When I was growing up, there was a reality that seemed to be permanent. The Berlin Wall went up when I was 5 years old, and in the midst of the Cold War, it never seemed as though it could come down. The divide between East and West was that deep. Even with glasnost and perestroika, the Wall coming down didn’t seem possible. Then over a very short time in 1989, it did, unexpectedly. It was redemption beyond belief, grace unimagined, hope beyond expectation come true. At the time, all things seemed possible, and looking back, it still seems that way.
When we begin the church year, we have a lot of language like today’s Gospel reading. The warning that Jesus gives his disciples can open the door to many frightening images: images that have becomes much more real to us in these days than in years before. When we talk about the day of the Lord coming, it’s easy to plug into the mind set of tribulation, such as that of the Left Behind series. Rambo Jesus coming back to Earth is something that would scare almost anybody. We can feel as though we’re being called to have a bag ready in case something horrible happens, like a knock at the door in the old Soviet Union during Stalin’s purges.
However, the language in today’s readings aren’t about the horrible side of life: they speak of a promise. Our three year cycle of readings begin with the image of the holy mountain of God. A mountain of peace, a mountain where swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. A place where all will know how much their God loves them and how their God wants them to live. A place where all will share in the banquet. We do not have to look at the world as pessimists, and talk about what horrors await us, but recognize with a down-to-earth optimism that things will turn out for the best in the end. We know the end of the story; we know that we will end up on the mountain.
That image is where we’re going as church. When we look at the day of the Lord, we shouldn’t get sidetracked by the horrible imagery Scripture uses to describe how Evil will come to its violent end and how creation will be restored, but to the Holy mountain. The call to be ready isn’t a call to have a small suitcase packed in order to be taken away into a time of trial, but an awareness that the kingdom is coming soon and we should be ready to put aside anything superfluous our lives to embrace it. For us the End of the World isn’t about destruction, but fulfillment, of things becoming the best they can be. We come to the holy mountain every week here and how, to share in the eternal banquet here and now. This is our mountain: this table that we gather at. The Body and Blood of Christ that we share is the banquet of the mountain of God brought from the future into the here and now.
Paul’s letter today calls us to be people of the future: he calls us not to be hung up on the details of daily life, but to live as people of the light, people of the mountain. When we look at why we should live as Jesus teaches us, why we should be people of who gather to share the tables of Word and Eucharist, why we should be people of generosity to reach out to all those in need, why we should be a people who truly seek peace, I think that the best reason to do all this is because we are a people who know our future, and that every worry and every attitude and every thing that doesn’t fit that future doesn’t belong in our lives. We are a people of the future; a future that reaches out to meet us, a future that is already beginning to break into the world, a future that is right here among us, right now.
We are called to walk in the light. As we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus into the world, we are also called to be ready for the Second coming of Jesus into the world. And just as that first coming was better than anyone could imagine, so the second coming of our savior will be better than we can imagine. We get ready, because we see this world already around us. We get ready, not like someone waiting for the secret police to knock on our door, but as people expecting to see the fullness of all we could every hope for.