The End is Here

by tom airey, co-editor,
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now…
Romans 8:21

Hope, for radical disciples, is intimately related to both our identity and vocaton as “children of God:” those committed to the Way of Brother Jesus, who taught and lived out a dangerous style of love, forgiveness, peace, inclusivity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized. We join a determined God in giving birth to a whole new world. This will take sacrifice and suffering.

Like an expectant parent, we know that what we do now will have profound significance for how things will be then. As the late [b]aptist theologian James McClendon wrote about the biblical Script’s role in animating our lives, “Then is now.” When we read, we find ourselves in the Story because, in the life & teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, the End of the world has invaded the Present. The stone has been rolled away. The apocalyptic is already upon us. And, so, we commit our time, energy & resources towards the Task of bringing heaven to earth.

Indeed, if…

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

…then we must start living as if the least and lowest actually have more value than those who are on the cover of our magazines. Eternity will be a smooth transition for those who cut against the grain in this world. Those who labor to “beat their swords into plowshares” during their time on earth will find a home in the Next. Meanwhile, “the wages of those who failed to pay the workers who mowed their fields are crying out against them.” This can’t be good news if profit is your bottom line.

No doubt about it, the End of the world will come. It will finally “bring out the prisoners from the dungeons” of torturous Gitmo and the overcrowded penal system in California. Ultimately, the responsibility falls to all of us who Brother Howard called “the guards of the system,” all of us middle-class (mostly) white folk painfully committed to keeping things just the way they are. This is why, while he sat in jail, Brother Martin highlighted “not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Silence is violence.

And as Brother Gandhi taught, we’d all better make sure that what we think, say and do are all in harmony. The road to hell is paved with intuition & intention that never quite make it to Reality. The cobbled streets of gold shimmer with congruency: “whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light.” All that bribery and corruption, those illusions and lies, will come out of the backrooms and be exposed on giant flat screens in HD.

Heaven & hell are not destinations for the next life. They are designs for this one. It’s not just the hedonism and hatred. All this hoarding leads to hellish conditions all over the globe, no matter how much we try to cover it up with the invisible hand. Meanwhile, simple saints of all stripes are colonizing various contexts with heavenly acts of hospitality.

When Jesus proclaimed that “the reign of God is at hand,” he was testifying that God’s Dream for the world was going be fulfilled by clusters of conscience who utterly refuse to believe that the nightmares of this world will have the final say. Behold, eternity is in the rearview mirror. Stop the vehicle, get out and breathe in her mysterious blend of Heaven. And then pass it on. Before it’s too late.

God’s Dream yearns for some prophetic imagination, some pastoral intentionality, some passionate intimacy and a whole lot of personal inventory. Victory will come with a vision that includes everybody. Heaven is not about souls. It is about a symbiotic relationship with every living Thing. We’re weaved into a covenant of compassion. Interdependence is our Divine inheritance. Now is the Time to connect the dots. Now is the time to get saved. A whole new world is depending on it.

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