Rapture 2011

20 05 2011

I’m not a prophet, but the end of the world is here.

Tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the day Jesus will come back according to Harold Camping, and the world will be destroyed five months later.  Some have spent crazy amounts of money helping to spread the news so that no one gets left behind.

Most people familiar with the Bible know there is a verse in which Jesus states that no one knows the hour or day when time will end except Father God in heaven.  So it seems more than a little presumptuous that any minister of the Word of God would be bold enough to name a time.  More than a little!

However, think a little longer with me about this.

Walk down a theater ramp, suspend your disbelief, and listen to the movie theme rising as the house lights dim.  About 15 minutes into the show disaster erupts and people are dying all over the place without a hero in sight.  Tension builds as plot lines intersect until the climax, when civilization is rescued (just barely) by an average guy who cares so much about those in harm’s way, he takes on almost super-human strength and qualities.  An emotional domestic scene wraps up the loose ends as lovers, and former enemies, put pettiness behind them for what truly matters.

Now step back into reality with me, trading daylight for the imposed darkness.  A little shift has occurred in my mind and heart; I am not the same as I was before I entered the theater.  How about you?

So, what if tomorrow is our last day together?  How would that change today?  What pettiness would become unimportant, and what priorities would become clear as metaphorical dust settles in slow motion through sunrays?  Statistically, a pretty big group of people will exit life’s theater tomorrow into eternal reality.  I could be in that group.  So could you.

Dates and equations, histrionics and drama aside, maybe Rev. Camping isn’t as crazy as everyone is saying he is.  And maybe I am a prophet.



3 04 2010
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Ages and ages hence

They were forced to be still.  No work to keep their hands busy was allowed.  An afternoon nap was acceptable, but who could sleep after yesterday’s events?  Everything they had believed in and lived for died with Him.  And now, by Law, they could do nothing.

The Day of Preparation (Friday, the day before the Sabbath) had been bursting with events like no other.  Jesus was marched through Jerusalem carrying His cross, crucified between two thieves, and left there to find His way to death during which He forgave His executioners.  He died, confirmed by the water and blood that flowed from the sword wound in His side, and was wrapped in cloths and laid in a tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

The Passover Sabbath was especially holy as stories about the night before the escape from Egypt hundreds of years ago were fresh in everyone’s minds told at Seder meals a few days earlier.  Every Jewish household slaughtered a lamb and smeared its blood above the front door and on the side-posts from a bowl on the threshold.  Jesus’ followers had plenty of time to think on the Sabbath after His death.  Did they remember the Passover sacrifice and notice the foreshadowing of Messiah in the ritual?

Several main players, Pilate, the Roman Prefect, and the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees, were busy on the Sabbath making sure that the tomb was guarded and sealed.  Was the walk to and from Pilate’s court short enough to be allowed on the Sabbath or considered a holy exception due to the circumstances surrounding the “Deceiver”?  What about meeting with a government official?  Seems like their regular workday to me.  In any case, they are the only ones mentioned in the four Gospels doing anything on Saturday.  The women who followed Jesus saw where He was buried on the day of preparation, observe the Sabbath, then make their way to the tomb at sunrise on the first day of the week.  The disciples aren’t mentioned at all until Mary finds the tomb empty and runs to tell them.

So what was everyone who had followed Jesus for the last few years doing the day after He died?  We don’t know.  We know that observing the Sabbath required two things: resting from all work and acknowledging God.  But what each follower of Jesus did on the Sabbath between His death and the first day of the week isn’t recorded in Scripture.  Did they go to the temple without their Rabbi to worship with the overflowing crowd who had come to Jerusalem for Passover?  Did they sleep, trying to forget the ache in their hearts?  Did they hide from the vicious occupying army that had just killed the One they thought was Messiah, the One who would free them from the Romans?  Did they wonder if they had imagined it all?  Did they decide it had been a too-good-to-be-true dream and return to their homes?  Were they able to rest?  Could they acknowledge God?

Maybe my imagination and curiosity are too active.  I always want to know the back-story.  It helps me understand and put myself into what was happening.  And when information is missing, I wonder why.  Why, when there is so much detail about all the other days surrounding this most important week of all weeks, is this Sabbath barely mentioned?  Was God too busy with what was going on in the spiritual realm to pay attention to a handful of earthlings?  Why are the details from this day not in the Bible?

I don’t have a clue.  I wish I did.  Every year on the day before Resurrection Sunday, I ask myself the same question.

And every year, looking at the context of Saturday – smack-dab in between Crucifixion and Resurrection-I come around to the same, somewhat cliché, observations which I humbly offer in the absence of any real answers.

+  The horror of Jesus’ death needed to truly sink in before His resurrection.  (Of course, the three days in the grave also fulfilled prophecy and was medical proof that He was really, completely dead.)  Without the agonizing time to take in what had just happened, the joy of the Resurrection would have been more like a head-jerking surprise.  “Wait… didn’t you just… die??”

+  God often does His greatest work when everything we see and know is absolutely dark, and waiting is part of the process.  We don’t know what His followers actually did, but we DO know they were distraught, probably in the darkest days of their lives, and unable to do anything except rest and acknowledge God.  I find it interesting that the chief priests remembered that Jesus said He would rise on the third day, so they asked that guards be posted and the tomb be sealed.  None of the disciples goes to the tomb on the third day in expectation or just plain curiosity to check out whether Jesus’ prophecy comes true or not.  On the contrary, the women only discover that that the tomb is empty because they are bringing spices to complete His burial anointing.  They didn’t expect Him to rise.  They thought it was over, and God lets them wait.

+  Timing is one of God’s most creative tools.  He often does exactly what I think He should, but not according to my timeline.  He gets it right every time and at the right time.  Our part is waiting.  Waiting is part of what it means to be human.  We are bound by time-He is not, yet He works within time for our benefit, orchestrating each event masterfully.  Providing a day before displaying His power over death brought glory to His Son and proved that He is God.  Ultimate good came from temporary agony.

I still want to know what was going on during that Sabbath when it seemed to the scattered followers of a not-yet-risen Messiah to be the longest Sabbath rest of their lives.  Maybe the not knowing, at least for me, intensifies the search for Truth.

That is a good enough answer for me.


29 03 2010
You are Creator and the Word
The One who spoke and the Speaking
Speaking life out of nothing
Giving chaos meaning
You said, and it was so
Morning and evening

You are the Voice and the Way
The Narrow Road and the Whisper
Whispering which way to go
Hearing cries to deliver
The Way and Only Truth
Small Gate and Life-Giver

You are the Cloud and the Fire
Shekinah Glory and the Burning
Burning up soaked wood and stone
Igniting, overturning
Behind and Before
Thirsting and soul-yearning

You are the First and the Last
The Final End and Beginning
Beginning all things new again
Glory never dimming
The Root and Branch of Jesse
Victorious and winning

You are the Lion and the Lamb
Perfect love and Agonizing
Agonizing cruel cross
Conquered death by sacrificing
Fully God and Fully Man
The Crucified and Hope-Rising

(c) 2010 Catherine Howie

War & Near

25 12 2009

Seeing pastoral nativity scenes every December fills me with a warm Christmas glow and almost lulls me into a sentimental stupor in which I conveniently forget what really happened the night Jesus was born.  What took place in the spiritual realm when God was born as a human baby reads more like the plot of a sci-fi fantasy-thriller than a nostalgic Christmas card:  A red dragon pursued a woman giving birth while his dragon-army fought Michael’s angels in heaven.  The dragon, not able to overpower Good, was hurled to the earth where he chased the woman and her Child.  Then, frustrated that the pair escaped, he turned on the rest of her offspring—“those who hold to the teachings of Jesus”.   His demise, foretold long ago, was accomplished by the Baby who crushed his head, but not before the serpent struck the baby’s heel.

So much for syrupy “Baby Jesus, meek and mild” Christmas stories—this is war!!

Easter is the ultimate triumph, but not the incredibly amazing part of the story.  At least, not to me.  If Jesus really is God, what is so surprising about Him rising from the dead??  I would expect God to be able to do that.  The part that devastates me is that He would set aside all his glory, privilege, and power to become a helpless, finite human baby; that He, the Creator of the world, would so completely reduce Himself to pursue me.

As He entered the world, the time-space continuum and all other realities couldn’t help it; they erupted in strange behaviors.  A supernaturally bright light burned in the sky; prophecies converged in fulfillments; heaven was ripped open; angels spoke to shepherds; and then all was quiet.  But everything was different.

The curse was broken; the dragon defeated.  Hope became tangible.  Our slavery-yoke of sin… shattered.  Light put out darkness.  God was approachable.  And people were drawn to Him.

He came to us so that we could come to Him.  And although He ascended to the Father, He still promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.  The book of Job contains a concept of what that looks like: Leviathan, the great creature of the deep, is covered with scales so near one another that no water or air can come between them.  They are so close that the two most pervasive materials on earth cannot sneak in.

The red dragon is still at war with us, but his Vanquisher is our Champion:  Immanuel.

The snowflake kaleidoscope is made from a paper cutting of a dragon crafted in Hong Kong. It represents both the red dragon and the scales of Leviathan—a reminder that with Jesus’ birth, the dragon is defeated, and that we can be so near to Him nothing can come between us. Luke 2:8-18; Matthew 2:9-11; Revelation 12; Genesis 3:15; James 4:8; Job 41:15-17; Isaiah 9:1-4

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