In 1984 my college friend and I buried a Twinkie in the ground outside our dorm. At the height of the nuclear arms race period of our country’s history, pondering what would survive a nuclear holocaust, we’d heard it would be cockroaches and Twinkies. And if we survived we’d glow in the dark. Perhaps Twinkies contained so many preservatives they were indestructible. At year end, it was still there-untouched. Yet this past week the company that makes Twinkies announced its closing, apparently not as indestructible. For those who believe the Mayan calendar prediction that the end of the world is in less than a month, perhaps the death of the Twinkie is a sign. Who could imagine a world without Twinkies?
The obsession with the fate of the Twinkie is perhaps a joking way to talk about our fears amidst turmoil and uncertainty engulfing us. Are we really on the eve of the Apocalypse, the end as we know it? And if so when? It’s the question of centuries. Lots of energy spent trying to be prepared or to master interpreting events, or lining up world events with the words in the Bible. This week we face looming fear of dangerous military action in the Gaza Strip in Israel, and the flood of cash to either Israel or the Palestinians. Many world economies teeter on disaster, with riots throughout parts of Europe, and our own incessant nattering about whether there will be a fall off of the fiscal cliff, and if so, how far? Or is it really only a slope? Will we bounce back or be stuck in the pit?
Many parts of the world are in the grip of famine and drought, and the massive use of antibiotics in our food supply is rapidly rendering us incapable of fighting off infections. What about superbugs and superstorms? Are these the signs of the Apocalypse? Plenty to be afraid of as we wonder if this is the time of anguish such as we have never seen, or the beginning of the birth pangs. My Twinkie experiment aside, plenty of people worry about stockpiling money for economic collapse, the rest of the world be damned, and others who worry they will be found inadequate, allowing themselves to be convinced to send money to assure salvation, or to buy the set of books and DVDs that will help them prepare for the end while their clueless neighbors will be swept away. Hurry before it’s too late! Because “When” might be “now.” If we only knew…
Is this REALLY how we see our God??? Maybe the better conversation is not about when, but who. Who is our God? This may offer the best way to think about what it all means.
Next Sunday we again declare Christ is the ruler of all. The ruler whose apocalypse is coming. And for the record, “Apocalypse” is not a term about butt-kicking Jesus, it means “unveiling” or “revealing.”
We’re waiting for the fullest revealing of God. While this may be horrific to those who would prefer to sacrifice us to their needs, and fear inducing to those who prefer domination and unrest, it is for them that the anguish comes.
What’s being revealed to us is not horrific tests of our loyalty but a loving God who says that offering up the same sacrifices and anxieties every day doesn’t change a thing.
That's actually good news. The good news is that we are not the authors of how God sees us. Jesus the Christ is.
While we live in a world that even today would scapegoat and kill such a Savior, the depth of the love of God is greater. So we can stop being consumers of worry and fear, and drink in this love of a God who promises to be a refuge and a protector and the light stronger than the darkness. This is God. And this is the light we can reflect. Just like we will experience when we light those candles we will hold on Christmas Eve and we sing of our Savior.
Still many will run after other sources of security and have their troubles multiplied. But even in the darkest of times, in all of the dark nights of our souls, Christ is our light, ready to guide us and teach us, and remind us. Follow me. Don’t be afraid. God’s ongoing message to us.
There’s a path of life, and joy and a promise of forever even in the storms and beyond. This is what we can share- there’s refuge from the storms of this age, and a light to warm and guide us here. Even when it seems that such a way and such a promise cannot possibly be so. Hold onto the light and bear it here and wherever we go. To all the others in our world who long for it. And while today's moments matter, there’s more to God’s story.
This week as the world’s drama unfolded, closer to home a young person struggled with feelings of ending a life, and a mother discovered her child beaten by a gang.
But a mom from our afterschool program told me she has passed her GED tests and thanked me for the prayer, because the day before the fear was fierce. Still little glimmers of glowing light in the darkness. And so it goes.
The writer Edith Wharton once wrote there are two ways of spreading light- to be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it. We are blessed to be claimed by the light of a God who assures us that in all that seems uncertain, God’s love and will for us is certain. And that in the face of all of our fears we have this light. A light that we can reflect in the midst of our darkness.
Today I’m wearing that stole I told you my friend Julius wanted me to have. As he gave me the stole he shared with me the back story- that his father had tried to stop a time of great division in part of the church, heartbroken when factions would rather fight than even pray together. At the height of the conflict when the very world he had dedicated his life to was crumbling, when relationships were broken and turmoil was everywhere, he preached a sermon calling people to give thanks and bless God even though these thoughts seemed impossible.
We listened to the tape of his words-
Bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits. The church and the world, though flawed in our hands, are a gift from God, like God’s holy word in Scripture. It was a beautiful and moving sermon- you could imagine the light and hope in the storm. But it came from a man who was 87 and blind. He couldn’t even see the light anymore yet he reminded, encouraged and even provoked people to believe that God’s vision is bigger and beyond this time. Hold fast to the light of the Word, because God is faithful. All the more so when it seems that there’s little to hold onto.
In a moment we’ll sing our hymn for this day- right now, I invite you to listen as we pray some of its words- for all the places in our lives that feel just like the stories we heard in Scripture, places of longing and fear. Places where we need to see Jesus. Places where our world needs Jesus.
Lord, the light of your love is shining, in the midst of our darkness, shining. Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us, set us free by the truth you now bring us. Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire. Flow rivers flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy, send forth your Word, Lord and let there be light!