Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sermon 5th Sunday in Easter

John 14:1-14
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Friends, I am truly sorry to see you here. Let me explain.

I am guessing you have heard about a certain American pastor that predicted the Rapture to happen yesterday, starting at 6pm, New Zeeland time.
Now, what it this Rapture thing anyway? This is what Wikipedia says about it:
In Christian eschatology, the Rapture is a reference to the being caught up referred to in the Biblical passage 1 Thess 4, when in the End Times the Christians of the world will be gathered together in the air to meet Jesus Christ.
... and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Now, pastor Harold Camping has received a lot of attention for his predictions. 3 million faithful Christians are supposed to be brought up to Jesus at the first coming, the day of Judgement. Yesterday, according to Camping. The second one, the end of the world, will be in five months. The time until then will be a torment, a time of chaos and horror. Starting today, apparently.

Hence my sadness in seeing you here today. You, like me, have not made the cut. We are all doomed, according to Harold Camping. I do not know if pastor Camping himself made it. This is not his first prediction, and there are many like him. Somewhere, sometime, someone is always predicting the end of the world. Sometimes it's one of those famous sign-carrying lunatics known from American movies. Sometimes it's an Internet savvy pastor. Sometimes it's worried environmentalists. Sometimes amateur astronomers. The end is near.
Our text today seems to agree. Jesus says goodbye to his friends, and tells them that he will return and bring them with him, when the time is right. If pastor Camping is right, that is what happened yesterday. We were left behind, and also according to Camping, it is now too late for our redemption. We missed the boat. No Heaven, no salvation.
This is where this whole sensational story becomes personal to me, and I get angry.

Who is he, to put restrictions on God's grace?
Who is he, to claim to know God's plans?

Oh, the end is near. Of course it is. We do not know what tomorrow brings, we do not even know what happens after this service is over. The end of each one of us, of me, of you, and by all means, the end of the world could happen anytime. And there is not a single thing we can do about it.
Jesus knows this. Jesus knows how frightening the unknown future is, and therefore his words resound through centuries: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. Don't be afraid. Don't be frightened.

Pastor Camping and the likes of him might not scare you. Maybe you're not even afraid of an ecological collapse or terrorists. But somewhere there is something that makes you afraid, and Jesus tells you: Do not let your heart be troubled. He knows, and he cares. Are these the end of your days, he will listen to your final breath. Are your nights haunted by images too scary to remember, he will share them with you. Are you sometimes paralyzed with fear for your loved ones, rest assured Jesus is too.
And that is how you know that pastor Camping and the others are not Jesus' messengers. He would not send anyone to scare you to obedience or rightousness. Jesus loves people to grace, to mercy, to life. There is no set number, there are many many rooms. Do not let your hearts be troubled.

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