Still to Come

Mark 13:1-8, Lectionary

Rev. Christopher Harbin

15 November 2015

As humans, we seem to be experts in getting caught up in spurious issues that are mainly irrelevant or distractions to the more important aspects of life. When it comes to theological issues, it is just more of the same. In the medieval period, Galileo was excommunicated from the church over issues regarding his discoveries in astronomy. Paul writes of clashes over the appropriate day to worship and eating meat offered to idols. At one point, only music written in ¾ time was acceptable as it related to the Trinity. At another point, ¾ time was disallowed, since it was used in ballet and considered scandalous. When I was in high school, one of the issues was whether drums could be used in worship. It seems we can find all sorts of issues to distract us from living out the gospel as Jesus taught.

I have family members who were not allowed to play cards growing up, but dominoes were acceptable. On another side of the family, cards were fine, but dominoes were not. A generation later, both were allowed, as there was a growing recognition that the reason for disallowing games had to do with gambling, and that could be done with or without cards, dominoes, or horse shoes. In politics, we create fake scandals in our attempts to demean our opposition, change the focus of the arguments of others to avoid dialogue, and create issues simply to stir up sentiment for personal advantage.

In doctrine and theology, the very same characters and players seem to be alive and well, as they have been for centuries. There is a kernel of truth to Marx's comments about religion being the opiate of the masses. That truth is not that faith in God is not a positive reality or that God does not exist. It is rather than all too many of us are too willing to allow the charlatans to distract us from where we should be focusing our attention. We allow the name and guise of religion to channel the purposes of the corrupt or ignorant who would steer us away from the central themes and purposes of the gospel. The principle is true for Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, alike. We take issues of lesser importance and bring them front and center as rallying cries for some hidden or nebulous motive.

Perhaps one of the most common of these distraction themes in Christianity has to do with the Second Coming and End of the World scenarios. Biblically, these are not central themes to the gospel. They are secondary. I have to admit, however, that as a seminary professor it too me a while to understand that I needed to give more attention to these themes simply because there were so many people discussing them as of primary importance. For a long time, I refused to credit these themes as important enough to merit my attention, when the fact that they were being so ardently discussed made them important to my students and the churches I served. We can't simply ignore themes from a stance of superiority and brush them off, which is what I wanted to do. They must be addressed, even if under duress.....

...for the full text of this sermon, see Still to Come, at

—©2015 Chri­stopher B. Harbin

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