Saturday, May 21, 2011

What to do?

Well, the long awaited date is here. The "rapture" will not occur at 6:00pm tonight. The "Day of Judgment" has already come and we all have been found both guilty and pardoned. And the "end of the world" is not taking place on October 21st. The date-setting is part of each generation's arrogance, imagining that our catastrophes are the "worst ever" that our expressions of sin are the final expressions of sin, and that our interpretations of both the signs and the Scriptures are the same thing as truth itself.

The question lies before us: When 6:00pm arrives and the rapture does not come, what shall we do? Here are a few of my thoughts.

We've seen enormous wastes of time and energy on Harold Camping's mistaken and presumptuous prediction. I've skewered it mercilessly because I think phenomena like this make all of Christianity look like a collaboration of fools. And, perhaps I've spent too much time and energy countering this ridiculous notion as well. My real argument is this: The "end of the world" is not a static concept that is marked by a divine hourglass. It is a way of protesting the presumption that "this is how it is and things will never change." That certainly was what John of Patmos was arguing when he wrote the book of Revelation in protest of Rome's presumptive power. That is what biblical eschatology is - a way of seeing the end (as in 'end goal') of the world as being fulfilled in Christ.

So, what to do now? Now, we live as though the narrative that the world will never change is wrong. It is wrong to say that might makes right. It is wrong to say that human communities will ever be battling one another in war. It is wrong to say that the strongest survive, the weakest relent. And theologically, it is wrong to conscript God into this mess, by saying that God is on the side of the rich, the powerful, and the aggressive. That is the narrative of the world that eschatology protests.

What eschatology says is that the conquering "Lion" is the slaughtered "Lamb." When we look to see what the conquering Lion looks like, we see the slaughtered Lamb. God's power is made known in human weakness, God's "dominion" is made known through human service, and God's glory is made known in humility. Eschatology is the counter-narrative that what was revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is true. Any eschatology that poses the Hollywood movie script as Jesus' way of conquering is false. The incarnation was not a 33 year experiment that failed. It is God's way of salvation. THAT is what biblical eschatology is all about.

So, today, tomorrow, and the next day are the "Day of Judgment," where human arrogance is judged and found wanting. But eschatology is ultimately a way of seeing salvation, not judgment. And God's way of salvation is still the way of service, of offering a cup of water to the thirsting, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless. Do this, and we will be serving the risen Christ himself.

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