Aloha Friday Message – January 20, 2012 – The End Is Nearer

1204AFC012012 The End Is Nearer

Read it online here.

Mark 1:14 – After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

1 Corinthians 7:31b – For the world in its present form is passing away.

The verse from the Gospel occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There are four extraordinary statements – concepts – in these three sentences:

First, the time has come for God’s long-awaited and long-promised trouncing of evil. God is never late; he is always right on time, and always has everything in place when implementing a change. He, who alone is eternal, knows and touches all things in time as things that are timeless. That seems mysteriously contradictory, but that is only because we can only perceive and measure time in a linear and limited way. We are in “the stream of time.” God is completely outside of time. We can be out of time, just in time, behind the time, timely, or in time-out. God is beyond time. Ironically, it can be said for God, “There is no time like the present.” And in a way, that is what Jesus is telling the people in Galilee: “The present is the moment God has chosen to see the past as darkness and the future as brightness. Everything is ready. His promises are being fulfilled.”

The second astonishing statement is that the rule of “The Prince of the Air” – the kingdom of evil and the power of sin – are about to end. Not only that, but also evil and sin will be vanquished and replaced by the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom founded upon Grace, and called “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Lucifer – Satan – and his minions are going to be defeated, overcome, crushed, routed, destroyed, conquered, annihilated, and subjugated to God’s Justice. “No more let sin and error reign!” This was a radical idea! What? No more sin? Impossible! But as with Gabriel’s statement to Mary, “With God, all things are possible.” Jesus’ statement was surprisingly simple, but incredibly bold. It was not a “Believe-it-or-not” statement; it was a “Believe-it-or-else” statement!

Next came a word that people around Galilee and the region around the Jordan had heard often: “Repent.” This is a word that comes up often in these messages, so I know you will recall that repent means to make a 180, to turn and go in the opposite direction, to “go, and sin no more.” That is the genesis, the dawning Light of the Kingdom of Heaven. It becomes a reality through genuine repentance – sincere contrition through efficacious remorse for past thoughts, words, and deeds that are contrary to the Law as it was known to God’s People, the Jews. It is the Law that convicts us of our sins. Without knowledge of the Law, we could not as easily discern what sin is. And there is this understanding implicit in the idea of repentance: There is only one Law. There are not ten laws that make up The Law. There are Ten Commandments in the one Law. If you have stolen, you have broken The Law. If you have worshiped someone or something in place of God, you have broken The Law. Have you any infractions against the first, or fifth, or seventh, or any combination of Commandments one through ten? You have broken The Law. But Jesus is saying, “Repent. Things will change.”

And so we come to the reason for the fulfillment of time, for the victory over sin, and for the necessity to repent. The Reign of God’s Grace has begun, and to be part of it all one has to do is accept the fact that The End Has Come. This is Good News – Gospel. That word, Gospel, comes from an Old English phrase God spel, “good news.” The Greek word used in this passage reveals even more about Jesus’ intent it is εὐαγγέλιον – euaggelion – yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on. A similar word is εὐαγγελίζω – euaggelizó – yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo. The “eu” part of these words means “good.” In the second part – which means “message” or “messenger,” you might recognize two syllables – ang-ghel – angel! An angel is a messenger, and Gospel in Greek is “good message.” So, Jesus tells everyone who will listen, “This is good news. Believe it!” Now is the time to become part of the Kingdom of God. Only determined effort to remain in sin and to completely resist any form of repentance could prevent one from entering into the Light of Life in the Gospel.

The verse from the Epistle is from a long series of advisory statements in answer to some questions from the Church in Corinth and also based on Paul’s observations of that locale. Specifically in this passage, he is referring to immorality. He is telling the church in Corinth that immorality has no part in their lives as Christians. Pagan religions often featured wildly immoral components involving all sorts of sexually deviant behaviors. Pagans were very religious people. That much is clear from the multitudes of gods, goddesses, demiurges, and demigods all of whom were honored and served by countless rites, rituals, offerings, and acts of devotion. This is a recurrent theme in Pauline literature: Avoid immorality, idolatry, and selfish contentions.

The people of Corinth were still using some of their pagan practices in the Corinthian church. Some had gotten drunk “during church” – at the Lord’s Supper. At one point they had even bragged about an instance of incest in their church community. Paul was writing to correct this behavior and the kind of reasoning that supported it. He wanted them to relinquish the idea that everything that had to do with the human body – over-indulgence in food, drink, and immorality – was inconsequential. The body was going to be destroyed anyway, so what did it matter what they did with it? The body and every action associated with it was extraneous. All that was really important was thought and knowledge. If you knew about the life of Christ and thought it was the source of salvation, that was enough.

“The world in its present form is passing away.” Peter, Paul and their contemporaries believed for a time that Jesus’ return was imminent – probably within their lifetime. In 2 Peter 3:10-12, there is a description of the world – the universe – ending in fire, an utter destruction that comes suddenly without any immediate warning. But might Paul also be referring to the transformation of the world but the Reign of God. Might it also be that the pagan world of rampant immorality will be displaced by a world where Christ’s Law of Love is the dominant way of life? Rather than a warning of destruction, might Paul be giving us promise for renewal in the Parousia and the resurrection? Personally, I find that fits in with how I feel about Paul’s point of view. Paul seems to always speak out for faith, hope, and love.

So, The End is Near but Not Quite Here – even if it could happen in one flash-bang nanosecond from now, …. Or now…. Or now….You get the point. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So what is the world coming to but destruction? Well, hopefully to repentance and belief in the Gospel. Of what, then, should we repent? Well, there are those infractions of The Law, aren’t there? We could work on that as individuals. But as a community – a family, a neighborhood, a church, a nation, a couple, a group of any kind – we might think about Mahatma Gandhi’s Seven Dangers to Human Virtue:

1. Wealth without work
2. Pleasure without conscience.
3. Knowledge without character.
4. Business without ethics.
5. Science without humanity.
6. Religion without sacrifice.
7. Politics without principle.

Any community that could work on repentance of any of these Seven Dangers would be helping to make the world a better place by helping The World to pursue a renewal, to expand the borders of The Kingdom of God, and to live up to the commandments of Christ’s Law of Love. Did he not tell us that to love God and to love our neighbor is the best way to fulfill The Law?

Beloved, let us then pursue Virtue with the zealous faith of the Apostles, and work hard to eliminate these dangers that expose us every day to distressing loss of love and community. God calls us to regeneration, not degeneration. The important part of that sentence is “God calls us.” What is our answer?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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