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It is a Surprise Party

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It’s a Surprise Party

2 Peter 3:8-15

Sometime during our life, most of us will be involved in some way in a surprise party; whether we are hosting it or a guest in it. Trying to do all the preparations without giving the guest of honor a hint is an exciting cat and mouse game. This is usually more difficult if it is being planned within a Christian community because keeping the secret without crossing the “do not lie” line is a real challenge. I remember all the trouble that my church in Buffalo went through to bring my father and step mother for the pastor’s day celebration. One of the members of the congregation kept them in their home for several days before the event; which knowing my step mother was not an easy job.

Some of us enjoy the hide and seek nature of a surprise party. It is fun to try to find clues, seek signs that a surprise party is in the works. Part of the fun is to discover the clues without spoiling the surprise; you do not want the organizers to know that you know about the surprise party. We develop our detective skills as we try to figure out clues and find small hints in the conversations and actions of others.

A guessing game with more serious consequences is trying to guess the day of the second coming of Jesus Christ. It has serious consequences, not because if you guess wrong God is going to punish you, but because history has shown us how those that have guess wrong and have acted on their assumptions, have ended up punishing themselves. There have been many people that have left everything behind to follow one of those guesses, two come to mind.

William Miller proclaimed that the second coming would occur between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. The failure of this prediction was called the First Disappointment, and many left the Adventist movement. Following this, a second date—October 22, 1844—was set, and many Adventists disposed of their property in anticipation of the event. The movement was widely ridiculed after the day passed uneventfully; but a group of faithful continue to gather together forming the Adventist denomination.

During the 1870s, Charles Taze Russell established himself as an independent and controversial Adventist teacher. He interpreted the Second Coming in accordance with the literal translation of the original Greek term, “presence”, suggesting that Christ would come as an invisible presence and that the second coming, already had occurred, in 1874. The coming of Christ's invisible presence signaled the end of the current order of society and would be followed by his visible presence and the establishment of the millennial kingdom on Earth in 1914. Although the kingdom did not come, Russell's teachings motivated a number of volunteers to circulate his many books and pamphlets and a periodical, and to recalculate the time of the second Coming. This ended with the creation of the Jehovah Witness denomination.

Yet these and others who had set particular dates are a minority, most people live their lives as if Christ would never come. It is as a response to them that Peter writes his epistle. Peter wanted to make sure that the church paid no attention to those that were making fun of their hope for the second coming. In verses 3 and 4 Peter tells the churches: “First off, you need to know that in the last days, wise guys are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they’ll mock, “So what’s happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything’s going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing’s changed.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, the Message)

            As an answer to those that had become impatient and were beginning to doubt that there was going to be any second coming Peter makes two points.  First of all, time has no meaning to God: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” And his second point was that; it was not that God was late, but that God was intentionally waiting for our sake. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

         After those two arguments Peter goes back to making what is the most important point about the second coming, a point that all the apostle and even Jesus made several times; it is a surprise party. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” Jesus himself stated: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-39)

         Why it is so hard for people to understand that there is no way to know when? It does not matter how clear the bible is about no one knowing about that day, people continue to guess and act on their educated guesses. On the Wednesday, December 3rd edition of the USA Today newspaper they had a very small article about the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorisms. Let me tell you that the name of the commission is bigger than the rest of the article. All the news paper state is that they will hold a news conference in Washington to present their findings. This commission believes that the United States can expect a nuclear or biological terrorist attack before 2013.

         Disregarding the many times that the bible states that the end of the world, or the second coming, or however you want to refer to that event, will be a surprise; that all you can do is be ready; some group will take this announcement as a sign of the end. They will ignore Peter’s statement that you cannot know and will concentrate on his statement about the destruction of our planet:  “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”  They will make the point that Peter’s description fits within the realities of a nuclear explosion.

         You have to agree that what Peter wrote is pretty scary; and that what the commission states is terrifying. So what should we do, leave our jobs, head for the mountains and fill a basement with provisions for a couple of years? Peter has a recommendation for the church, for you and me. Peter says: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

In other words a Christian reaction to the end of the world, or to a nuclear attack by terrorist, is to live our life in a godly way. Our reaction to end of the world predictions is to plan our lives as if we are going to live another hundred years, but live our lives as if we only had one hundred hours to live. That means that you do not have time to have silly arguments and hold to old hurts and dispointments. This means that every time you leave your home you make sure that those that remain know that you love them. It means that you make every day count and live every hour to the fullest.

As I was growing up with my grandmother, she used to tell me over and over that I had to eat because that was the only thing I would take out of this word. Well, she may not have been totally correct, but the main idea is right on target. The only thing that will go with you whether is now or a hundred years from now is the memories that you will carry in your soul are the special moments that you had with friends and family. And God has given you the power to make every moment special, because just like in billions of people there are not two exactly the same, there is not a single moment in your life that is exactly the same. So do not stress about the economy, the terrorist or your future. It is a surprise party and you are the guest of honor. So remember whenever Jesus comes, act surprise. Meanwhile, have a great time.

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