More doomsday predictions, this time from the Roman Catholic side! According to writings attributed to St. Malachy in 1139, pope #112 will be the last one, and then Jesus will return. That would be the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who is #111. [Read more…]
Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon last Sunday was based on the assigned text for that day, about the widow’s mite (Mark 12: 38-44). He began with a useful survey of what the Church Year means and shows what it means to live in light of the End Times:
With the Festival of the Reformation and the Feast of All Saints now in the rear view mirror of the Church Year, our thoughts are turned these last three Sundays to the end times, the return of Christ, the last days, judgment day . . . or, to use the fancy theological word for it: eschatology. Our Church Year takes us from the expectation and promises of a Messiah in Advent, to the days of His birth at Christmas, to the revealing of His divinity in Epiphany, to His suffering and death in Lent, the joy of the resurrection in the Easter season, the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and that same Spirit working now in the life of the Church through the Pentecost season. But now we are at the end, and we look forward to the end, and the return of our Saviour to raise the dead and take us, all who believe and are baptized into in Christ Jesus (Mk 16:16), home. To the rest and pure joy of heaven.
And so (you may be thinking) that focus must start next week, because this week we didn’t hear end times or eschatology readings – we heard about a widow and her two mites in the Holy Gospel. . . .
And so, it seems to me, there is more to this reading than meets the eye. Something more than just about how much she – and we – put into the offering box or the offering plate. It’s about eschatology. It’s about how we live this life with a view toward the end. For, we believe, ever since Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, we are living in the end times, the last days. Once Jesus ascended, He could return at any time, and we don’t know when. So how do we live in these days, these last days? It’s good to take stock of that and consider.
And there are two examples presented to us today: the scribes and the widow. Of the scribes, Jesus says, beware. Beware not (this time) of their teaching, but of how they are living. For their lives are all about the here and now. What honor they receive now, what glory is bestowed now, what advantages they get now. There seems to be no mercy or compassion in them, for they even devour widows’ houses. And their religion is a scam too, Jesus says. Their long prayers are a pretense – something they do to look holy, while going after the things of this world. . . .
But then there is the widow. How utterly different is she. For her the here and now is a hardship. Unlike the scribes, there is no honor for her now, no glory for her now, no advantages for her now. Maybe she still had her house because she was so poor and her house so humble that it wasn’t worth the scribes’ effort to devour it! And yet what little she had, those two small copper coins, she doesn’t keep, she doesn’t spend on food, she doesn’t hold on to for future needs – she drops them into the Temple treasury. They didn’t really make a difference. Her offering was like dumping a glass of water into the ocean. Or (to use my fiscal cliff example) like me sending in a dollar to the US Treasury – it’s not really going to make a difference in paying down the national debt!
But that’s not why she did it. She gave those two coins because she was living with a fundamentally different outlook than the scribes. Her “here and now” wasn’t even worth two small copper coins; but her future was. She did what she did because she was living her life with a view toward the end. Others may laugh at her for putting in so little, they might come and devour her house next, she might not have food the next day or the next week. But her life wasn’t in these things. These things were not her utmost concern. For, Jesus said, she put in everything she had, all her life. That’s what it really says: all her life. She put her life into the Temple that day; into the place where God dwells. [Read more…]
There is that passage in Matthew 16 in which Jesus says that there are among those listening to him at that moment who will not taste death until He comes in His kingdom. Liberal Bible critics say, “See, Jesus and the early church thought that the Second Coming would be imminent, and of course they were wrong.” Some more conservative Bible scholars say, “See, Christ’s Second Coming happened with His resurrection, or was some kind of spiritual event that happened before the Romans destroyed the Temple,” while others explain it in other ways.
But look what our pastor, Rev. Douthwaite, did with it in his sermon on Sunday (part of the sermon I linked to yesterday):
You are among those who will not taste death until you see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. For the Son of Man and His kingdom is coming not just in the future, on the last day – His kingdom is coming already now, and is here, where His Word and Spirit are working, gathering, forgiving, sanctifying, and strengthening. For as the catechism teaches us to understand the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come: How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity (Small Catechism: Explanation of the Second Petition).
And so as our heavenly Father gives His Holy Spirit here in baptism, in the preaching of the Word, in absolution, in His Supper, His kingdom is coming. Coming to you. It is His work, the work of the cross, for you. For the cross is how Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God for you. The cross is everything. Or as Luther put it around the start of the Reformation: The cross is our only theology.
Jesus must go to the cross. You must bear your cross. This talk should not surprise us. For it is how your Father in heaven loves you and saves you. Which doesn’t make it easy, but does make it good.
Many people treat the Bible as just an assemblage of facts, history, and doctrine. Of course it includes such things. But consider another dimension: It is God’s Word; that is, God’s voice personally addressing those who hear it, with the purpose of bringing them to repentance and faith.
A lot of texts we fight over, perhaps with good reason (the details of creation; the last days), and yet what does it do to them to read them as means of grace?