Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Apocalypse Now

When the Man of Heaven comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
I was struck by the imagery of this scene, reading it again the other day. Usually we rush to the end, to the results of the judgment. But look at the scene a moment, at the display of power it represents. "He will sit on his glorious throne," and then, as kings used to do, "hold court." And what happens in court, except that judgments are made; divisions, decisions, final orders are executed. Higher than the king one cannot go, so these decisions determine circumstances for all eternity. And the king gathers before him not just his subjects, but "all the nations," which is to say all people on earth. And then the king separates them, in an image we might imagine goes back to David the boy shepherd made king by Samuel, but it's really that rustic image again, that earthly picture of a laborer and an social outcast placed at the center of the world. It's an image that almost throws the whole royal court scene into chaos.

This is an apocalyptic vision, a revelation of how it will finally be, and how justice will finally be done. It is as connected to Advent as it is to the last Sunday of Pentecost. The king will come and reign like a shepherd. And the decisions will be final, and will depend entirely on how we lived. And this is also what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Surely the people are grass.

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