I am at Ridges/Roxbury UMC and the United Methodist Church of Springdale (both in the Stamford, CT) area this Sunday. The service at the Ridges/Roxbury church is at 9 and the service at the Springdale church is at 10:30. You are welcome to attend.
The Scriptures for this Sunday are Hosea 11: 1 – 11, Colossians 3: 1 – 11; and Luke 12: 13 – 21.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things: of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings – and why the sea is boiling hot – and whether pigs have wings.” (“The Walrus and the Carpenter”, from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, 1872)
Now, I am not entirely sure if this quote from the Walrus has any sort of allegorical meaning to it. Lewis Carroll, or rather, Charles Dodgson was a mathematician and logician as well as a writer and I am sure that many people have delved into the “true meaning” of these words. It might also be that because Dodgson was also an Anglican minister that there is some religious symbolism in his writing as well. I will save such discussions for other times and other places and perhaps let others speak to those points
For me, I use the quote because it relates to time. And time is an important part of the Bible, especially with regards to the Gospel reading for today. There are those who would call the passage from Luke an “End Times” reading and I would have to agree with them. It speaks to that point in time that we all will ultimately reach and how we will react to that moment. But I don’t hear too many people using this passage much when they speak of the “End Times.”
Perhaps it is because it runs counter to the notion that we have applied to Christianity today. I cannot help but think that those pastors and religious leaders who so loudly proclaim that these are the “End Times” are among some of the richest pastors in the world. They push very hard to say that sexual immorality is the cause of our country’s problems but I have yet to hear any of them say that greed is part of the problem.
And yet, while Paul does speak against such earthly sins, he puts greed on the list as well. And when you stop to think about it, I am not going to talk about who loves whom when so many people go hungry every day, when people are still losing their homes to foreclosure, and the gap between the rich and poor grows every day.
I have pointed this out before; there are quite a few people outside the church today who, no matter how hard you try and how often you invite them, simply will not come in. They know what Christ said on matters of war, violence, poverty, hunger, and personal relationships. They are among those who note that those who proclaim themselves judge and jury when it comes to moral behavior are strangely silent when it comes to matters of war, violence, poverty and hunger (or, if they say anything, it is to support war and justify violence and say that poverty and hunger are not issues for the church to be involved with). It is no wonder that those outside the church today have no desire to be a part of a church where the rhetoric inside the church hardly matches the words and actions of the early church.
Now, don’t get me wrong; immoral behavior of any kind is not good behavior. But to say that the destruction of the world will arise from only that behavior is a sad interpretation of the Bible. And a focus on such behavior ignores other problems, the impact of which has far greater ramifications than who loves whom.
Now, to me, the major theme of the Bible is our relationship with God. In the Old Testament, the major theme is idolatry and that makes sense. After all, practically every prophet spends most of his time warning the people about their insistence on worshiping other gods. Look again at the Old Testament reading for today and read how Hosea begins by pointing out that the people of Israel have left God for Baal and other gods.
The second most prominent theme in the Old Testament is poverty and social justice. The two are related because how you treat others reflects how you view God. And this theme is also reflected in the New Testament. One out of every sixteen verses in the New Testament is about the poor. It increases to one out of ten when you examine only the Gospels; in Luke it is one out of seven. In the Book of James, it is one out of five.
If you take the poor and how they are treated out of the Bible, the Bible will fall apart. Now, this isn’t a left-right, liberal-conservative thing. It is about what we, who say we are Christians, believe and do with and in our lives. The problem with the “End Times” mentality is that it offers no options; you are either saved already or you never will be saved. But, then again, I have never accepted that notion.
And I listen to what God said to the people through Hosea and I read what Paul wrote to the Colossians. These are the “End Times” if we do not change. But the end will come because of what we do, not what God will do. God’s love is still present, just as it was for the Israelites and He still loves them, even if they stray. It is up to the Israelites and thus it is up to us to return to God.
And we must cast off that which has caused the problem, the greed, the selfishness, the self-centeredness that is destroying the world. We must look to Christ and see in His actions, the actions that have saved us. We cannot live in a world where people are divided by class, economic status, culture, race, or creed. For in the end, we are all one people.
When I chose the name for this sermon, I remembered my fascination with a 1968 Chambers Brothers’ song, “Time Has Come Today”. My interest/fascination was probably because of the cadenza that increased the playing time from some 3 minutes to almost 11 minutes. It was one of many songs of that period that began to change the nature of rock and roll music. It was not by any means a Christian rock and roll song like “Are You Ready” by Pacific Gas & Electric was.
But throughout “Time Has Come Today” you hear sound effects that imitate a clock ticking and you get the impression that time is beginning to run out.
There are those who will say that we cannot come to the table this morning because we don’t meet some sort of pre-determined qualification test. But that test was passed a long time ago on a hill far away. When Christ gathered the people together for the Last Supper, it was to begin the New Kingdom. He made the choice so we would not have to. We come to the table this morning knowing that when we leave this place and this time and go out into the world that we must decide whether we shall live as the people of Christ or whether we shall live as the people of the earth. Time has come today, just as it came for the rich man. It is time to make a choice and despite what others might say, you have a choice, a choice that the rich man didn’t have.