Pentecost 6C. 2007
A Liturgy is also available
A CYNIC-LIKE, NO FRILLS JESUS, COOPERATING WITH DIVINE PRESENCE
I don’t know if any of you realise it or not,
but the end of the world happened just over 24 hours ago!
Saturday, 7th day of the 7th month (July) of the year 2007.
And exactly at 07 minutes and 07 seconds past 07.00am on 07.07.07 (Shuck & Jive blog).
Of course it is a spoof!
But in reality there have been several ‘visions’ or predictions as to when
the ‘end of the world’ or the Second Coming of Christ, is to occur.
I guess the most famous of all goes back to an American (don’t they all!)
called William Miller, a farmer and layman of the Baptist church, and one of those instrumental
in establishing the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Beginning with a strictly literal reading of the ages of people mentioned in the first chapters of Genesis,
and the dating of other events mentioned in Daniel and Revelations,
“Miller believed that precise calculations were possible… [to predict] the [second] coming of Christ and the inauguration of the Millennial kingdom… somewhere around 1843” (Wikipedia).
Actually the 22 October 1844, was the date commonly accepted throughout the Millerite movement,
although it has been said Miller himself was uncertain as to the exact day.
The topic was discussed in the newspapers as well as in theological journals.
“New Testament eschatology competed with stock market quotations for front-page space…” (Wikipedia).
But back to our 7 + 7 + 7 pattern.
In a sample poll conducted towards the end of last year, again in America,
it showed that one in four Americans anticipated
the second coming of Christ in 2007.
Indeed, 11 percent said it is "very likely" that Jesus will return to Earth this year.
Hence our 7 + 7 + 7 spoof by an American mate!
But William Miller and his followers not only tapped into a long tradition,
they have also added to and expanded that tradition.
And as we now know, it is from within the
Millennial or Rapture or Armageddon fundamentalist traditions
that much of the so-called ‘religious right’ in the western world
seek to influence governments on foreign policy issues.
Take for instance relations in the volatile Middle East.
How can there ever be a negotiated solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict,
when fundamentalist Christians continue to lobby politicians while claiming that:
“Peace and peace plans in the Middle East are a bad thing… because they delay the countdown to Christ’s return” (Quoted in Crossan 2007:201).
And vote scared politicians continue to listen to them!
So let me be quite clear about one thing:
“The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon. The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen violently. The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start to cooperate with divine presence” (Crossan 2007:230-231).
Both this week and last week, our gospel storyteller whom we call Luke,
has been setting out his agenda, his vision,
for cooperating with divine presence.
Foxes have holes, but have no where to lay your head…
Leave the dead to bury the dead…
Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals….
Salute no one on the road…
Take what food and drink is offered you…
For what it is worth, I reckon these stories about these short, sharp sayings, are important
– both then and now.
Contemporary biblical scholarship suggests they are either from,
or have been influenced by, the code of the Q Movement…
That important collection or memory of Jesus sayings,
which in their earliest state, are very close to
the Cynic’s style of making social critique.
And we can also now speculate that those same Q people
were not only part of a very lively Jesus movement in Galilee,
remembering and shaping just the sayings tradition of Jesus,
but that their ‘voice’ is probably the best record we have
of the first 40 years of the Jesus movements.
By the conventional common sense standards of the everyday word,
a home was necessary; the streets were unsafe,
a son must honour the family above all else, epecially in death,
money and clothes and provisions are about living - and status,
respect given and received was what made the world go around,
only clean or organic food is what one should always eat.
Popular tradition has it that the Cynics
always challenged their listeners by their dress and their sayings,
to re-imagine the world away from the everyday world of common sense.
Now this is where an important bit comes in.
So too does the link to all that stuff I said at the beginning:
about Millennial or Rapture or Armageddon fundamentalist traditions,
usually called the ‘apocalyptic’ tradition.
An apocalyptic or ‘end world’ theory doesn’t exist in any of these sayings,
despite what some, including some scholars, want to claim.
Neither does a blue print for modern world missions.
What does exist is a new counter-culture tradition that simply suggests:
don’t jump to hasty conclusions, consider the human condition or circumstances of all.
And when you take account of that kind of in-depth thinking,
something different can be accomplished, now.
A change of attitude or behaviour.
A new vision of what it means to be human on equal terms.
Being alive to the present moment in all of its possibilities, positive and negative.
What makes me suggest some of this?
When a ‘no-frills’ Jesus used imaginative language to call into question his received life/everyday world,
in favour of the life world that emerges in his parables and short sayings (aphorisms), (Patterson 2007)
then he and we, are getting close to what it means to live
with divine presence – both then and now.
We can catch hold of that presence when our eyes are wide open…
“capable of catching a glimpse of what lies beyond the reigning view of the world” (Funk 2002:28).
The Roman Empire, like all empires then and now, said we’ll change the world through victory after war.
The ‘end-of-the-world’ advocates say we’ll save the world by destroying it.
Jesus seems to have said: let’s re-imagine the world differently
by considering the human condition of all.
That is now our ‘no frills’ journey, where-ever it takes us.
Crossan, J. D. 2007. God and Empire. Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Funk, R. W. 2002. A Credible Jesus: Fragments of a Vision. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.
Patterson, S. J. 2007. “Report from the Jesus Seminar on Christian Origins” in The Fourth R 20, 1, 16-20.