June 7, 2020, The End of The Present Age, Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Matthew 28:16-20 (Common English) Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day, to the end of this present age.
We take a moment now to reflect on the words of scripture and the calling we have during a volatile time to move with the Spirit into a new time, a new age, the realm of God coming among us.
June 7, 2020 The End of the Present Age St. Luke Church
I met Drick Boyd, appropriately enough, in jail. We got arrested together on a freezing February day Colissimo’s Gun Shop. We were protesting that store allowing the straw purchase of handguns and being the source of a lot of guns for criminals on the streets of Philadelphia. They kept us in jail all night and in the morning they let me out, but they kept Drick for a good while longer, by himself. I was really glad to get out of there, but felt bad later when I heard how traumatic it was for Drick who was stuck in there by himself, not knowing when he would get out.
Since then we have become good friends. At POWER actions people sometimes would come up to me and call me Drick and I’d say “No, that’s my brother from another mother.” We found out that we were born in the same year, we both become pastors, and we share many of the same passions and interests, particularly around social change and anti-racism work.
(Drick Boyd spoke about his life and faith stance here)
As we read our assigned reading from Matthew 28 we noted of course that this paragraph includes the very last words in the Gospel of Matthew, recalling all the themes and points the Gospel has made earlier and wrapping them up in a great commission to all who would be disciples. And we particularly notices that very last sentence where Jesus says, “I myself will be with you every day, to the end of this present age.”
It reminded me how people have been joking with me lately about whether we are in the end times, whether the combination of COVID 19, a depression, and now mass demonstrations and unrest mean that we are reaching the apocalypse. Someone asked me when the locusts are coming. (Virginia and North Carolina are dealing with 17 year cicadas this year, by the way.) The original meaning of the word apocalypse is the “Unveiling” and we would like to suggest today that God has a lot for us to learn in this present time of unveiling.
I grew up in a large United Methodist Church in Cincinnati that was made up of almost all white people. We interpreted this passage to mean that we needed to be disciples of Jesus and go out and get everybody to come into church and be baptized and be a good, polite, upstanding member of society and God’s church.
I read it differently now - especially in the light of the current upset in our society. As the demonstrations against white supremacy spread and more and more of our institutions declare their opposition to racism and the killing of Black people for no reason, I feel like the church that I have been a part of all my life needs to be part of the change as well. We need to hear Jesus’ words declaring the end of the present age, telling us that the Living God will be with us as we live into a new realm, a new kin-dom, in which no one is left out and no one is targeted because of their skin color or social status.
I hear these words then calling us to be disciples, part of the solution and not part of the problem, not protecting our advantage at the end of the age, but being prepared to let go of some things. We need to let go of a set up where our educational system is set up to advantage suburban white kids while students in the city struggle with asbestos in their schools, class sizes that are too large, and budgets that are too small.
We need to let go of a health care system that allows some people to see a doctor, while others struggle to be able to have insurance, and others have to rely on emergency rooms for any care they need. We need to let go of a police system that protects and serves some neighborhoods and targets people in other neighborhoods as the problem, with a knee on its neck.
Drick spoke on ‘the system works the way it does because that’s the way it’s designed to work. keeping us away from seeing the struggles that people of color experience.
In the polarization of our society right now, I tell you the truth that it’s not easy to talk to people with a range of opinions and ideas. I can assure you that Drick is a thoughtful compassionate Christian and he will tell you the same about me. We don’t agree on everything, (though we don’t have a lot of differences) But I want to close today with something I know is true. No matter where you are in relation to what’s going on right now, we can see that the present age is coming to an end. There is something new coming, something different that we don’t know about. We are called to work for a new age that brings us back together again, and that includes all of God’s people. We each have to act on our calling from God. In the end, the Spirit moves where it will. We pray for the wisdom to move with the Spirit.
Given our human limitations, we are very lucky that the promise that Jesus makes to us in this passage is the Living God in Christ will be with us every single day until and through the end of the present age. Even as we are going through the birth pangs of a new time, which none of us has control over, God promises to be with each one of us, with all of us every single day.
Responsive hymn. 583 You Are the Seed