Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's NOT the End of the World

After the second service this morning, someone came up to me and said, "I didn't think you'd be here this morning."  I found this a singularly puzzling statement; I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she thought I wouldn't be in church.  (I'm on vacation now, but did she think I was on vacation last week, too?)

It finally occurred to me:  the Rapture.

Though it has been on my mind here and there for the last couple of weeks or so, by this morning I was so totally over the presumed Rapture that I wasn't thinking about it at all.  Instead, I was thinking about my children's sermon (would I find some kind of blocks to use, or not?), the installation of the call committee, the reception of new members, the fact that Confirmation was last week, and Sunday School ended last week, and so the crowds have already thinned out a little.  I was thinking about the list in the back of my mind of things that I needed to do before I could leave town this afternoon.  I was thinking about presiding and preaching and making sure both services were lively and meaningful and that I could still stand up afterwards.

Oh yeah, the rapture.

So, there were no references to the rapture in my sermon, no prayers, and no little jokes about how we're all still here.  (though I heard that at my husband's church, the youth director preached, and he mused, "what if we were all still here, and all the people at all the other churches are gone?")

Me and the end of the world:  we go way back, at least to the 8th grade, when my dad first read the book The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsay.  I also read, or at least skimmed, the book at that time.  I remember as an 8th grader, that I was adamantly opposed to the end of the world.  At thirteen, there were rough spots in my life, but, hey!,  I had a future, and nobody was going to tell me otherwise.

So I've never been attracted to "end of the world coming soon" theology.  Ever.  Even in my most fervent, college-era, tongue-speaking, charismatic era, I was agnostic about the rapture.  And I had read enough (Lutherans had published a rebuttal to Hal Lindsay called The Future of the Great Planet Earth) that I had becoming a dedicated amillenialist.

I have to say, however, that while I'm not looking forward to the end of the world,  excited to be raptured or worried about being left behind, I do think there's something to be said for living expectantly.  Perhaps my hope and expectation is somewhat different than that of the ones looking forward to the rapture.  But I do confess and expect the reign of Christ, a time of justice and abundance on earth, a time when there will be no more crying and no more pain, where the lamb will be the light.  So much as those rapturists who thought May 21st would be the day, I expect a new world, and I have to say, from the outside this hope seems every bit as foolish as the hope of the followers of Harold Camping.

 It's also true that I get so distracted by things like:  the installation of the call committee, finding some blocks for the children's message, calling the pianist with next week's songs, that I lose sight of the things I really hope for, and the signs of Christ's coming, and Christ's presence right now.

So, May 21st has come and gone.  So what?  As for you, what do you hope for?  We do not know the day or the hour, it's true, but I hope we are ready, all ready, to catch a glimpse of him when he comes.

Every day.  And in the end


Fran said...

Oh Diane, thank you as always!

You are still here, as I imagined we all would be, thanks be to God.

The fact that you were not thinking about it at all speaks volumes about you... good volumes.

And I love the phrase "agnostic about the rapture." Plus I learned a new word - amillenialist!

Thanks Diane and God bless you always.

Lindy said...

I think the whole rapture thing was very good for me. It reminded me to be expectant, not that Jesus might come back in billowing clouds of glory, but that he might be around the corner, or even hiding in uncomfortable places.