Sunday, May 5, 2013

Not all ends are bitter

Eschatology (Gr. eschaton meaning "last" and the suffix -ology meaning "study") is quite literally the study of last things or the end of things.

Most often used in a religious context, the concept of eschatology finds equal traction in the sciences and in history.  The environmental sciences speak of an eschatology in terms of events leading up to a large-scale climate change or a critical level of pollution.  History speaks of eschatology in terms of events leading to a drastic shift in political power.

A common misunderstanding about eschatology, both religious and secular, is that it refers to total annihilation.  Eschatology is often confused with apocalypticism (which is also an often misunderstood term, but that is for another post).  It is equated with the end of all things.

In reality, eschatology does refer to the end of something, but what is often an overlooked corollary is that is the end of something giving way to something else.

So while we can confidently say that Jesus was eschatological, that he was referring to destruction, annihilation or cataclysm is less certain.  One could cherry-pick and twist any number of Biblical passages to make a compelling argument either way.

Jesus was definitely talking about a passage from one thing to another, but from the Gospel passage for today (John 14:23-29), he is not talking about anything destructive.  Rather, he seems to be envisioning an end to the way things were at the time: partisan, litigious, corrupt, oppressive, divisive.

And are things that different today?  Jesus replaces these things with love for one another.  He envisions a world where God is not just located in a temple or in a building, but where God is the principle of love, compassion and justice working within us and among us.

Imagine what a new world like that would look like.

To download the podcast of my sermon, click here.

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