Thursday, December 1, 2011

November 30 - The St. Anne Earworm

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts 4and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’ They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. -- 2 Peter 3:1-10

One thing you have to give the Apostle Peter: he is persistent. "This is the second letter I am writing to you."  Evidently he wanted to make sure the message got across but not sure they have "gotten" it. Funny -- it makes me think of the times Jesus kept trying to explain stuff to Pete and the other eleven disciples and they just didn't seem to get it any more than the people Peter was writing to seemed to get it. Of course, Jesus had promised that he would be returning, and that the people of the age would not taste death until he got back. Now those people are dying and still no sign of Jesus. Did Jesus lie? Did the gospelers misunderstand? Did the disciples pass on a half-understood message? At any rate, It was up to Pete and the others to make sure the movement Jesus started kept going, and if it took multiple repetitions of that message, then so be it. Pete was willing to try again and again until they caught on.

The part that stood out for me was the assertion,"... with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day." It started an ear-worm of a hymn in my head.  I've always loved the hymn I grew up knowing as "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" and subsequently learned to call "St. Anne." It always gave me such a sense of peace, hope and standing on firm ground.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of thy throne,
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guide while troubles last,
and our eternal home! 

-- Isaac Watts, paraph. of Ps. 90:1-5

Is the Lord coming? That is the question the writer is trying to answer. When? Reaching back to the Psalm, the writer used the “thousand years” not necessarily to mean a specific period of a millennium but rather an indeterminate amount of time, and nobody, not even Jesus, knew how long that would be. The timing was up to God and God wasn’t letting anybody in on the secret. It seems like a sort of pop quiz --- the teacher warns and warns that there will be a pop quiz, but nobody ever believes it will show up until they walk into class one day and are told to put the books away, take out paper and pen and start writing.

God doesn’t necessarily work on chronos time but rather kairos time. I wonder – could God be waiting for us to get the world in better shape spiritually and physically before the pop quiz comes? I wonder what the writer of 2 Peter would think about that?

I think I’ll just keep “St. Anne” running through my head. It’s probably as good a way as any to get ready for the pop quiz.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Cafe on Wednesday, November 30, 2011.

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