Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The end of the world is nigh

The Bible readings at Morning Prayer this week are concerned with surviving the end of the world.

The Old Testament readings are working their way through the account, in Genesis, of the Great Flood, an account of devastation and new beginning.

The Gospel readings are from Matthew 24, where Jesus draws on the apocalyptic imagination of the prophet Daniel (paying special attention to Daniel chapter 7) to speak about a time of disaster which will be followed by the revealing of the Son of Man.

Though some take this to predict the future End of the World, apocalypse is concerned with making sense of events we live through in history; and Daniel’s Son of Man functions as a representative for a faithful remnant community, understood to be accused before God through the actions of Gentile empires, but, surprisingly, vindicated by God.

In Matthew 24, the primary and imminent event Jesus sees coming over the horizon is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans — this took place in AD 70 — and the subsequent emergence of a new form of Judaism, not dependent on a rebuilding of the Temple and a return to its daily rounds of ritual sacrifice. And — though Jesus might not have had this in mind — the divergence of his followers from Judaism.

Of course, in a secondary sense, this continues to speak. Indeed, the Bible, from beginning to end, is concerned with the forming of communities that can survive, in a new form, the inevitable end of the world as they have known it. And not only survive, but thrive.

And the end of the world takes place over and over and over again. For those who experience divorce, or the death of a family member. For communities destroyed by bush fire or flood, famine, or reduced to rubble by missiles in times of war.

There is no guarantee of given individuals surviving the end of the world. Others survive, but fail to thrive. Yet here is a long, tried-and-tested resource, testimony to God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness in a world that, for a host of reasons in complex interaction, is unpredictable.

If you are living through the end of the world right now, may you know the goodness of God, and the adaptable robustness of God’s people.

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