Sermon: “When Will Then Be Now?”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from November 6, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors
I could almost tell you who watched what kind of movies by whether they recognized the title of today's sermon or not. It does come from one of my favorite movie directors, but in reality, it's a question that a lot of people ask and have asked over the ages. When will then be now? Soon (from the audience), don't jump the gun. When will then be now? And it's really the questions that the Pharisees were asking of Jesus in our reading from Luke this morning because they're worried about what's going to be going on in the afterlife.
Actually, the Sadducees. And of course, the Sadducees didn't really believe there was an afterlife, so they were trying to trick Jesus and asking about whose wife this woman was going to be in this hypothetical situation. But then we also turned over to the second Thessalonians passage, and Paul is writing to the people of Thessalonica.
Talking about what's going to, what has to happen before the kingdom of God comes on earth, and that they don't need to be worried about all of that, and that anybody that's telling them it's going to be immediate is a false prophet and is leading them astray. And yet people are still worried about what's going to happen in the future.
You know, even on our haunted trail, we had a fortune teller. I'm not sure it was really accurate as to what was going to go in anybody's future unless they were, their fortune had something to do with what was going to happen on the trail. But, you know, we have all of these things where people are trying to figure out what's going to happen in the future.
How many people were planning what they were going to do with the Powerball jackpot if they had the winning number? A whole lot more people than what bought tickets because it's fun to play those games and think, what if and what is this going to happen? What would this do? And we think about that. Aren't you glad none of us hit it?
But you know, we think about all of these things, that’s gonna be down the road. And of course, you know, with this, in the current season, with Tuesday being election day, there are all kinds of guesses as to what's gonna be down the road.
Well, they're not guesses. One party is saying it's going to be terrible if the other one wins. And that one's saying it's gonna be terrible if that one wins. And who knows, but we keep focusing on what's down the road.
That is different from what our faith has traditionally done. Our faith traditionally has focused on what happened in the past. You think about that. For a lot of folks, their faith is based on the past. What happened when Abraham said yes to God? What happened when Moses led the people through the Exodus?
What happened when Jesus was born and died and what did that mean? And then of course we're trying to figure out where we are today because of all that, and our tendency is to look back, and this is particularly dangerous for Presbyterians. If you read our book of order and look at the charges that are given to elders. In other words, most of the people in this room. Who have taken those vows as ordained elders in the church where it says to maintain the peace, unity, and purity of the church. And over the years, a lot of folks have interpreted that as not letting anything change.
Not letting anything change. And when I was in seminary, I was at a retreat for candidates and inquirers, which are all the people that are going to seminary or thinking about going to seminary. And there were several students there from Princeton, and several from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond.
And they were arguing over which one of their seminaries was more progressive, and I'm sitting there laughing because the current president of Princeton Theological Seminary at that time had boldly stated that during his tenure there absolutely nothing had changed.
Absolutely nothing had changed?
How does that fit into reformed and always reforming for a Presbyterian seminary?
I had to understand that I was not going to a Presbyterian seminary at the time, so I could sit back and enjoy the argument,
But this whole idea that over the eons, those in charge of the faith have done their best to keep things from changing. And there's this thing in business where it's an accepted principle that systems are always set up to maintain the system. Systems are not set up to change. Systems are set up to maintain the system, and unfortunately, the church is a system.
It was always set up to maintain the system. That is why when Martin Luther hammered 96 theses on the door of Whittenburg Chapel, it upset so many people. It is why when the first Bible was printed in the vernacular instead of in Latin, it upset so many people. It's why when the organ was brought into the church, it upset so many people.
Yeah, the organ. And now if you take it out of the church there, you're going to upset so many people. You see, the church has always been designed by those who were in the church. And who are comfortable with the way it is, and therefore they don't want it to change. The problem with that is that Jesus told us we should be doing exactly the opposite.
Jesus told us that we should be going out and finding the people that aren't in the church and bringing them in, and guess what? That doesn't mean that it's going someplace that’s gonna be comfortable for you.
And then, of course, we've never done it that way before.
I'm sure nobody here has ever heard that. We've never done it that way before. And yet the motto is reformed, always reforming. How does that comment fit in there? Why? How can we sit there and say, we're reformed and always reforming and we're not gonna try that cause we've never done it that way before? Or that's not gonna work, we tried it once 20, 30 years ago and it didn't work, so we're not gonna try it again. Maybe you were just ahead of the time. Maybe you were just ahead of the time when you tried it the first time. Maybe it's time to try it again. But, the thing is the church is not meant to be static.
The people that Paul was writing to in Thessalonica were looking at the signs of what was going on around them and trying to guess. And there were people that were coming around and saying the end is near. You know, I know back in the late sixties, early seventies, there were a lot of people that walked around with placards saying the end is near.
Some of you were too young to remember that.
But the people of Thessalonica were seeing the same thing. The end is near, and it didn't come then either. Remember, y2k, it was gonna destroy all of our systems right until we got to January 2nd of the year, 2000, and it hadn't happened.
We're most of the time of year when you're gonna be able to go in the grocery store, stand in line at the checkout, and while you're perusing those “newspapers” that are there, I can guarantee you're going to see one where Nostradamus has predicted something for 2023. Where the Mayan calendar is going to have predicted something for 2023, in spite of the fact that the Mayan calendar only went up through 2000.
Now it's just because their numbering system didn't go any further.
We're gonna see all kinds of things and we're gonna hear all kinds of things about people predicting these terrible tragedies are gonna come and this, and that. And they're not gonna happen.
They're not gonna happen. You're gonna see and hear people predicting the death of the Christian faith.
It's not gonna happen.
It would happen if it was in our hands, but it's not in our hands. We are to be God's hands and let God be in control. But that means that we have to be willing to reach out and do things that maybe are a little uncomfortable. Maybe they're different from what we've always done.
That doesn't mean we ignore the past.
I'm dressed the way I'm dressed today because I'm not ignoring the past and parts of what I'm wearing aren't even the first time that they've been here in this sanctuary.
Because they were gifts to me from the Blosser family and they were Jack Blosser’s, and I know that he wore 'em on Reformation Sundays,
So, we need to be willing, as a church, capital C, big church as a denomination, as a congregation, to move into the future knowing that God is calling us to do some things that might be a little uncomfortable, but more importantly to be calling us to take the faith, which does not change. And reach out into the world in ways that are changing.
We don't know what those are going to be, but we need to be open to God's leading to make that happen. Reformed always reforming, always looking for new ways to carry the faith out to the world.
And yes, that's a challenge. It's not an obstacle.
Oh, now before our prayers.
When will then be now? Soon. That comes from the movie Space Balls. Which was a spoof on all of the space movies that went before it. It built on all those past movies and took 'em into a new twist and made 'em comedy. So that, even in itself is an example of building on the past, but always looking for new ways of doing things. Thank you, Mel Brooks.