Has the end arrived?
Family Radio’s billboards proclaiming May 21 as the day of rapture and the beginning of the end still loom over New York’s major roadways, and elsewhere across the United States. Interviews with Harold Camping stating that ‘there is no Plan B,’ still ring in the ears.
Yet from all appearances we’re all still here. Well, sort of. The Mississippi river is behaving badly in ways that it hasn’t matched for most of a century. The American South is suffering a season of tornadoes unmatched in their destructiveness. And Oprah is disappearing from her show after 25 years.
Do these things mean the end is near? They mean at least that ‘an end’ is near; an end to the ways that things have been. But there’s nothing new about that. We call that history. This means that the world continues to turn, and that means in this very human world in which God has placed us, that the world continues to twist and turn, filled with difficulties and upsets, and above all, with constant change.
Is the end coming? Of course. A billion ends of various significance are coming. At the moment egg and sperm have joined to create life, that beginning life is on the way to its ending – whether that ending comes in the next instant, or a century down the line. As soon as an industry has reached its zenith in development and success, its endpoint is – somewhere – marked on the timeline of human progress. When the final shingle is pounded into the roof of a new house, the day it falls into ruin – replete with memories of all who have lived their lives within it – is assured. In fact, that is about all that is assured. Every beginning, in this present reality, assures an end.
So yes, the end is coming. For many people and things, it will come today, or tomorrow, or the day after. But as for the end of all, who knows when it’s coming? Not me. Not you. Not Harold Camping. It does seems a particular human hubris to assert that one does know absolutely. Even after a long lifetime of studying the scriptures. Even in the face of God’s own Word – misunderstood or even rightly understood – God’s own freedom remains ultimately intact.
And yet, in a way Harold perhaps is doing us all a favor. It’s the same favor that the old Christian tradition, certainly evident in monastic communities, has done us – or tried to do us – for centuries. This favor can be summed up in two words: memento mori. Remember death. Remember your death. Remember that there is a border, a horizon, before which all that I do and plan, that you do and plan, is played out. There is a beginning and an end for me, and for you, and for all our stellar (or not) projects and ambitions.
This does not mean, and never did, that therefore it is useless or foolish to plan, to act, to live. No. What it means is this: every plan, every action, every word and deed carry a weight of meaning that is lasting. You matter. So do I.
Together, as the Oprahs of the world turn to the next big thing, as the rivers roll on bringing life or destruction, as the mayhem and power of spring tornadoes and summer hurricanes give way to human beings striving to begin again, together, in the midst of the end, we count.
Ending or beginning, it matters little. Live on. Choose well. Recall the end and in doing so, value the moment.