a biblical reflection, based on Luke 21.25-36, for the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015
Apocalypse. From the Greek, apokálypsis. Literally, “lifting the veil” to reveal something hidden, usually regarding the end of time.
Apocalyptic language – “signs in sun, moon, and stars, earthly distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves, and people fainting in fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for heavenly powers will be shaken” – sounds strange. Is strange. Unless, I think…
One lives in a strife-riven land where, sorrowfully, terror is an experience well-known and daily expected…
Or one cleaves to some notion of millennialism, seeking to discern the signs of the coming final judgment…
Or one ascribes to an ancient Jewish view of history and cosmology that there is this present transient age and God’s everlasting reign, between which shall come the Day of the Lord filled with violent upheaval, the celestial birth pangs of the coming of that next, eternal age.
My hunch is that most Americans don’t believe much (any?) of this. Even if we did, I doubt we’d look forward to fainting in fear at the sight of darkened skies, the sound of tempestuous seas, and the news of distressed and confused nations.
There’s another reason apocalyptic language doesn’t register on the top 10 list of favorite things. Beneath the words, beyond the imagery stands, lurks a transcendent deity. Distant and dispassionate. Unreachable, unapproachable, and ultimately unknowable. Perhaps unlikable. A deity who is the author of good and who, apparently, from what we can observe throughout human history unto this very day, allows evil. A deity who, given all that we know of life in this world, hasn’t done all that well with this age. So, why trust what this same deity intends for the next?
Perhaps we shouldn’t. Still, as I reflect on these words of Jesus, their very existence, at the very least, suggests that they mattered, made sense to someone, somewhere, at some time. Who?
Illustration: storm, free-hand drawing