Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post Rapture - The Sermon I Didn't Preach

I am on vacation today, but if I were in the pulpit this is what I would have preached.

Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.”

This does not sound much like what Harold Camping was saying recently.  Sadly people really believed that the end was coming.  People quit jobs, sold homes, did some pretty radical things in response to Camping’s predictions.

That makes me both sad and angry.  Sad that people will believe in predictions and turn their lives upside down.  Angry because children of God were led astray by a man calling himself a prophet.  A man many forget got it wrong in 1994.  A man basing his predictions on some math and his interpretation of the Bible.

I am reminded also that many of the scriptures he uses are apocalyptic and not meant to be taken literally.   A very wise professor once reminded my class in an urgent voice, “it is a SIN to try to figure out the second coming.  That is up to God.”  He reminded us that we are not God and therefore would likely get it very, very wrong just as Mr. Camping got it wrong.

It saddens me that people forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is about love not dire predictions of annihilation and gatekeepers.   And that Jesus reminds us he came to save the world, not to condemn it.

I know there has been much talk in the media in the recent past about Hell and end times.  I am reminded that we are to be always ready, to live as a believer isn’t about things, it is about the heart.  It is about living a life that continues to seek after God, to spend time growing and yearning to be less like me and more like Christ.

I am not a great theologian and while I have a Masters of Divinity, I also have a child like faith.  That faith has led me to believe that God is so much bigger than my understanding, no matter how learned I am.  That child like faith has left me with the belief that this immensely powerful, loving, risk taking God will go to the extreme to save others.  I mean look what he did with me!

So when I get to heaven if I see people who did bad things on earth, I won’t be surprised.  I will be reminded that I am so glad God is God and I am not.  I could never love as big as God can.

Much like Thomas in today’s gospel we just don’t get it.  Thomas asks Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" I can imagine Jesus chuckling under his breath. “Poor Thomas, you still don’t understand me do you?”

Jesus responds with one of his “I am” statements. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus is reminding the disciples of their need to trust in him and in God. This was a confused bunch. Though they spent time with Jesus and listened to him teach they really don’t understand what is to come.  I imagine they may have been a little upset that their friend was talking of leaving them. None of us like to be left. So with these words Jesus tries to reassure them of his love and his future presence with them.

These words have often been misconstrued as words speaking about the physicality of heaven. They are not; they are not words about a permanent house or dwelling place in heaven. They are words about relationship and a promise for the future. They are words of transition from a journey to a way of life. They are not words of destination but of revelation of Jesus.  They are not a prediction of what happens when we leave this earth.

These words tell us of the unbounded love of God as revealed in Jesus. Listen to them again, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.” Not, “there is only so much room, so you must follow all the rules and just maybe, perhaps, you can be with me.” There are many dwelling places. There is room for all of us. ALL OF US.

That is one of the things that is so hard to understand about God’s love. It isn’t like a pie with only so much to go around. There is more than enough for each of us. We don’t miss our slice because we have sinned. There is enough for each of us. Right where we are. God’s love is boundless. There is room for ALL OF US.

That is so hard for us to understand isn’t it? There is room for all of us. Right where we are. We do not have to do anything to earn God’s love. It is ours for the taking. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is ours. Unearned. Undeserved. Ours. Endlessly.

And yet we try to limit it, don’t we? We must be good enough, smart enough, or what ever enough. But the good news is, no we don’t. We are loved beyond measure by a God whose love knows no limits. Always. Forever. Without condition. We are loved. Fully, completely, forever. And nothing, nothing we can do will end that love. And that really is the scary part, isn’t it? We do not know how to handle this God that loves us so fully. In our futile attempts to understand it, we put conditions on it. Try to make rules to earn it. Rather than accept the gift and embrace it, we push it away and in trying to understand it, decide we need to find ways to earn it.

Or like Mr. Camping we let go of faith and try to use human means to predict what God will do.  Yet we are told, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

That is it.

My prediction for today?

God loves you!  Forever.  Always.  Without condition.

That you can take to the bank my friends.

May you open your arms to the love of God that knows no limits.

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