Albert D. Mosley - "A New World Order" (November 4, 2001)
|But the saints of the most high God
|will receive the kingdom
|and will possess it forever.
|Yes, forever and ever.
|Today is All Saints' Sunday,
|a day when we as Christians recall
|the faithfulness of past generations
|and acknowledge the heritage we receive from them.
|This is a day when we express our appreciation
|for the lives of the countless men and women,
|known and unknown, who face the hostile forces of this world
|People of faith who in the face of evil, oppression,
|and subjugation remained faithful
|and stood as a testament of what it means to follow God,
|regardless of what was happening to and around them.
|We remember the saints,
|and not necessarily because they lived
|good and/or clean lives,
|but rather because of their steadfastness for God
|in the face of evil.
|We remember the saints and through this remembrance,
|we are able to forge a connection in the body of Christ
|that transcends the limitations of time and space.
|Saints, some of whom lived hundreds of years ago
|in other parts of the world,
|but whose testimonies provide many of us
|with the encouragement we need
|in our present day struggles against evil.
|That's what this day is all about.
|That's what this celebration is all about.
|In the midst of this celebration
|the Lectionary cycle recommends these passages
|from Daniel and from Luke's gospel.
|Some may not be able to see
|the connection between the two.
|But both of these passages have quite a bit to say to us,
|the faithful, the holy ones, the saints of God.
|They both offer us a glimpse into a different world,
|a world where things are not always as they seem.
|A world where what appears is not always the case.
|This is a world where things
|are turned upside down, inside out.
|This is a world where there is an ultimate judgment
|and in that ultimate judgment, good will triumph over evil.
|But it's not that simple.
|There is far more to it than the defeat of evil by good.
|Both of today's scripture lessons seem
|to suggest a cosmic upheaval,
|an ushering in of a new kingdom, a new world order.
|Daniel in his apocalyptic vision of four beasts
|and Jesus in His radical pronouncements
|of blessings and cursings reveal to us
|a different way to view the world.
|Daniel especially with his notions of a final judgment day
|of the resurrection of the dead,
|and of a kingdom of God
|in which the saints take their rightful place.
|Daniel shows us a radically different way to approach life.
|That's what apocalyptic literature usually does.
|And for that reason, most people are wary
|of the Bible's apocalyptic elements.
|Daniel, Revelation, Mark 13,
|and other apocalyptic texts
|are often passed over because they bring to the forefront
|issues that most of us are not willing to grapple with.
|Not only that, but these texts are also vulnerable
|to serious gross misinterpretations.
|Think for example of the tragic episodes
|involving Jim Jones of Jonestown
|and David Koresh of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas,
|both of whom placed an enormous emphasis
|on books like Daniel.
|In spite of the possible misinterpretations
|and misunderstandings that could arise
|from passages like the one read today,
|I think it is still worth our time to examine this vision
|so that we might understand
|what this New World Order will look like.
|The words in this book were addressed
|to a group of believers
|who were experiencing grave persecution.
|The first and second books
|of the Maccabees make it quite clear
|that Daniel was written during the Hellenistic Age
|which was a time of great suffering for many men and women
|who wished to remain faithful to God.
|This was a time of crisis for believers.
|They were forbidden from praying to God.
|They were living in a time where faithfulness
|and devotion to God ran contrary
|to faithfulness and devotion to the king,
|or to society, or to cultural standards.
|Sounds a lot like now.
|As I stated in a sermon two weeks ago,
|at this present moment in the life of our nation,
|faithfulness and devotion to God
|can run contrary to faithfulness and devotion to nation.
|The only difference between now and when Daniel was
|addressing his audience is that most of us are not punished
|for our faithfulness and our devotion.
|If we were, I daresay there would be
|little punishment to start with
|because for so many, there is so little faithfulness
|and so little devotion.
|But most of us do experience on almost a daily basis
|the conflict that exists between the values of our faith
|and what this post-modern world values
|and considers important.
|Daniel speaks to this persecuted group of believers
|and tries to assure them
|that God has ultimate control of the affairs of their lives,
|in spite of much evidence that suggested the contrary.
|Chapter seven starts with a vision
|in which four great beasts provide
|an allegory of history.
|These beasts represent the four great kingdoms
|with which Daniel was concerned,
|the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Greeks.
|Daniel's vision then includes a judgment
|of each of these beasts, each of these kingdoms.
|These beasts, these kingdoms, are judged before God
|because they have terrorized the community of faith.
|After the judgment of the kingdoms
|there is a transfer of the heavenly judgment to Earth,
|through one who is like a human being.
|This transcendent agent of God relies on the power
|of the Ancient One according to Daniel.
|And with that power establishes the rule of God.
|In this vision of Daniel, the great beast,
|the great kingdoms of the world are destroyed.
|Even the fourth great beast of the Greek kingdom,
|with its numerous horns representing Alexander the Great
|and other rulers that followed him.
|Daniel's vision is concluded and interpreted
|to mean that this new kingship of God,
|this New World Order of God will be established
|and will never be destroyed.
|And those who have been faithful to God
|even in the midst of horrible persecution,
|will exercise authority in this coming kingdom of God.
|The holy ones, the saints of God,
|will be God's triumphant agents
|when evil is overthrown
|and God's righteous rule is set in place.
|Daniel wants to communicate to the people of God,
|to those who are suffering great trials and tribulations,
|a divine revelation concerning the course and end of history
|History will end with the reign of God in justice.
|God will put an end to the worldly enemy,
|and will establish a kingdom in which the faithful
|will take their rightful place.
|For those holy ones, for those saints,
|who are a part of Daniel's audience,
|he wanted to say to them that the present crisis
|will not last forever.
|And that even though it will most likely
|not be solved by human forces,
|one day God will intervene,
|and will act on behalf of those
|who remain steadfast in their faithfulness.
|To some, this might sound like pie in the sky theology.
|In fact Paul Hanson in his The Dawn of Apocalyptic
|notes that apocalyptic literature like Daniel
|is often viewed as a flight
|into the timeless repose of myth.
|Some view these dreams,
|these visions of a cosmic overthrow of evil by God
|as a passive and resigned way
|that only allows oppression to continue.
|Daniel's vision in particular describes how
|the heavenly battle against chaos will be won,
|and that the results of this victory
|will influence earthly communities.
|Where is the action on our part, one might ask.
|This view of apocalyptic writings gives credence
|to Karl Marx's notion that religion
|is an opiate to salve the wounds of political dominance,
|rather than actually causing its followers
|to engage in resistance or some other action
|to change matters.
|But I don't see it that way.
|And I trust you don't either.
|In my mind, the dreamers of apocalyptic visions,
|people like Daniel, people like Mark,
|people like John, people like Mother Teresa,
|people like Martin Luther King, Jr., and others
|are visionaries of a New World Order.
|They are visionaries of a world
|where there is economic justice and opportunity for all.
|They are visionaries of a world where women
|and others who've been persecuted have a voice.
|They're visionaries of a world
|where the status quo is challenged.
|They are visionaries and their vision is
|inspired by a God who liberates
|and who sets free those who are oppressed.
|Apocalyptic literature draws deep
|from the hopes and passions of the people
|especially people who are in dire conditions.
|Apocalyptic literature like the book of Daniel
|speaks to the failure of established kingdoms.
|And it opens the way to new possibilities.
|It accomplishes this by prying open
|the sealed doors of tradition,
|and imagining possibilities beyond the realities
|dictated by the Old World Order.
|It also accomplishes this by encouraging the holy ones,
|the saints of God to guide their lives
|by no other star than a trustworthy God,
|Who promises to never leave or forsake.
|This is exactly what happens
|not only in the passage from Daniel,
|but also in the passage from Luke's Gospel.
|Jesus in the gospel lesson for today
|offers an upsetting list of blessings and woes.
|He in a manner very similar to the vision that Daniel had
|offers an alternative way of viewing the world.
|Jesus speaks of the will and work of God
|to overturn life and situations as we have come to know them
|Blessed, says Jesus, are the poor.
|Blessed are the hungry.
|Blessed are the grieving.
|Blessed are the excluded.
|Hardly people we would count as blessed.
|He doesn't stop there.
|Jesus goes on to pronounce a series of woes or curses
|on those who find themselves
|on the opposite side of the fence,
|the rich, the full, the happy, and the well-thought-of
|are in for a surprise in this New World Order.
|They, much like the four beastly kingdoms
|in Daniel's vision, will be toppled.
|This is not anything strange coming
|from Jesus or from the Gospels.
|Earlier in Luke, Mary, singing praises to God,
|acknowledged that God has put
|the mighty down from their thrones
|and has elevated the lowly.
|This same God has filled the hungry with good things,
|and has sent the rich away empty.
|The point here in Luke and in Daniel is
|that those who prosper under
|the present structures of human life,
|those who are self-satisfied and at ease
|with the way things are,
|those who benefit and are honored by the system,
|they are the ones to be pitied.
|Woe to the great beastly kingdoms of Daniel's vision
|and woe to those whose current situation
|looks to an outsider to be fortunate.
|Woe to them because their ultimate life
|is quite the contrary.
|God's kingdom, God's reign,
|the New World Order is a kingdom in which the holy ones,
|the saints of God, swim against the stream.
|It is a kingdom in which poverty, hunger,
|sorrow, and oppression are not a part of God's purposes.
|It is a kingdom in which the law of the land
|is counter to the accepted culture
|and the accepted way of viewing life.
|Is this good news or bad news?
|Much of it depends upon where you stand
|when you hear the news.
|Are you by way of your life representative
|of the four beastly kingdoms?
|Are you included among those whom Jesus pronounces
|the series of woes upon?
|If you are, then you are set to wonder
|about your place in this New World Order.
|Will Willimon, in a sermon he preached here last year,
|said that it's not so much that God
|punishes people who are rich, people who are content,
|people who are well-fixed,
|rather it's that God's kingdom values
|certain ways of life and not others.
|For some, Daniel's vision of a toppling
|of evil earthly dominions
|and Jesus' pronouncement of a subversive way of life
|are almost like a foreign language.
|Some have become so accustomed
|to making the gospel fit with the prevailing culture,
|that these lessons remind us that there can be
|no easy truths with the culture.
|There are sharp demands of life in this New World Order.
|The saints of the Most High, the holy ones,
|and even some of us,
|especially those of us who have been baptized
|and who have been set apart,
|we understand the sharp demands of life
|in this New World Order.
|Thanks be to God for the witnesses of His saints.
|Thanks be to God that we are surrounded
|by so great a cloud of witnesses.
|Thanks be to God for a New World Order
|where all of God's saints,
|those of ages past and those in this very congregation
|are able to live a life that is informed
|not by society's rules, but by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
|Thanks be to God. Amen.
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