By Joel Hess –
This past week many enjoyed the new Christopher Nolan movie, Interstellar. Like many popular films it concerns itself with the end of the world as we know it. The populous seems to love these films.
Still, if you want to feel like a religious nut, start talking about the end and coming of Christ with friends as if you really believe it! Seriously, as I spoke with kids during this past Sunday service, I thought for a moment, “What the heck am I telling them?” Of course they didn’t seem too bothered by this extraordinarily un-abstract truth.
The masses enjoy Joel Osteen and others because they offer vague solutions to vague whiny 21st century invented problems. (I don’t believe people cared about staying ‘positive’ during the plague.) Just like a psychic, by speaking generally, they easily convince their listener that their words are for him in his particular melodrama. Hey, good ol’ Lutheran preachers commit this sin too: the sin of generality.
But when you start talking about Jesus coming again, the world ending any day, and Jerusalem descending from the sky – you are committing to something. You are going all in! Naming names! Jumping in the pool! Or as Robert Downey Jr.’s character said in Tropic Thunder – going full retard!
Yet this is one of the preacher’s central tasks! Certainly he should point to the cross and empty tomb; but just as often he must stretch out his arm, uncurl his index finger, and point forward to the Day of the Lord. Lift up your heads! Awake, O sleeper! Without pointing forward, pointing backward is just that: backwards.
I have great hope to give to every patient dying, to every mother crying, to every sinner trying! Night is flying! The Day is arriving. We all shall be healed! This is not a dream or wish, but a reality that hangs on every word of the One who did rise again. This hope should be shared boldly and specifically! It should be preached every Sunday, not just at the end of the liturgical year (and of course its beginning in Advent).
That’s why I encourage the use of the semi-historic lectionary. It forces the church and pastor to go there. To speak about things the church or pastor might not want to. It forces us to hear Jesus say “gnashing of teeth”, as well as “rise, your sins are forgiven.” Also the words of the liturgy keep us mindful of and anticipating the great Revelation. I especially enjoy St. Paul’s words after the verbum, “every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The historic liturgy truly helps us to keep watch as Jesus commands. It also lends a sobering and serious tone to the service that reflects our wilderness journey to the Promised Land. It encourages mourning as well as rejoicing. Yet without proper preaching, the liturgy becomes only an ornament. Just look at the many church bodies who have kept the liturgy but chant it while wandering down a path of their own making.
We have become a little cozy: cozy little middle class Lutherans. We are happy with our middle class home, small retirement plan; content with our two kids, two cars, TV and football on Saturdays. Oh yes these are good things, gifts from God. But we seem to have set up a temple in the wilderness instead of a tent. Especially us pastors whining about our job, our healthcare plan, our financial security, whether or not the government is nice to us. Blah, blah, blah. Shut up!
Do we really believe what we pray? Thy Kingdom come? Give us today our daily bread? Deliver us from the evil one? Come Lord Jesus?