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Th-That’s All Folks

Sunday, January 2 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am

Th-That’s All Folks

Details

Date:
Sunday, January 2
Time:
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Event Categories:
,
Join Us:
https://tinyurl.com/ESUCWorship

Venue

Online Event

Reverend Furrer preaching on living in and through apocalyptic times. Are they End Times? Prophets have long predicted a coming day when our shared temporal experience is interrupted and radically changed. First here was nuclear Armageddon and now: accelerating climate change. Are the prophets correct? Let’s kick off 2022 right! 

how to attend

Bulletin

• To virtually attend, please Zoom in using room number 989 3107 9078, passcode: chalice.
• To phone into the service, call 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 989 3107 9078.

For those joining, please mute as soon as you enter the room, so everyone can hear. Please note, the services will be recorded, but at this time, there are no plans to share the recording.

More Information

Religious Education for children and youth is in person twice a month. Learn more here!

If you don’t have a chalice, but want to light one, check out our Making a Chalice at Home page.

Service is followed by Coffee Hour.

Children’s Story

​Watch “The Trouble with Being a Dragon” here.

Sermon Audio

Th-That’s All Folks

by Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Furrer

Sermon Text

People have always pondered the end…since the very beginning. Throughout history prophets arise to preach gloom and doom, mass movements proclaim the imminent demise of the planet, and groups of believers go up to the mountains to wait out the earthquake, celestial collision, fire, flood, or what have you. 

It should not be necessary to overstate the fact that—so far at any rate—these prophets are all batting zero. And yet despite that, people listen to them. Even educated people listen to them. Indeed, if there are times when signs of an imminent apocalypse appear to loom, we can take comfort from the fact that people have felt the same way throughout recorded history. 

The Christian tradition has a special relationship to this kind of thinking. The Dead Sea Scrolls—despite a half century of academic machinations—along with other ancient documents from the era when Christianity began—make clear the burning interest in apocalyptic thinking among many Middle Eastern communities at that time. Christianity’s scenario for Armageddon is set forth most forcefully in the Book of Revelation. Revelation didn’t really add anything new to the basic End Times blueprint that other Biblical books and Apocrypha had laid out, but what it does put out there, it presents in Technicolor. SEE the book with seven seals, each one betokening a new set of disasters! EXPERIENCE angels and devils battling amid flashes of lightning and earthquakes! FEAR to monster with seven heads and ten horns, carrying a woman drunk with the blood of saints! COWER as a beast with horns like a lamb speaks like a dragon!    

Growing up Unitarian, I heard nary a word of this stuff until I was about sixteen and, driving around northern Ohio in the middle of the night, became mesmerized by the father and son radio broadcasts of Herbert W. and Garner Ted Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God out of Pasadena. Wow! Let me tell you: Revelation is the book that defined Armageddon. And obscure as much of it is, it is worth a read: an out-and-out celestial sideshow, replete with symbolism, allusion, hope, and redemption. Above all, Revelation is about redemption. Christ is coming soon. He is coming quickly. Whatever you do: Do not close the words of this book for the time is near!  

This, briefly, is the message that all millennial movements feed upon the end is just around the corner. We saw some of this around the turn of the last century: the YK2 Scare. And again, regarding the so-called “end” of the Mayan Long Calendar: December 21, 2012. And you may mark my words:  

— As the world population grows by another 800,000,000 in the coming decade… 
— As upper-class extravagance continues to grow, along with drug dependency, mass migrations, homelessness, Third World terrorism, and Fourth World famine…  
— As increasing numbers of the hard-working middle-class get laid off despite their companies’ record profits…  

The END, for many, will start to look nearer and nearer. 

Early Christians felt they were living at the end of time. And that Jesus was soon to return “in glory” and establish his kingdom—literally and concretely—on earth. As time wore on and a flesh and blood Christ failed to reappear, this belief in his imminent return was not discredited. Instead, the date of his coming was repeatedly shifted forward…until Jesus’ return became a vague “sometime in the future.” This vagueness, however, has become more specific from time to time. The year 1000 looked promising…but Jesus turned out to be a no show. In 1033: another bust. Then Joachim of Flore, a 12th century monk, developed his scheme of “ages” in history, an idea that led, inevitably, to a cosmic conclusion. Joachim divided history into three ages, with the last epoch beginning, by way of some fancy arithmetic, in 1260 CE with the arrival of the Antichrist. This was supposed to signify the so-called “beginning of the end,” but once again, the appointment was missed. Nevertheless, the concept of “ages” in history, all moving towards some sort of recognizable conclusion, entered forever into Western thought. 

And every few decades ever since someone has appeared to make the claim that they have correctly sorted through the mythological arcana and recognize the clear signs of impending apocalypse. Candidates for the Antichrist have ranged from Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century to Napoleon in the 18th, with several popes in between. Contemporary candidates have included Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. Sometimes natural events have been seen to augur the onset of the End: great floods or windstorms; sunspots, eclipses, or supernovas. 

From time to time, prophets of doom gain significant followings. Hal Lindsey is only the latest. Anabaptists in the 16th century, Millerites in the 19th. Miller’s direct descendants, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, continue to forecast the exact date of the End, and have struck out three more times—1874, 1914, and 1975—with no appreciable loss in church membership.  

The Millerite movement itself, which I reviewed in this morning’s Reading, arose during the initial stages of industrialization on the Eastern seaboard. I suspect the movement’s popularity—much like the machine-smashing Luddite movement in England—grew in part from the apprehension and anxiety people felt about the changes they saw taking place all around them. Indeed, cultural upheaval and apocalyptic go hand-in-hand. The conditions in 2nd century BCE Israel, where apocalyptic literature first arose [in the Biblical Book of Daniel] were terrible. The Jews’ religious infrastructure was under severe and constant attack. Guerrilla warfare broke out. Carnage and sacrilege became common—increasingly so—until thousands of people left the cities and started up mystical, ecstatic communities out in the desert, including the Qumran Community from the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed and, quite probably, the Jordan River group of John the Baptist where Jesus was schooled.  

The events depicted in Kevin Costner’s award-winning movie, Dances With Wolves, were a clear example of wholesale cultural upheaval and dislocation—the most thorough dislocation in American history. Events which gave birth to Indigenous people’s own apocalyptic: the Ghost Dance Religion of the 1890s. As the brutal sword of genocide obliterated their traditional way of life, Native Americans from tribe after tribe began preparing for the end of the world when, according to US ethnographer James Mooney who studied the movement as it happened, “the whole Indian race, living and dead, will be reunited upon a regenerated earth, to live a life of aboriginal happiness, forever free from death, disease, and misery.” 

When Prophecy Fails, a study written by three sociologists, chronicles the mid- ‘50s suburban apocalypse that first brought to us salvation by flying saucer. While the beasts with horns and the flaming blood pools are gone, the ancient apocalyptic paradigm remains a vessel or vehicle for entirely new, though by now, familiar elements: the spaceship replaces the Ark and the “boys upstairs” replace Jesus (At least for the some). Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s end-of-the-world movements continued to appear regularly in the media, replete with asteroid smashups, close encounters, and/or nuclear conflagration. Believers in these cataclysms each have a formula—some variation on being at the right place and the right time—for making it through to “the other side.” Typical of these movements was the Church Universal and Triumphant, which, under the leadership of Elizabeth Claire Prophet, all left the Los Angeles basin and moved into huge bomb shelters they had built in Montana. But the leader’s predictions did not come to pass, she eventually died, and her followers withered away. But groups like hers may well be a thing of the past. 

 More symptomatic, I suspect, of things to come was the Harmonic Convergence thirty-five years ago this summer. Here everything was very trendy and “New Age”: ancient astronauts, UFOs, morphogenic fields, the I Ching, planetary transformation, pyramid power, crystals, DNA, Mayans, Egyptians… you name it! As far as millennial movements go, the Harmonic Convergence was benign. Only obliquely did it mention that the date was selected, in part, as the beginning of a “final” 26-year countdown to the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar—set to occur on December 21, 2012: now only nine years ago! Be prepared! According to one book on Nostradamus I was perusing at Barns and Noble last spring, it is all but certain that by late this year half the world will be infected with Covid, a series of “superquakes” will doom billions, Florida and New York City will be flooded, and most of Southern California will begin breaking away from the mainland—all this in the coming year and a half. At which point an Arab attack on Europe will begin. New York will then fall under nuclear attack. By New Year’s 2024 the world as we know it will be gone. But there is a caveat; by another reckoning, Nostradamus’s prediction comes true a year later. Or maybe it’s 2026. Meanwhile, the Harmonic Convergence’s principal organizer back in ’87, José Argüelles has speculated that perhaps apocalyptic belief systems are nothing more than excited rhetoric. Yes, history will end, says Argüelles…with the beginning of a new 5,125-year cycle. But this will be important, he goes on, since the evils of the modern world (war, materialism, various oppressions) will end almost overnight with the birth of the 6th Sun and the 5th Earth. 

What are we to make of all this? Predictions of the End, it should by now be obvious, are nothing new. Anthropologists have noted basic continuities among apocalyptic belief systems across cultures and throughout history.  

Paradise Lost leads, after much displacement, to -> the resurrection of a Golden Age, led by a hero [e.g., Christ]. Usually the “believers” are spared some awful disaster and; thereafter live in bliss…or usher in a new life cycle. 

These belief systems are especially prevalent in cultures that have been colonized by more powerful cultures, as with the Ghost Dancers of 130 years ago. This seems to me to be a natural reaction to the loss of land and freedom, but what are we to make of cultures that have not experienced this type of dispossession? Do Christian fundamentalists perceive themselves living in the vestiges of a culture colonized by Satan and characterized by sin and moral decay? Do New Agers feel they are living in a world colonized by techno science and characterized by inhumanity and greed? I suspect that many of them do. 

Hal Lindsey and the Jehovah’s Witnesses aside, thoughtful theologians and most Christians from the Pope on down believe the symbolism of the apocalyptic prophecies in the New Testament to be just that: obscure references that are not to be taken as fact. Revelation was, in fact, the last book to be accepted into the Bible in 367 CE and remains to this day outside the accepted canon within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Why? Because the original church fathers 1600+ years ago were fearful that its mystical signs and portents would be taken too literally. As we see, their fears have been consistently borne out ever since. 

Let us be clear: the apocalypse, like the Kingdom of Heaven, is not something “out there.” It is a symbol for something inside and addresses a deeper psychological need. Perhaps apocalyptic belief systems are nothing more than adult equivalents of childhood revenge fantasies against playground bullies. Or attempts to grapple with, glorify, and transcend our mortality. Whatever the reason, the archetype of the apocalypse exists in everyone, and—beware! —has often been manipulated politically to mollify people with dreams of better days ahead to prevent them from taking control of problems in their current lives. The true and only apocalypse is the breakthrough—in the ever present NOW—of love and insight into one’s heart. May it ever be so. Amen. 

And Happy New Year! 

2010: 6.8 billion; 2020: 7.8 billion; estimated in 2030: 8.8 billion Source

Harold Lee “Hal” Lindsey is a fundamentalist Christian author and evangelist living in the Palm Springs area whose book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, published in 1969, has been translated into 54 languages, sold over 35 million copies, and is still in print. 

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Th-That's All Folks
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Details

Date:
Sunday, January 2
Time:
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Event Categories:
,
Join Us:
https://tinyurl.com/ESUCWorship

Venue

Online Event