Don’t Run Out The Clock on Apocalyptic

I preached Mark 13 yesterday, not, I don’t think, for the first time in my preaching career. It’s the “Little Apocalypse,” Jesus’ last discourse in the temple before his arrest in which he holds forth about “wars and rumors of wars,” the “desolating sacrilege,” and the “coming of the Son of Man in clouds.”

I grew up in a church that took apocalyptic texts literally and that combed the days headlines for evidence of its appearing. But I’ve never preached in one. The challenge of preaching apocalyptic in progressive Protestant churches is to take all the imagery and urgency more seriously, not less so. I have spent my adult life creating space between my own faith and the day-to-day pertinence of End Times speculation, so being called upon to preach on such predictions is challenging in a funny way.

Don’t run out the clock. That’s the rule I set for myself this time. Don’t use up more than half the sermon academically explaining the conventions of apocalyptic texts and then talking the congregation off a literalist ledge it’s not really on. Actually speak to the earthquakes. Contend with the falling stars. Suggest what it all means for us, today, and in constructive language, not a litany of negations.

The preacher is never the right person to ask how the sermon went, but at least I can say I did the thing I set out to do.