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Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven, just not Today

The latest news of revolution from the Middle East combined with the latest natural disaster and the spate of end of the world predictions make it very hard to pretend that we in the North/West will be immune from change. The evidence comes from a multitude of sources and includes many symptoms – technology, politics, economics, sociology and, of course, religion.

May 21, 2011 is one of the most recent dates set for Judgment Day (not the Schwarzenegger Terminator movie). Others claim Mayan and Hopi Indian traditions predict December 21, 2012. Besides the calculations supposedly based on biblical interpretation are those various other “scientific” clocks that estimate how close the end.

Many in The United Church of Canada have been dancing to the two beat rhythm of decline and dysfunction for a number of decades. Both statistical trends and anecdotal evidence are cited.

Realistically I suppose we shall have to wait and see. The predictions do raise the interesting question though of what to do in the meantime.

This is not a new dilemma for Christians. Early on, when the return of Christ was expected any hour, if not day, the responses varied from Load up the MasterCard (since we won’t have to pay it off any way!) to movements of rigorous self-reflection, discipline and confession, in order to be found worthy.

Though it can sound fanciful the question is actually very real and practical. As a pastor, I sometimes encounter it with people who have faced serious illness, perhaps even death. Do they “eat, drink and be merry” – because after all life is short anyway – or do they radically change their life, eating well, exercising and smelling the roses, in whatever form?

Ric Elias, in a TED talk, recounts 3 things he learned when his plane crashed into the Hudson River. Included in the three was the decision to collect only bad wine, since all good things would be gratefully received and enjoyed, not postponed.

Somewhere in this mix though comes the Christian value of service. Matthew 16:25 – “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” I suppose the truth of this holds, whatever the timeline.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Keith.
    I keep thinking about where is the hope in the stats.
    And I am particularly concerned that as we baby-boomers age, we don’t create a a climate of doom; a climate of the “best (of the world) is in the past;” for our children.
    It is time for our generation to make room for hope for our children.

    1. Thanks David. I agree it is time to open up the space. It will not be as simple as leaving long held positions; i think it will also involve advocating and championing new forms of ministry and supporting people as they move with congregations through this strange transition time.

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