The Gospel lessons for the first Sunday in Advent have apocalyptic themes and in preparation for preaching I wandered around the internet to experience some of what people are writing about the chaos that is and is to come. I couldn’t disconnect fast enough … and was strangely drawn to more.
The movie 2012 was as good a place to start as any, which soon led me to www.december212012.com. Talk about dusting off all sorts of familiar themes. In the mid-late 1980’s, I had an employer who started to talk about polar shifts and coming disasters. He and another staff member quit their jobs, bought a farm in Iowa, equipped it for the coming catastrophe, and taught seminars about surviving the coming apocalypse. He died never seeing the events he anticipated. This website collects disparate “predictions” and pulls them all together. I’m a reasonable person, and I found myself starting to think about steps to survive the coming disaster. (Prudent preparation makes sense and I have some emergency response items already stockpiled … more for our frequent power outages than anything else.)
I read about graffiti on the bathroom wall in a High School. “It sucks to be in the class of 2013 … what’s the point?” (Referring to the “end of the world” in 2012.)
I encountered the Psalm 109:8 “prayer for President Obama” movement. In case you haven’t heard about this one, people are encouraged to pray “for” President Obama using Psalm 109:8 “May his days be few; may another seize his position.” Plenty has been written in outrage about this prayer, especially in light of the verses which follow: “May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit. May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children. May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation.” I don’t believe that’s what Jesus meant when he instructed us to “pray for your enemies”.
From there my wandering spun completely out of control, and I felt like I was in a dark alley, late at night, ready to be mugged. I got out of there as fast as I could.
Don’t people get that apocalyptic literature is a word of hope? Oh, that’s right, if we are Biblical literalists then these are predictions of actual events rather than poetic imagry to describe a world that seems stacked against us! The way I read Luke 21:25-36 gives me encouragement. By listening to and following Christ, I don’t have to wring my hands at the sexually-charged singing/dancing of Adam Lambert, or drag myself into a survivalist camp armed to the teeth against the world. God’s purposes will be fulfilled even in the face of those things which seem opposed to God. In Christ’s power, we will live an alternative reality that flows alongside chaos. The good news is that even though it seems as though evil wins … it cannot. That theme is persistent in Luke/Acts. Why, I think that it makes a lot of sense to invite people I care about into that same alternative reality.
Take a breath folks. Christ is alive. Now, let’s get busy living the alternative reality feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, and giving drink to the thirsty.