The Christian faith is apocalyptic. That means the message of Christianity announces both the intention of the whole of existence AND it’s ultimate conclusion. Most folks forget that and reduce the faith to what some have called “moralistic therapeutic deism.” I’m not sure what all that means, but it sounds really cool! Seriously, this simply means that, for many, the Christian faith (in fact, all religions) is merely one cultural expression of a moral code that is meant to make us “happy.”
Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work! On top of that, no serious student of the Christian faith can accept this reduction of the message of Christianity as being anywhere near accurate. The Christian faith posits some incredibly unbelievable truths that, if in fact, true, make any claim that Christianity is just another system of morality ridiculous. The Christian faith claims the Uncreated God made all things, “both seen and unseen,” by His own free will. The Christian faith claims that God, being Creator, not only made humanity, but endowed that same humanity with a unique “image” that is the very image of the Creator. The Christian faith claims a virgin got pregnant and had a baby without any of the usual methods of getting pregnant. This Baby was actually the very Uncreated God stepping into His creation to rescue all of humanity from their fallen state because their first parents chose disobedience and autonomy over communion. The Christian faith claims this Incarnate God lived, taught, and then was executed all according to plan and then He rose again, not merely in the hearts of His disciples, but actually physically, and ascended bodily into “heaven.” Then the Christian faith goes on to claim that “this same Jesus” will return some day to “judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.”
What is rehearsed above is just the skeleton of the incredible claims of Christianity. But it doesn’t stop there. The Faith goes on to insist that this “story” of God’s love for all the world should be the foundational preoccupation of all humanity! This message is meant to transform our lives, our priorities, and even reshape our destiny. This is no small matter! No wonder those who seem bent on their own autonomy struggle against the vastness and the “bigness” of the Christian faith. No wonder we “independent minded” humans avoid such a large message for a “manageable moral system” that let’s us treat the faith as merely one more self-help system! If true, this faith demands all my faculties full attention!
And the main reason for this is because the Christian faith claims to know and reveal the ultimate purpose of human life, and that ultimate purpose is union with the Creator; communion with the Uncreated. The faith invites you and me to abandon the time-bound notions of “don’t worry; be happy” to embrace a purposeful life that heals all horizontal AND vertical relationships. Plus, the faith declares there will come a day when there won’t be anymore days. There will be an “end of days.” This isn’t meant to scare us or manipulate us, but to focus us on the reality that the faith declares God’s ultimate purpose and completion of His creation will occur! “Ready or not, here I come!”
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning: At that time, as some spoke of the temple how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things, which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”Luke 21:5-8, 10-11, 20-24
The Christian faith, taken seriously, simply doesn’t allow for me to reduce this message to nothing more than some moral code. It’s claims are too specific. It’s message too comprehensive. And it’s promises too vast. Plus, this Christian faith claims to know how everything is going to end. It is apocalyptic! And this very apocalyptic nature of the faith demands I struggle with this message.
Today, are you ready to embrace the message of the faith and it’s wisdom concerning the chief purpose of your life? Are you willing to take seriously the wisdom of the faith in revealing the very reason why you were born in the first place? This is exactly what the faith is meant to reveal to you and why the faith is so vast, comprehensive, and complete. Now all you have to do is willingly say “yes” every day to allowing this faith to so shape you as to make you larger and larger in soul to embrace more and more! Frankly, this sounds exciting! And, after all, ’tis the season for amazing stories!
P.S. This Sunday Faith Encouraged LIVE will be all about these cosmic questions about the end of days! We are honored to have, as our special guest His Grace Bishop David of the Diocese of Alaska in the OCA. His Grace will join Fr. Barnabas as they discuss the wise teachings of the Church concerning the Second Coming, the Millenium, the Mark of the Beast, and the Final Judgement! That’s this Sunday night at 8 PM Eastern on AncientFaith.com! Share this with a friend and invite them to listen!