October 22, 2016

Doomsday again?

In 1979, I went home from school and told my mom that the world was going to end.  I felt quite sick and frustrated about it, because there was, as far as I knew, nothing I could do about it.  That day, my Social 10 teacher had put up graph after graph showing that the amount of smog was growing, the amount of garbage, violence, greenhouse gasses, pollution, war, and so on, were going to come to a peak that would destroy all life on earth.  It was enough to send my sensitive soul into a tailspin.  And it was supposed to happen in 20 years.  Yes, folks, things were going to spiral out of control so badly that 1999 would be the end of the world as we knew it.

And then there were the days where Tim and I were hitch-hiking on our honeymoon, traveling wherever the winds blew and the busses drove, never knowing from one day to the next if we would have a nice, cockroach free place to spend the night, or where the next job might be found.  It was a real adventure, but my nails never did grow much that whole time because I was too busy nervously biting them.  What a terrifying challenge.

And don’t get me started on my first pregnancy!

So this teaching of Jesus is one that really sticks in my craw.  Don’t worry, be happy, He says.  Ha!  I never really figured that out. 

Being an atheist worrier is a full-time job.  Trying to make sure you have packed everything you might ever need.  Packing the baby seat in the car trunk two months earlier than needed, just in case.  Having a heavy purse with everything from hand sanitizer to 35 cents for a payphone.  Having a glasses repair kit with spare parts as well as a sewing kit with first aid supplies. 

But even I have never been locked up in a jail while a city is being torn apart by war.  Bombs flying, or okay, no bombs in Jeremiah’s day, but there would have been battering rams, for sure, starvation after the blockade was up, and no end in sight for the people of Israel, surrounded by the Babylonian armies.

To do a real estate deal to help out your bankrupt cousin and thus your whole extended clan in the midst of such chaos, is ludicrous but that’s exactly what Jeremiah does.  A wild, bold risky venture in the midst of dangerous times is what he feels called to do.  Such an act might have inspired Jesus, several centuries later, to remind his followers to keep their heads on straight, not to panic, and to focus on what is important.

As Tim likes to point out to me on a regular basis, worry does indeed not add anything to the quality of my life.  As Jesus reminded us, worry does not add a single hour to my life span, nor does it help me to change the things I cannot change.  Worry leaves me fretting about impossibilities that might happen in the future that are beyond my control.  I can’t control how many people will come to tonight’s supper, or how many tickets might sell for it, whether or not there are enough pies, well actually, that’s something I can do.

We need to remember to focus on the here and the now, and not just that, but the why we do what we do.  Why do we have a harvest supper?  To raise money, of course, but it’s more than that.  People don’t go making pies and donating tomatoes and hand crafting meatballs for two hundred people just for the sake of money.  No, it’s far more than that.  It’s because we believe that Jesus came bearing good news that needs to be shared to all.  That the meatballs we make remind us that we are connected to our community and our community is connected to us.

It helps us to sit at the hospital beds of folks who are needing our love and support, it helps us feed kids at school who can’t learn on an empty stomach, that it prevents folks from committing suicide because they know we care, that it reminds people that there is hope for men and women trapped in cycles of domestic violence, that we want to work towards justice for all and living with respect in creation.  It helps us buy environmentally sensitive products from lower-phosphate laundry detergent to energy efficient lightbulbs.  It helps atheists heal, searchers find comfort, and faithful folks go just a little deeper in their prayer lives and in their faith journeys. 

We do the harvest supper because we care about folks, and one of the key identifiers of a Christian community is that it is passionately committed to the people in the community who need a beacon of hope in this scary, worrisome world.  That we dream of a day when all will have enough to eat and to clothe themselves, that no one will live in fear and anxiety.  That we try to show with our actions a vision of a time when we can work together in harmony towards a common goal, the way we come together to put on a delicious spread for the Athabasca friends and neighbors here this day.

That we testify to a different future, one which cares and works.  In 1979, I couldn’t imagine the future that would lead me here.  In 1989 when we fretted about George Orwell, 1999 when we worried about Y2K, in 2001 when crashing airplanes meant the start of World War 3, in 2008 when the crash of the stock market meant we were all doomed to perpetual poverty, in 2014 and so on.  We are not at our doomsday yet because ordinary folks like you and me care and make meatballs.  Because we remember Jesus telling us to focus on God’s vision, not our worries.  Remember last week’s prayer that was good for the mosquito thoughts that suck our hearts? It’s also excellent at worry wart mind meanderings. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...

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