Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What about the end of the world? - Kurt Nelson

Kurt Nelson
Mark 13: 28-37
Rollins Chapel, 12.01.10
"What about the end of the world?"

Richard and I each wrote a brief reflection on the end of the world.
His will come soon.

We’ve entered, for the next four weeks,
the season of advent.
And at least for those of us who care to think about such things,
it’s a liturgical season which calls us to wait,
to watch,
to keep awake.

But in real life,
it’s a season too full of too many important things to spend much time waiting
and watching.
We have finals, of course.
And year-end paper work.
We have plans to make,
gifts to buy,
economies to bolster.
Many of us will travel,
see family,
and, I hope, get some much-deserved rest.

Besides, we know this Christmas story by heart.
So what do we have to keep awake for?
A baby is born.
He turns out to be a great guy,
and a great ethical teacher, and spiritual leader.
And, for some reason,
he wanted us to give gifts to each other,
and cut down evergreen trees,
and put colorful lights on them,
and stand around in the cold sipping hot chocolate,
listening to the Glee Club sing about reindeer and snowmen.

But advent points us not only to Christmas,
and all the weird stuff that now surrounds us,
but also points to the end.
Because though it may be embarrassing,
or confusing,
we simply can’t ignore the fact,
that a significant portion of Jesus’ message,
was about the coming Kingdom of God,
about the end of the world.
He reminded anyone who cared to listen,
and probably more than a few who didn’t,
that we are living toward something.
Something big and important, and world-changing.
And so each advent season,
we are encourage to ponder,
how we are still in a state of waiting.
To ponder the simple,
and perhaps terrifying notion,
that the world will not always be the way it is.
And that we know not the day nor the hour.
Indeed, even Jesus himself seemed a bit confused,
suggesting the world would end before the passing of a generation.
He may have been misunderstood,
or mistranslated,
but there it is.
Important, and confusing.
A time of, "Already, but not yet."

Now most often,
I think,
this notion of the end of the world,
is used to frighten.
There's a whole sub-genre of Christian literature and film,
depicting in terrifying detail those who are left behind,
when the judgment comes.
Seeking to effect, it would seem, some kind of conversion.
But we are smart around here.
We know, I hope,
that we are not ready.
And that nothing we can do,
no prayer we can pray,
or tithe we can tithe will make us ready,
save for grace.
The point is not fear,
the point is to live.
And to live as if we're living toward something.
Because whether it's our own lives,
or indeed the end of the world itself.
It will not always be this way.
And rather than fear,
I suspect that's meant to leave us with purpose and clarity.
Life and the world aren’t endless.
And so our call isn’t to make plans,
for the right connections, for the lucrative job,
and the big house, car, and mortgage,
so that one day we might retire happy.
Rather, I think,
we’re meant to do what we believe is good, and right and important.
Guided always by love of God and love of neighbor.
Living toward an end,
which I hope, and pray, and have faith,
will be far more full of grace and love and mercy,
than of fear, and despair.

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