Biblical Scholar, Seminary Professor, Episcopal Priest

Archive for November, 2015

What If Jesus Doesn’t Return


What if Jesus doesn’t come back?
We are waiting. And we have been waiting. We have ritualized our waiting, renewing it every Advent.
But what if Jesus doesn’t come back? I think perhaps it shouldn’t matter.
Our wait is not idle. We work while we wait. Our world is broken and we are mending it. Or are we waiting idly? For what are we waiting? Judgement. Grace. Mercy. To see what the end shall be?
But what if Jesus doesn’t come back? And we knew he weren’t coming back? What would that change? Would we stop working for the betterment of the world?
Why do we feed the hungry? Because Jesus said so? Or even because Jesus did so?
Perhaps we should take a page from our atheist and agnostic friends and feed the hungry because they’re hungry.
If Jesus doesn’t come back, in our lives or at all, it shouldn’t affect us in or out of the church. The world needs folk to care and work.
I think the promise that God will renew all things is a dangerous promise. It can lull us into thinking that God will fix everything by-and-by; the world is too big and too broken for us to fix.
What if we worked to repair the world as though it depended solely on us?
Something is coming, the future.
But if Jesus is coming back wouldn’t it be something for him to find us so busy healing the world we don’t have time to argue about or decode biblical prophecy.

Note: The black ribbon on the Advent wreath proclaims that Black Lives Matter and the Incarnation bears witness to this holy truth.

Terror and Despair

The earth is utterly broken. I have been praying for a long time. I have been praying for a just and peaceful end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for safety and security for Israeli and Palestinian people for longer than I can say. I have been praying for peace in the Middle East on a regular basis since the first Gulf War. I have been praying for the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan regularly since the Second Gulf War. I have been praying about and against violent, extremist interpretations of Islam since I first knew what the Taliban was. I have been praying about and against the manipulation of Islam since the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya when I began to learn about Al Qaida. I have been praying about and against the perversion of Islam by Daesh since they started proclaiming themselves as a caliphate and Islamic state founded on rape, decapitation and crucifixion. I have been praying for the people of Syria since I learned about the bombardment of civilians by their own government before the mass exodus.

I have been praying and praying because I know not what else to do. (I’ve written my congress critters and the White House.)

I look at the sheer evil loosed upon the peoples of the world and I despair…the earth is torn asunder… The litany of destruction continues: travelers shot down from the skies over Sinai, Beirut, Bagdad, Paris…the earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken…

I read my sacred text and turn away from those that promise things will get better, eventually, on the cosmic scale. That’s not good enough for me right now.

I need texts that shriek rage with howls I can add to my own.

Right now I don’t want to hear good news. I don’t want to be comforted.

I am grieving.

And screaming.

Isaiah 24:17 Terror, and the pit, and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
18 Whoever flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit;
and whoever climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare.
For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.
19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken.
20 The earth staggers like a drunkard, it sways like a hut;
its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.