’s Prayer, when we say “Thy kingdom come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”

                        All these examples are of an apocalyptic writing

                                    For Christians, it is a different language and worldview

Consider what is taking place when you pray – by evoking God in the spiritual realm – by asking forgiveness of sins, or thanksgiving, or God to intercede in your life or another… you are using a different language

            Martin Luther has famously said, when you sing you pray twice

                        Look at the words of our hymns – most of them apocalyptic

And after the gospels – the book of Revelations (the most obvious apocalyptic writing) is the most referred to for hymn writing

Hymnody speaks this type of language

All reading requires imagination – Christian apocalyptic includes faith

Under all this backdrop consider our reading from the Gospel today

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. (Mark 13:1-8)

The disciples are saying – look at these tall buildings

Jesus is saying “Not one stone will be left here upon another” and “don’t be led astray”    

and also - 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs

The earthquakes and famines and birth pangs are language to speak of a difference reality than the material realm that we can see

And God is inviting us to find His promises compelling… compelling because God is the same in the material and spiritual realm and God is in action.

Apocalyptic literature is not meant to provide a blueprint, but rhetorical language opening a window to another understanding

If directed at a complacent community, the discourse could become a powerful theological vehicle.

It suggests that God is up to stuff that may be beyond human ken, and the community's job is simply to stay awake for it.

It functions like a rumble strip on the side of a highway, meant to jar the community awake as it nods off and drifts toward the ditch.

God is engaged in the struggle in world and in the parallel heavenly realm

All apocalyptic literature carries with it the theme of the vindication by God

"My kingdom is not from this world." Jesus declares to Pilate during His mock trial

The word kingdom has a tendency to trip us up. History and geography teach us that kingdoms are places on a map that are ruled by monarchs.

Yet Jesus reveals something much more than that which is limited to the material world

Jesus' ministry demonstrates that the kingdom or reign of God cannot be limited to any particular geographical or spatial boundary.

Rather, the kingdom of God exists any time… or in any place… where God's hopes and dreams are made real in the lives of others.[1]

Our baptism of young Levy today is truly one of those times – a true time of worship

A moment when God’s family is expanded – when the distance between the spiritual realm and the worldly realm becomes thinner

                        It is a moment a triumph – it is a moment where Thy will be done


God of surprises, your grace knows no limits. We thank you for the ways in which your love breaks into our well-ordered lives and gives us glimpses of your kingdom. Use us to make your love real in the lives of those who are bound by darkness and fear, this we ask in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Amen.


[1] God Pause for Thursday, 11/15/2012 – Luther Seminary

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