Apocalypse Then: The Apocalypse of God

Galatians 3: 23

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Something Unearthly and Final

1.  Later in the summer evenings, seated in the dark natural womb of our hedged backyard, you can hear a strange cacophonous chorus.  A small Toyota drives past, its muffler nearly superannuated.  There are crickets, humming from nearby, yet from nowhere.   A prop jet cruises overhead, spraying its round steady roar.  Then there is the neighbor’s radio, and a couple who murmur and mutter as they stroll out front.  Somewhere a screen door bangs shut.  And yet another car, stereo pounding. But then, lovely and strange it comes, and as from a foreign shore or the far bank of the river Styx, one faintly overhears—how unspeakably sweet—the long, low mellifluous whistle of an unseen train.  A train whistle at dusk:  is there not something unearthly and final in such a sound?

 

2.  Every dawn breaks differently from the last, as the older and sicker and more lonely among us can see, better than others.  Some may watch from the dawn for spiritual reasons.  Most who see it daily, one suspects, see it through the lenses of sheer loneliness, or throbbing and sleep stealing pain, or nightmarish angst.  You are awake, again.  And there again is the tempting, promissory light of yet another day.  See it break!  A luminous haze.  Or a streak of dull yellow.  Or even a sky now confederate gray, now federal blue, now…orange! and crimson! and rose! and all manner of Fire.  The color of dawn:  is there not something unearthly and final in such a sight?

 

3.  To touch.  To touch and to speak and to speak with touch and to touch with speech.  For four years you have been in uniform and at last you lie down again beside the mother of your children.  Such a touch.  Or maybe you were crippled, nearly killed, in an atrocious accident and slept, years, downstairs in a makeshift hospital bunk until, at last, you lie down again against the husky shoulder of husband become nurse become husband again.  Such a touch.  Or, maybe, you are estranged for years when Grace reunites you two and again you rub cheek to cheek.  Such a touch.  The touch of human love and desire:  is there not something unearthly and final in such a feeling?

 

4.  The footrace is overlong and you are past the wall, the wall of endurance.  You have hit the wall.  Now, only out of dumb habit do your legs move, still, forward and forward.  Another hill, another mile.  You ache and you hurt, but mostly you thirst with an arid dusty mouth and cracked lips.  Now!  Someone has thrust a cup of cold, clear water to you.  You lift it and you drink.  The force of water upon thirst:  is there not something unearthly and final in such a taste as this?

 

5.  There is a scent, an aroma that  your friend wears, partly natural, partly cosmetic, partly a strange mixture.  You can sense it in his sweater, in her office, in his car, in her closeness, in his intimacy.  It has no name.  But it is a fragrance which outlives her, or him, if only for a few weeks or months.  Of all things, it makes cleaning the room unbearably and sweetly awful and hard.  This is a fragrance to end every other.  Such a scent:  is there not something unearthly and final about such a fragrance?

 

Come with me for just a moment this morning out to the very edge of life.

 

For the human senses all have their own horizons, their own outer limits, their own twilight zones:  sound, sight, touch, taste, scent.  They all have their zenith, nadir, and apex—their horizon.  Each, bittersweet, is a foretaste, a harbinger and a chilling reminder of the brute limits of our life, even—no especially—at its very very best.  They take you out to the limit.  To the end of the pier.  To the crest of the hill.  To the edge of the cliff.  To the brink of…eternity.

 

Come with me for just a moment this morning out to the very edge of life.

 

 

The Apocalypse of God

 

Where human experience ends, God begins.  Like a tangent touching a circle.  On the far side of that train whistle and that orange dawn and that erotic touch and that slaking taste and that heavenly scent—there, God.

 

A preacher some years ago spoke in a rowdy college auditorium.  Posters lined the walls.  One read, “God is other people”.  The preacher began:  “I have come to put in the comma.”  And he walked to the wall poster and penned in a comma:  “God is Other, people”.

 

God is Other.

 

When Paul spoke to the Galatians, he preached the revelation of God.  The greek word is apocalypse.  The apocalypse of God.  The God beyond god.

 

This is why, in the first instance, the earliest Christians worshipped Jesus’ death and not his life.  For in the cross of Christ comes God’s final, martial apocalypse.

 

God’s last word.

 

 

In Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, in this marauding and final act—the revelation, the apocalypse of God—God speaks and acts.  And we today, east and west, may be with appreciation of millenium and holy war viscerally closer to the New Testament than almost any other generation, save that of Jesus and Paul and John.

 

Behold a mystery, out at the very edge of life.  The apocalypse of God finishes all millenial fear and all jihadic anger.

 

The apocalypse of God:

 

Permeates

Invades

Steps in

Attacks

Transforms

Eclipses

Seizes

Graces

 

The apocalypse of God:

 

Is not freedom of the will but freeing of the will.

Declares war on this territory of tyranny

Repairs, rebuilds, replaces…all else.

 

And there is no religious addition, no postscript to the redemptive, apocalyptic act of God in Christ.

 

This is why St Paul can be so outrageously, shockingly bold to say—it is a baptismal formula—that in Christ there is no longer any difference based on religion (Jew\Greek), or on economics (Slave\Free) or on sex (Male\Female).  He says it with the finality of the millenium and with the ferocity of Holy War.

 

The Apocalypse of God invades our twilight world.  Even in church—the last refuge of a scoundrel.

 

See, hear, taste, touch, smell it.

 

First, this church opens its doors every day to religious and unreligious, alike.  The apocalypse of God is, simply, the end of religion—the end of distinction based on tradition alone, or doctrine alone, or tribe alone or habit alone.

 

Second, every year we pool our money in community.  It is an uncanny event, to collect and disburse a million dollars and more, from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.  The apocalypse of God is, simply, the end of money—the end of distinction based on wealth alone, or position alone, or inheritance alone, or success alone.

 

Third, this month we begin to hear again the event of the preached Word.  The apocalypse of God is, simply, the end of sex—the end of distinction based on body alone, or gender alone, or orientation alone, or physique alone, or appearance alone.

 

Oh, I know.  You can so easily miss the apocalypse, since it appears in a mere open door, a mere collection plate, a mere soprano voice.  You can miss it, for it lies over the edge of our experience, and touches us as if from nowhere, on a cross.

 

I dare you to watch for what is real.  The erasure of religion, the toppling of money, the disappearance of sex.  All killed.  All defeated in God’s millenial jihad.

 

Without religion to separate us, without money to enslave us, without sex to divide us, what will become of us?

 

Why…we will become a beachhead in the invasion of God’s new creation.  Real Millenium.  Real Jihad.

 

Here: a New Creation.

Here: a community that listens.

Here: a gathering of mutual concern.

Here: people of glad heart.

Here: people of happy passion.

Here: not I must I shall, but I may I can

Here: love divine, all loves excelling….

 

~ The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel

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