The REM song, which goes, "it's the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine....." is running through my head this morning. This has been caused by our reading from Luke where Jesus is continuing (from Saturday) his prophesies about the end of Jerusalem and the world, announcing the coming of the Son of Man "in a cloud with power and great glory". I am either going to have to listen to the entirety of the song soon (to try to chase it from my mind) or listen to something else, as this kind of repeated refrain dominating the back of my mind tends to drive me a bit nuts.
But both this song and Jesus' words have got me thinking. This passage, and others like them, are ones that many people have taken literally. Much hurt and heartache, and deaths, can be drawn right back to these verses. Most of the early, and first, Christians believed Jesus was going to be coming again in judgement during their lifetimes. But what if Jesus was talking to the ages in a vast metaphor when he was describing these cataclysmic events? So much of what he says is not literal, but is metaphor. Literal is so much easier to understand (and manipulate people with) while metaphor takes a lot more work to synthesis.
Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.....and beyond. He knows he is walking to his great Passion....his suffering, trial, death by execution.....and his resurrection and ascension. He knows that he is living in his end times, in his last days. And what if Jesus is saying, with these graphic metaphors, that no matter how much crap we may have to face in our life, he has been there before, has walked through it, suffered it and has come out the other side, triumphant. Different than he was and still present for us to lean on. Perhaps he is saying that no matter how dark our depression may be, no matter how dim our hopes may be, no matter how lonely we may feel, no matter how inappropriately me may believe we have acted, no matter what.... Jesus is there for us....is here for us......that we are never alone, no matter how much we may have convinced ourselves that we are. All we need do is "stand up and raise (y)our heads, because (y)our redemption is drawing near."
Jesus is fessing up that life can really suck sometimes. He is saying he not only knows it from personal experience and from what he has seen and witnessed, but because of what he is voluntarily walking toward. He is fessing up that we can bear these crosses, not only because he already has, but because he is walking with us, and that when we come to that other side of the crap, we will be different, evolved, more mature and confident and better than we ever thought possible as we live in and into this kingdom Jesus opens and invites us into joining.
This Monday of the 2nd week of Advent, this time of patient waiting and self-examination and readying for apocalyptic change, these readings from Luke about end times can help us better prepare for the gift that we celebrate 19 days from today.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.