11-11-19 - EOTWAWKI

(You can listen to this reflection here. This Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

O goody – this week we get end-of the-world texts – you know an REM link is coming, when you least expect it. Each fall, as if to match the gathering gloom of shortening days, our lectionary begins to drag some scary stories out of our ancestral closet. There is history here – once upon a time, Advent was much more focused on prophetic doom and gloom than it is now, and it lasted eight weeks, not four.

This week’s conversation starts casually, as some of Jesus’ followers admire the temple and its adornments. Jesus responds bluntly: "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." We the readers know that in 70 CE the Romans did in fact destroy the temple. But to Jesus' companions this pronouncement would have been shocking. And, like most of us when we hear that something horrible is likely to happen, they want to know when will it be, and how will they know it is here.

Jesus’ answer is cryptic: "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.” He suggests that some will try to gain a following by issuing dire predictions about the end of the world – remember a few years ago, when the world was going to end on May 21?

Why do people fall for this? Maybe because it is natural to fear what we cannot control, and it’s hard to get bigger in the “you cannot control this” department than the end of the world as we know it. The end of THE world becomes a stand-in for our anxiety about the end of our worlds – which actually comes with some frequency, with wars and famines and pandemics; infidelities, accidents and job losses; diagnoses and mega-storms and losses of all sorts. No one knows this better than the veterans we celebrate today.

What are you most afraid of losing? Can you name that fear, and sit with it, inviting Jesus to join you in your imagination? What might he do with it? How might you invite his perfect love to transform that fear into something you can use?

It is true that our worlds are always ending. But that’s not the whole story - new life is always being born as well, sometimes in the ashes of the old world. God is in the business of making all things new – can’t help himself. Our job is to be open to new life wherever we find it.

(I’m going to wait on REM, but here’s a link to a fun song by a duo I like very much, Goodnight Moonshine. The song is “End of the World Blues,” and you can find it about 15.55 minutes into this concert on YouTube. And listen to the rest!)

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