Forests firing, rivers flooding, earth quaking, famine spreading, wars coming, climate changing, refugees fleeing, rents rising, costs climbing, incomes dropping, oceans clogging, storms lashing, species dying. Homelessness on the increase, wounded souls self-medicating, wandering the streets in haze and rage.
Shopping for church renovation supplies I was surprised the person serving me knew about us. After some informative help selecting a ‘picture rail’ for our hall I was asked if I thought we were living in the “End Times”.
It was a serious question, perhaps from someone whose reading of the Book of Revelation was of a more literal perspective than mine. Where I read a polemic against the Roman Empire and its eventual come-uppance at the hands of God and Horsemen, my interrogator sees signs and portents of doom.
‘Are we,’ my questioner wanted to know, ‘at the end of our rope?’ Have we sunk so low in the estimation of our Creator that the wrath of God will descend upon the wicked and the world will reset?
My first response was that every generation has prophets of doom. Imagine the survivors of the Black Plague, or those left standing after the 1919 Influenza outbreaks. The remnants of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Hamburg, Coventry, London or Dresden after World War ll. To say nothing of Sarajevo, Mosul, Raqqa, the Gaza Strip, or a homeless encampment near you. What must the future look like from there?
Later, on the way back to church with 14 foot lengths of primed 1x3 spanning the mini-van, I considered our world. Creation – begun here some 4.5 billion years ago – has seen many species, many changes, many extinctions. Our Creator continues, the world turns around the sun, life goes on. If we are truly a resurrection people, secure in our place in creation and Creator then, surely, we will go on in God.
I’m not sure what our great failure as custodians of life will mean to that relationship, but trust that, in God, even the huge transgressions of human caused climate change and our ongoing willful ignorance of the plight of others will find forgiveness, grace and understanding. Even while we confront the consequences of our actions.
Still later, slapping paint on surfaces in the company of saints, I recalled a parable shared by Peter Rollins, of God’s great surprise when the raptured begin appearing. As the earth quakes and trembles, as the climate changes, as the hungry cry out for food, as refugees from war and pain and psychological wounds seek refuge on earth, folk arrive in heaven.
“What? What are they doing here?” God asks of Gabriel and Michael, who’ve gotten word from Peter of the expectant contingent at the gates. Hearing they’ve left earth with disaster close on their heels, God cries out to the angels to gather themselves up and get cracking.
“We’ve got to get there now! My children are in need!”
The newly arrived are left, says Rollins, to inherit an empty heaven. God and the Angels speed to earth to stand with those left behind.
I don’t know. I hope not. I hope there’s time for us to turn ourselves and our world around. To bind up the broken hearted, to heal creation, to tend to the living and care for those seeking refuge.
Paint the walls, renew the halls, restore the kitchen, replace the furnaces, redo the roofs. Secure the hearth, share the harvest. Renew the liturgy, raise voices in song and prayer. Hold fast to one another, be held in God.
Work on the side of the angels.
It’s a start.
Keith Simmonds is in ministry at Duncan United Church, where folk are engaged in seeking justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with the Creator. He blogs at keithsimmonds.ca.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Tiomes Colonist on Saturday, September 15th 2018.