When I was in high school, I worked for a year in a Christian bookstore. This store, which sold gift items and contemporary Christian music as well as books, attracted customers from all Christian traditions but certainly seemed to appeal more to the more evangelical and conservative parts of the church universal; a few years after I left, the “Left Behind” series of books was among their best sellers.
It was a transformative experience for this “cradle Anglican.” I remember clearly the day I was asked to help a customer find a book explaining how Mikhail Gorbachev was the Anti-Christ. I remember another day when a young woman came into the store in tears, convinced the world was about to end; she was pregnant and didn’t want her baby coming into the world in the midst of the chaos and war described in the apocalyptic literature in scripture. (I left that one to Emmy, the grandmotherly figure who was one of my co-workers!) Over and over, it seemed, our customers were consumed with this question: “Is it the End Times?”
I learned in my year at the Christian book store about the different ways languages and symbols can be used to talk about things so divine that they are always beyond our languages and symbols. I learned that these differences sometimes point to real disagreements of belief, but I also learned that very often they are simply different ways of saying the same kinds of things.
I have a colleague who last week was asked the same thing by a church member: “Is it the End Times?” Conquest and war and famine and death – the four horsemen of the apocalypse – seem to be very much at hand in these days. Yet, as my friend pointed out to her anxious parishioner, there truly has never been a time in human history on this planet that these ‘horsemen’ have not wreaked their havoc; it is perhaps simply our contemporary instant communications that have made us more aware of their presence in places around the globe. Understanding, as we do, that the word “apocalypse” means “revelation,” perhaps the more relevant question is what is being revealed in these days?
Any of us who have spent much time in the strange world of biblical apocalyptic literature will surely understand that what is revealed there is simple and profound: that in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of the chaos, in the midst of all of it, God in Christ is with us. God in Christ has overcome it all, and is overcoming it all, and will overcome it all.
As we approach the end of term, as many of us in the UTC/Dio community struggle with workload and illness, with worry about the state of the world or about our own lives, we might well understand the anxiety behind that question, “Is it the End Times?” My prayer for all of us is that we will be able to recall, to live into, to live out of, the truth of the apocalypse, that in the words of St Julian, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
This message was written by Heather McCance for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.