Mark chapter 13, verses 24-32
A few years ago, a friend of mine died. He had been a parishioner for many years. He was one of those people who was always there when I needed him. Gentle ...gentle ...is the first word that comes to mind when I think of him. Gentle, considerate, self-effacing, available. In time he and his wife and children moved to another city and we gradually lost touch.
Now he is dead. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. Jesus said that. Everyone and every thing is moving inexorably toward an end. Like my friend, I too will pass away. So will each one of you, as will this institution cherished by so many of you. But not God ...not His Word ...not truth ...not goodness.
We are coming to the end of a church year ...but there will be another. Recently we came to the end of a millennium ...but there will be another and then again ...maybe there won't. Maybe the final curtain will come down in preparation for an entirely new scene. Who knows? Only God.
Is this a discouraging thought? Are endings, of their very nature always depressing ? The end of a book. The end of a song. The end of childhood. The end of a life. The end of the world. Are we haunted by endings? Is that why we want happy endings in our fiction? Are beginnings positive and endings negative? Birth positive, death negative? Side by side in the newspaper columns ...one happy and one sad?
Here in this sanctuary attuned to the Word and Will of God I can and do rejoice in my friend's union with God and all the Saints. I accept death as being yet another birth. But outside these walls in the desacrilized secular world of which I am part and parcel, I am more apt to see death as a personal threat and a destroyer of happiness. I think most of us live this schizophrenic existence. We concentrate on the negative most of the time except on Sunday when we focus on hope for a short while. But for the most part we seem more at home with the negative.
Even when we read the gospel for example in Mark 13: 24-32, which images have the greater impact ? The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars from heaven ...or Jesus the prince of peace surrounded by an angelic choir and coming in glory? I'll bet that its the former ...the so called doomsday scenario. That is what grabs our attention and stimulates our imagination. And yet throughout sacred scripture the dark and scary parts serve one purpose. They point us in the direction of the immensity of God's light. Since the gospels are our story too ...we can assume that the negative aspects of our existence also point to that same immensity.
The problem most of us have is that we are more comfortable with tangible evil against which we can pit ourselves with all of our considerable energy and scientific talent ...more than we are with a loving God who is totally beyond our ability to comprehend, much less confront. God's immensity makes us uncomfortable. In other words the notion of God is often a source of anxiety ...we are never sure that we really believe in Him the same way we believe in death or famine or hatred or deception or greed. We can't get a handle on God. The suggestion of an infinite loving being leaves us staring into space.
But consider the alternative. Consider a creatorless, Godless universe whose origin is but a series of explosions and mutations wherein all that is beautiful, orderly, loving and generous is accidental, mindless and without purpose or design. Does such a concept better reflect our experience of life ...of each other??? Surely not! If you agree then you believe in God! You see, just because you cannot imagine God does not mean you don't believe.
Believing is simply saying "yes" to the spirit of truth and wisdom within you ..."yes" to your experience ...to endings of all kinds because none of them is "the" end. There is no such thing as "the end." Except in fairy tales.