Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 3:18-28, Romans 9:19-33, Matthew 24:1-14
In Matthew 24, Jesus begins to talk about his eventual return. He speaks about what signs and trials the disciples can expect before the “end of the age.” Despite expectations of his earliest followers, it didn’t happen quickly, and ever since some Christians have spent great effort assembling world events like pieces of an end-times jigsaw puzzle. Others insist on creating a rift between science and religion, pitting evolution against creationism. Is it possible to spend so much time focusing on the beginning and the end that we lose sight of the middle – the only time we can actually know?
While knowledge is important on its own merit, it can be a mistake to hang our faith on specific, unknowable questions, or to judge whether someone else is “our kind” of Christian based on their answers. So what sort of faith questions should we be asking ourselves and each other? Evaluating them against another question might help: Will the answer affect my faith or how I live my life? Developing a relationship with Christ; feeding the hungry; sharing the Good News: none of these depend on arguments for or against evolution, or whether the end is nigh. A life lived in love, justice and mercy transcends apologetics and refutations. Defense of a certain idea or school of thought can easily become an idol substituted for true faith. Hundreds of end time predictions have been wrong. What do we suppose the people who pinned their faith on these predictions did the day after the world ended?
Jesus did talk about the beginning and the end, but the greater part of his lessons was about the middle – about living in right relationship with God and each other. Shouldn’t we spend our limited time and energy on the things Jesus emphasized? Endless debate doesn’t clothe the naked or comfort the sick. If Jesus does show up tomorrow, we might rather be caught doing what he told us to do.
So here’s a question: what can we do for the least of our brothers and sisters? The answer matters to Jesus and to us.
Comfort: We don’t need all the answers to follow Jesus.
Challenge: The next time someone wants to engage you in divisive theological debate, instead invite her/him to share in works of mercy.
Prayer: Gracious and Merciful God, lead me always to the right questions. Amen.
Discussion: Are you able to confidently say: “I don’t know?” Why or why not?
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