16 Watch Over Your Life
16:1 Watch over your life, that your lamps are never quenched, and that your loins are never unloosed. Be ready, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
16:2 Come together often, seeking the things that are good for your souls. A life of faith will not profit you if you are not made perfect at the end of time.
16:3 For in the last days false prophets and corrupters will be plenty, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.
16:4 When lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another, and then the world-deceiver will appear claiming to be the Son of God, and he will do signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will do iniquitous things that have not been seen since the beginning of the world.
16:5 Then humankind will enter into the fire of trial, and many will be made to stumble and many will perish; but those who endure in their faith will be saved from under the curse itself.
16:6 And then the signs of the truth will appear: the first sign, an opening of the heavens; the second sign, the sounding of the trumpet; and the third sign, the resurrection of the dead—
16:7 not of every one, but as it is said: “Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”
16:8 Finally, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven' with power and great glory.”
In this final chapter from the Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve, the community emphasizes on the return of Jesus. As we’ve seen in our series on New Testament Eschatology (the study of last things), what has been misinterpreted as the end of the “world” has actually been about the end of the Jewish age (or “biblical judaism” as some scholars call it). That is, the end of the Temple, sacrifices, etc., from biblical times. The same thing is happening here. Since the Teaching is very early (possibly as early as 40CE), this warning about the “end” would fit quite well within the scope of the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE.
Notice, too, that some of the statements parallel those of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. And, as we’ve seen there, that chapter is clearly teaching about the destruction of the Temple and city.
And yet, while most of this chapter points to that event, there are still a couple of things that stand out. Notably, the first two verses. The Teaching suggests that we must “watch over [our lives].” I take this to mean we need to be intentional about what we do and how we act. We need to realize that each moment is the only moment we have. We must intend to be Christ in every moment.
This can be (and is) overwhelming, to say the least. In fact, it’s easier to say it than do it. Believe me, I know. But that’s why intention is so important. Sure we may fall and we might even make things worse than if we hadn’t done anything at all, but what was our intention? That’s the key. We must “watch over our lives” and capture each moment, as best we can, and determine to be Christ in them.
Second is the idea of community. The Didache states that we should, “Come together often. Seeking the things that are good for [our] souls.” This is so important. Too many of us today are prisoners in the soul. And this soulish prison spills out into our daily lives. Many of us don’t even know our neighbors. We come home from work and shut the door to our homes. We don’t want to be bothered by anyone and we don’t bother anyone. We want to be left to ourselves. And in doing so, we imprison ourselves behind our doors, in front of our televisions or computers.
But the Teaching is showing us the true path — one of interconnectedness, of interdependence, of connection. For us to grow, we must grow together. A tree can’t grow without the soil and the water and the sun and the seasons. A mighty oak can’t be a mighty oak without all of those things; it depends on them to survive and grow. Likewise, we can’t grow into the person of Christ our worlds need us to be unless we’re in community with others.
I recently heard Nadia Bolz-Weber say about the Creed (paraphrased), “No body believes every line of the creed. Who could? But that’s why you need community. Because in community, someone believes what you don’t believe and you believe what she doesn’t believe. And so, in community, the whole creed is believed.”
I was talking to a fellow priest once about the need for community and he told he a story about a lady who was coming to confirmation classes. When it came time for confirmation, she met with my friend privately. She said she wasn’t going to be confirmed. When my friend asked her why she said because she just couldn’t believe all of it. He said, “That’s perfectly fine. And if you feel you can’t be confirmed now, that’s fine, too. But promise me something? Keep coming to church so we can believe for you.” And she did.
Real community, the kind like the Didache talks about, is much deeper than most of us have today. We’re always being pulled in various directions — office duties, kids soccer games, community events, home repair work, visiting a sick friend or relative, and on and on. There’s little time for much else. But what the Teaching means by community is where we live and move and have our being. It’s an all inclusive type of thing. As we’ve noted before, it wasn’t just a Sunday gathering, their entire lives were lived together. Today, that type of community is all but a dream.
There are several intentional communities around the world — the Lindisfarne Community being one of them. The majority of us are spread around the world with people in Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US. Even in the US, for example, we have members scattered across the states — California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. But what ties us together is our community rule. We’re intentional about living out the rule wherever we are. And I suspect that the community who came up with the Didache would have felt the same way. That is, they were in community with each other no matter where they found themselves. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s very rare that one is called to life as a solitary. More times than not, we are called to serve in a community, to believe when others can’t, the stand when others fall, to be strong when others are weak. This type of life takes on a very scary way of being — transparency. Of letting the “real you” be seen. This can only happen when we’re in a place where we feel love and acceptance. There are places like this all over the world, my friends. May G_d the All-Loving guide you by the Spirit to find a community that can encourage you and strengthen you as you walk The Way of Jesus.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC