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Stuck on Six
Preached by The Reverend Paul D. Allick on 1st Sunday of Easter (Sunday, March 27, 2016)
And so we begin another Paschal Season. We proclaim the risen Lord. Death is conquered! The tomb is empty. Evil is trampled underfoot. Rejoice!
But on Monday morning we are going back to our everyday lives and experience life as it is. We are going to experience some stress, frustration, and maybe some anger. We are going to catch ourselves gossiping. We will find ourselves treating others as if God did not create them and love them. We are going to see suffering and death.
If Christ has vanquished death and sin why is this stuff still happening?
This is all still occurring because the story isn’t over yet. You and I live in these last days until Christ’s return. This is an in-between time. If, as we read in 2nd Peter (3:8) and Psalm 90, one day is a thousand years to God, these last days between Christ’s Ascension and his return in glory are not relative to our sense of time. If one day is a thousand years to God we’ve just begun the third day since Christ’s Ascension.
In the Revelation to John we learn a about these last days. The Revelation to John is not some futuristic horror story; it is about the here and now: The “here and now” for John, a time when Christians were suffering persecution, and “the here and now” for us, as we witness the unrest of our own time.
In the 13th chapter of The Revelation, we learn that in these last days two beats will appear. The Second Beast comes to earth to convince us to worship the First Beast. The Second Beast deceives us with great signs. In order to buy and sell, we must have the mark of the First Beast on our forehead. And that mark is 666.
There are many popular legends about that mark referring to a specific person in a specific time but evil is more calculating than that.
I’ve heard of another interpretation.
God gave us seven days. Six days for labor and one for rest and devotion to God. When we accept the deception of the Second Beast, we accept the mark of six. We get stuck on six. We never let go of the labor of buying and selling. We never get to the seventh day of rest and a focus on God. Through our own choices, we get spellbound by the deceptions of the Second Beast.
We are soaking in a cultural stew that never seems to stop buying and selling; dominating and getting.
Think of how often we see the mark of the beast in the Church. We bring that mark in when we put the business affairs of the institution before spiritual affairs. We bring the stain of that mark in when we put our resentments and demands before our ministry of reconciliation.
In Holy Baptism, we are ordained to a way of life. In that life there is no place for the Mark of the Beast. We make a commitment to strive each live each day toward the harmony of seven.
We reach the seventh day as we live out or Baptismal Covenant. We remain faithful to the Apostle’s teaching, the breaking of bread and the prayers; we work for impartiality and peace in our own hearts and all around us; we seek and serve Christ in all persons, and respect the dignity of every human being.
When we are primarily about these tasks the Mark of the Beast dissolves from our foreheads.
I find the line at the store a perfect place to vanquish the beast. When I am in a long line I can feel the tension. People are getting impatient. The clerk is feeling rushed. In the line I greet people; I make little jokes. I smile. I let people with less stuff than me go ahead in line. When I get to the clerk I greet them and say something nice. When they apologize for the wait I tell them that I am not in a hurry. The line relaxes. The clerk smiles and giggles. My hope, my mission is that everyone there has experienced a sense of reconciliation: a sense that it isn’t that bad and that today is going to be a good one.
Is this naïve? Is it simplistic? Yes it is. It is innocent, practical and effective. Imagine if everyone did simplistic things like this.
What I have done is interrupted our stress and frustration. To me this is the mission of the disciple of Jesus: to interrupt the frustration, stress, gloom and harshness of human life with the love of Christ. This is transformation. Every day, in every setting it is within our power to bring about reconciliation and love. It is within our power to erase the mark of the beast!
As Saint Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”(3:2-3)