My sermon this week was based on Mark 13: 24-37.
I've said it before: I am not apocalyptic. Was Jesus? Maybe. Are we both eschatological? Yes indeed.
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing, and of course they are in and of themselves loaded terms that are open to a fair degree of interpretation.
Apocalypticism referred originally to the gradual and ongoing revelation of God's will in the world, hence the reason why the Book of Revelation (singular! Not "Revelations"!) is sometimes called John's Apocalypse...because God gave him a revelation.
The concept of the apocalypse has of course been shanghaied by certain religious elements, Hollywood and really bad authors, and that is easy enough to understand: the Book of Revelation is pretty vivid.
I personally belong to the camp that believes the Book of Revelation is not meant to be read literally, but this "Lake of Fire" concept of the apocalypse persists.
Eschatology, on the other hand, refers to the contemplation of the ultimate destiny of the human soul and of all mankind, culminating in our ultimate reunion with God.
You can see where there is an overlap, but I still think the two are distinct, at least in how they are lived out in the world. Moreover, I think Jesus was the latter, and not necessarily the former.
Here's the thing: the world is going to end one way or another, either through the human inability to get along or we will get hit by an asteroid or swallowed by a black hole or our sun will eventually burn out. This is simply a statistical inevitability.
I am not trying to be grim here. I am merely pointing out that our time is limited. In the back of all our heads, we are all aware that our individual lives are finite, and yet I think we all live like we are going to live forever, if not as individuals, then as a species.
A bleaker philosopher would state that we are all just waiting for an end of some kind.
Far from being grim, I think this actually a wonderful thing. One of my favourite movies is Fight Club, and in one scene, Brad Pitt holds a gun on a store clerk and tells him to go back to school or he will hunt him down and kill him. When asked why he did that, Pitt says, "Tomorrow his breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted".
How succulent life would be if we only lived like it was going to end! And yet we get wrapped up in our own greed, selfishness and short-sightedness. We pile grudges on our shoulders, we refuse to forgive others, we draw lines in the sand.
That's just bad for your soul, and bad for the souls of those around you, and that's what eschatology is all about.
We spend a lot of our time waiting: waiting in line, waiting for that special someone, waiting for an answer, waiting in traffic, and yes, some of us are waiting for the end of the world and/or the end of our lives.
I know some religious folks who believe that only they are holy, only they have the answers, and so far from going and reaching out to those very people that Jesus made it his vocation to bring God's love to (prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, widows, orphans), they seal themselves away from them in fear that they may be "infected". They hunker down in fear, waiting for the bomb to drop.
But our lives are defined by what we do while we wait. Do we strike out with courage and love in our hearts every day, or do we strike out with fear and hatred? Make the time you are waiting count.