Archive for July, 2017

A sermon I preached at Trinity Heights Church in New York City:


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Restless Hope

Moltmann“From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.  The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of the Christian faith as such, the key in which everything in it is set, the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day.  For Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ.  Eschatology is the passionate suffering and passionate longing kindled by the Messiah.  Hence eschatology cannot really be only a part of Christian doctrine.  Rather, the eschatological outlook is characteristic of all Christian proclamation, of every Christian existence and of the whole Church.  There is therefore only one real problem in Christian theology, which its own object forces upon it and which it in turn forces on mankind and on human thought: the problem of the future…

Christian eschatology does not speak of the future as such.  It sets out from a definite reality in history and announces the future of that reality, its future possibilities and its power over the future.  Christian eschatology speaks of Jesus Christ and his future.  It recognizes the reality of the raising of Jesus and proclaims the future of the risen Lord.  Hence the question whether all statements about the future are ground in the person and history of Jesus Christ provides it with the touchstone by which to distinguish the spirit of eschatology from that of utopia…

To believe means to cross in hope and anticipation the bounds that have been penetrated by the raising of the crucified.  If we bear that in mind, then this faith can have nothing to do with fleeing the world, with resignation and escapism.  In this hope the soul does not soar above our vale of tears to some imagined heavenly bliss, nor does it sever itself from the earth…Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering.  If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death.  That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.  If we had before our eyes only what we see, then we should cheerfully or reluctantly reconcile ourselves with things as they happen to be.  That we do not reconcile ourselves, that there is no pleasant harmony between us and reality, is due to our unquenchable hope…

Hope alone is to be called ‘realistic’, because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught.” (Jurgen Moltmann, “Introduction” in Theology of Hope)

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