At least once a week I participate in a conversation about the end of the world. For anyone who does not know, I am a chaplain at a state psychiatric hospital, and the conversation is common. Usually, my part is simply to listen as a patient tells me the clear signs that God is bringing about the end as predicted in the Bible. With floods, droughts, earthquakes, war, and a variety of pestilents, I can see why some would say the world is ending. This week, with the monstrous Sandy having blown down or flooded much of the eastern seaboard, more wild theories of Armageddon came my way than usual.
I do my best during these conversations to offer reassurance that the world is not ending. I agree that the weather has gotten frighteningly bizarre and war does seem endless, but these things do not mean that we are living in the End Times. Patients who are experiencing an increase in their religiosity due to illness aren’t easily persuaded that I am correct. I try to say that it might be the end of the world as we know it (complete with the R.E.M. song playing in my head), but my patients don’t really believe this either. My last option is usually to say, “If the world really is ending, what can you do?” The conversation then usually moves to focus on salvation (which I will save for another post).
Again, I will state that I do not believe that God is bringing about the end of the world. However, I do think the planet and its freaky weather are communicating that the end of something is potentially at hand. My “what can you do” question is relevant here, for sure. We cannot undo events of the past on any level, but we can do something that will impact our future. And we have some control over the direction of change.
In light of this week’s storm, I can’t help but hear this week’s scriptures as a challenge to live differently as individuals, communities, and countries, as human beings on this planet. Ruth’s proclamation to Naomi is passionate and powerful. What would happen if we put our whole selves into our significant relationships the way Ruth committed herself to her mother-in-law?
Now add to these the words of the Shema, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” What would happen if we put our whole selves into our relationship with God?
If this is not enough to get us thinking about how we are living in this world, add in Jesus’ addition to loving the Lord that, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What would happen if we cared for our neighbors exactly as we care for ourselves?
These are just a few thoughts to ponder in the aftermath of Sandy as we move closer to the elections. Whatever you do between now and next week, please vote and think about which candidate will more likely live out the answers to these questions in a world-changing way.
RCL – Year B – The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – November 4, 2012
(photo credit: http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/)