Pentecost 25 and the Eschaton

I like monster movies. It is probably a side effect of growing up in the Midwest with long winters and a local independent television station which would show a week’s worth of Godzilla movies after school periodically. As I have gotten older (please note, I did not say more mature!), I have come to realize just how much of my world is reflected in these social artifacts. The original Godzilla film was intensely anti-nuclear war. That went right over my 10 year old head as I watched them on the TV in the parsonage basement. Now, when I watch these films, I am struck by how afraid we are of the end of the world. We know something is coming to an end. There are many ways the films depict the end of the world. It might be a monster like Godzilla, it could be an asteroid hurtling toward earth, or it might be some alien who has come to take us over. In the Terminator series we do it to ourselves, creating a computer system which takes over the world and wages war on the human “infestation.” The plot line is usually the same. Some hero or heroine saves us from ruin, or at least complete destruction. Salvation is simply not losing everything.

This focus is on the eschaton, or the end of the world. The fact that we look either to nature, ourselves, or some alien monster is an indication of our idolatry. Luther said that your god was the person or thing which would do you the most good. But he also could have said that your god is the one who can destroy you/judge you. Culturally we have pushed God out of our collective consciousness. We are not afraid of His judgment nor do we look for His salvation. At least if you watch films.

The Christian preacher has something really important to say to this. The collective focus on the eschaton is so hopeless. I know that I have too often taken this for granted, but we have hope as we come to the ending of the world. Jesus calls is “birth pains” in the Gospel reading we hear this week. Birth is of course painful and dangerous for both mother and child, but we do not only come to it with feelings of dread and terror, but also hope and even a joyful expectation. How do we preach our people to that place? If people are afraid of losing everything, do we need to proclaim that the end is sweeping away the old to make room for the new and better?

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