Apocalypse When

I am not a prophet to predict the end of the world; the Lord will return when it is time. That doesn’t mean there are no hard times ahead; there have always been hard times. We don’t need a 2012scenario for circumstances to get more than difficult. Throughout recent history people who were comfortably complacent found themselves out on the byways, looking for a meal and a pair of shoes. War, weather, geological conditions, politics, fire, religious conflict – anything can happen, and the cozy suburban home is no better than a dank cave, or it’s gone. Burned, confiscated, repossessed, overrun, wiped out.

That should brighten your day. But how can we be prepared if the bad times overwhelm us? Who can stand alone against the darkness?

No one can.

There’s always the survivalist scenario, where a family or very small group hoards and saves, with dried food, seeds, and stock animals enough for three years, deep within a remote gated compound, surrounded by their weapons. They will be a little nation unto themselves, and they will survive. At least until someone bigger, badder and with armament enough to blow them away comes along. Maybe he’ll let them stay on as slaves. Probably not. The biggest baddest guys will not bother stockpiling anything but weapons, and they will spot the family compound from the air, and come clear it out like an anthill.

I’ve heard that scenario so many times. I’m from the isolated North; there’s always some urban refugees burned out on traffic and crime trying to homestead. They convince themselves that they could defend themselves against the potential enemy, but since some of them seem to have trouble dealing with skunks and raccoons, that’s not likely.

To prepare for the potential disaster, we will have to do it together. And we will have to start now, by forming lasting Christian communities that can network and support each other. We will have to be people of peace, and people willing to sacrifice. In simple words, we will have to be the new apostolic church. Instead of fearing and repelling outsiders, we will have to start learning to take them in, to see what it is we do to care for each other. So we will have to make some real effort to care for each other, and get into practice.

I don’t care what denomination or tradition we are in; it can’t matter. We can’t be concerned about polity, power, or the fine points of ritual. The most important concern will be to love each other as Christ first loved us. That means feeding each other, healing each other, carrying each other. It will mean caring for the unbeliever as well as our own faith group. That’s what the apostolic church taught us two millenia ago. It was how they survived.

How do we get started though? I say put down your weapons. Literally, if necessary. (Shame on Christians who pack weapons! Did Jesus do that? No, and don’t give me the sword argument. He meant the scripture and the faith, not steel.) We also need to put down our weapons of rhetoric. Time to stop the arguing, and get to work, because the dam may burst any minute. Time to move to higher ground, and if we can do that in some organized, purposeful way instead of scrambling like scared deer, that would be good.

It is time to rebuild our communities instead of repairing our church buildings. Shore up the walls, slap on a coat of paint, and stop worrying about sound systems, projector screens, and Power Point. The power of the unamplified human voice, backed by faith, scripture and the Holy Spirit was all the Church needed for all its history.

Plant gardens. Open a food bank. Set up a clothing exchange. Organize a daycare centre. Hire a parish nurse. Take meals to the housebound. Build a homeless shelter and a group house for the disabled. We will need all these people if the world as we know it collapses. We will need to have structures of caring and giving in place.

I don’t think this is difficult. I don’t think it is expensive. We need to get our priorities straight.

We will need to free up some money, whether it is redirected income or invested capital. We need to invest our money and energy in people, not in things. maybe the national churches should liquidate assets, pay off ministers’ student loans, and then cut their salaries. (Oh, that would iconoclastic, wouldn’t it?) Maybe parishes and churches should plant gardens on every rectory lawn, to feed the clergy and the poor. Maybe church members should stop buying new cars and taking travel vacations in order to contribute to the real work of the church.

If we don’t start building community now, it will be too late if the crash comes. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that.

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7 thoughts on “Apocalypse When

  1. Magdelaina,

    your call to action, your call to genuine, organic, timeless Christian community is breathtaking and profound in its scope and vision! Oh God help us, we have all (I included) strayed so incredibly far from the teachings, mission and body of Christ it is staggering! i too am absolutely 100% guilty of this grave error!

    My goodness, I look at my parish, denominational splits, blindingly searing rhetoric on the net and from the pulpit, from all sides about who is right and who is wrong, who is truly able to be saved, and who is wantonly lost to the eternal flames because they will not yield on lifestyle, according to those that know, according to those adhering faithfully to the scriptures and think, what are they doing? what is being done? What am I doing?

    Your call to action IS the apostolic church (and they did what they did under persecution that has not been seen in most of the world for centuries (the old Soviet Union, Eastern Block, China, North Korea and parts of the Middle East notwithstanding). i hear Benedict’s call for preservation and outreach loud and clear!! The monestries weren’t escapist, survivalist compounds, they were repositories of and for the faith, the faithful and the communities that grew around them. They were the providers of outreach to the sick, the poor, the marginalized in their communities and were often set up deliberately in parts of the land where the faith was either non existant or tenuous at best. And people were drawn to them – for spiritual as well as temporal uplift.

    The survivalist mentality i have seen exhibited far too often by modest headcovering Christians who should know better will come crashing down upon their own heads, as you’ve so aptly mentioned, if they will not be a beacon of hope to those around them. Where do you sit upon the ‘food chain’ people? as an urbanite with a significant disability who can cook, spin, but in the urban environment cannot even begin to support myself or my husband completely on what we can grow, I do not worry about what will happen in the event that the system fails, for our Heavenly Father has promised His children that our food and water will be assured in those terrible days. I will do what I can, give what i can, of my experience and provision, meager though it may be, my guide dog and I, and husband (he is a good deal older than I). I think it is not coincidental that the name of my new guide, who has been with me for just over a fortnight (we completed our domescillary training this Tuesday past) is Aaron.

    How often do we exhibit true Godly love and giving to those around us, not just those of our denomination and theological pursuation, but others of difering theologies, or those of no faith at all? I have a dear friend. he is gay. He has endured a three hour sermon from a Christian relative recently upon the ills of his way of life, his resistance and refusal to change, his error in believing that it was not choice, but pre-determined physiology or neurology that has led to his present ‘situation’. Though i am deeply grieved by the self destructive element in how this has played out in his life over the years, and have prayed for God’s will to be truly known, for him to discover Jesus Christ first and foremost, though others would see my relationship with him as tacit acceptance of his ‘lifestyle’ (a term I detest, as it happens) and open betrayal of God’s truth, how can I not remain in friendship with him? Regardless of the book of Leviticus, the book of Deuteronomy, Paul’s letter to the Romans and several other scriptural references, I cannot but continue to love him first, treating him as a human being, with all the dignity and tenderness that each and every fellow human being deserves, regardless of who they are. are we all not faulty, broken, finite beings in the sight of God reconciled only by the shed blood of our Lord and Saviour jesus Christ? humankind regardless of the fall, has still been created in the likeness and image of god. When I stand before this man, I see him as a fellow human being made to the exact same design specifications, by the same creater as I. yes, he is an unbeliever, but he is still my ‘brother’. and Romans 25: 34-40, along with the book of James in its entirety still stands.

    How many denominations and supposed restoration, counter –revolutionary, visionary Christian movements (especially in North America) as you have mentioned in reply to a previous comment of mine, deliberately disregard, cherry-pick, bend or completely break the word of Jesus spoken in the Gospels or via inspiration of the early Apostolic writers?

    The divisions of denomination serve no purpose other than to artificially separate the ‘elect’ from the appostate, the ‘saved’ from the ‘damned’, the ‘Remnant’ from Babylon, need I go on? They do not serve the Body of Christ or the original mission set down by Jesus Himself to preech the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – by actually living out that gospel message in genuine, authentic, organic reality. Not rice-bowl Christianity but the hard slog that leads to life, but might also cost us our lives here on Earth.

    I find it sadly ironic that my gay friend far more readily accepts my faith, plainness and headcovering than many others in the Christian community, or even my own family (in whose presence, a buncover must sufice for now).

    In the post ‘techno-electric world, it is people like my friend who we will be called to reach out to in genuine support if we are to survive, and whose help we may well need to accept. I think the saddest inditement against ‘us’ will be the fact that after the crash, wen we are walking the path together, in unity, solidarity, love and Christ-like support, we will realize the counteless opportunities we wantonly squandered out of arrogance, pride and huberous before it all went pear-shaped that could have built up the body of Christ, reaching the suffering, hurting millions arround us – Christ’s unceasing knocking on the door of the church’s heart, whatever their denomination, only for those inside to either not hear it, or upon hearing it, refusing to respond.

    When Christ returns, willl He find faith on the Earth? and what type of ‘faith’ will it be?

    Remember, people, Church in social context!! it isn’t simply one more sshiny new catchphrase from the ‘left of centre’ wanderers, it IS Jesus Christ in Roman-Occupied first century Palestine, His Death and Ressurection, His disciples picking up the pieces after His assention, and the greatest mission ever launched fifty days after He took His seat at the right hand of the Father. It was Benedict, in the face of a crumbling world in chaos around him, as all levels of governance, society and civilization devolved into anarchy. Shall we be the new Benedictines, or wil we be too busy squabbling over who’s right and who’s wrong, who is saved and who is not, who is the wheat and who are the weeds?

    Focus on Christ, your hand to the plough, fixed on His love, His ability to restore, His sufering…

    And remember, as we indulge in chocolate eggs ( as a little treat this Easter, that over 284,000 children in Ivory coast alone are either working for a pittence or nothing as slave labourers (often sold by their impoverished parents into indentured service on the false promise that their children will receive honest pay, decent conditions and be able to get ahead – for themselves and their families, in the cocoa plantations of IC, Ghana etc, often trafficked from surrounding nations, the multi-nationals either washing their hands of the problem as not their own or making only token gestures of disapproval in light of this type of disgrace.

    “…And they will know that we are Christians by our Love?…”

  2. Amen! We need a Revival in the western world.

    You first made me thing of the hymn, On Higher Ground. “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground”. You also made me remember at my current church after I quit attending for the fall/early winter, several members and the minister himself called to check on us. No other church has done that before. They took an interest in me and my family, made us feel wanted and welcome, not just like a Sunday acquaintance or another set of hands for whatever charity work.

    We as Christians need to invest more in people’s lives on a personal level. Clothes, shelter, food and other life basics are important, but if you don’t make the person feel needed or welcome at the same time, you won’t win the person to Christ. If fact you’re in danger of being a hypocrite.

    As far as missions, why do most Christians assume they must travel to do missions? That missions are only for remote, foreign places? We need to be missionaries in our own neighborhoods. Sadly, some areas of third world countries have a higher level of true Biblical Christianity than the western world that sent them missionaries.

    It’s one thing to be prepared, quite another to be paranoid. The apocalypse will happen. I don’t see the survivalist churches surviving any better. The Bible talks about being prepared spiritually for survival, not physically. Nor do I see them being a very good witness for trusting God or loving their neighbors if they’re preparing to eventually kill them. They’re doing exactly the opposite of what a true Christian should do.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what I mean by missional church – not being someone who swoops in from above, pats everyone on the back, hands out candy and leaves, but being someone who sees a friend, sister, brother, neighbour as someone to help and who may also be a helper. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Broad Street Ministries in Philadelphia. They are a Presbyterian Church that has taken on being a lively part of their neighborhood, and there’s some great collaborative work going on there – often to the horror of the denomination! We need only look to the Book of The Acts of the Apostles to see how the church was meant to be.

      Mission needs to be divided between local, regional (or national) and international. It does help people in third world churches to know that they have friends far away, as long as those friends are not just patrons. We have to be prayer partners, not just funds-providers.

  3. Hi,

    It took a long time to get the proper “permission,” but today we are taking your suggestion and planting a garden on our church lawn and donating the vegetables to the local food shelf. It will be a humble garden, but we are doing it!

    🙂
    Catherine

    • I am so excited! Our church lawn here is a construction site, since the county is putting in new water supply lines. It’s kinf of an anti-garden. I think we are past the frost date here, so I am hoping to get a container garden started on our patio and porch. The house is on the market, so we can’t be digging up the yard. The sad part is that the food bank is at the church!

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