End times

Between birds falling out of the sky, the Mayan calendar (corroborated by the movie 2012) and “that guy” who is nominating 2011 as *the* year, there seems to be extra end-of-the-world buzz going around.

What goes around comes around. You may remember that 1999 was a big end-of-the-world year.  The year 2000 seemed to be such an elegant time for Jesus to come again.  And, if Jesus missed the turn of the millennium, maybe the end of life as we know it would be triggered by the world’s computers simultaneously going kafluey at 12:01 a.m. on 1/1/2000, at which time planes, not birds, would fall out of the sky.

Back then, I served as managing editor of Lutheran Woman Today. In 1999, the magazine carried “Secure in the Promise,” a six-session Bible study on Revelation, written by the Rev. Gwen Sayler. Questions in the last session included
(1)  Think about all the crises and tensions confronting your community, your nation, and the world today.  Which one bothers or frightens you the most?  Why?
(2)  Perhaps when you began this study you did not expect to read Revelation as a call to work for justice in our world. What were your expectations? How has your understanding changed?
(7)  Think back over the promise verses that have guided us through the Bible study (Revelation 1:8; 2:10; 5:10; 7:12; 19:9; 22:7). Which verse will be most helpful to you in your work of resisting all that hinders God’s vision for creation?  Why?

I was pleased to write “Last Things,” as the editor’s note for the June 1999 issue; it follows, as written.

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20–21).

This issue of LWT carries the final session of our Bible study on Revelation, the last book in the Bible.  This issue’s theme, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus” draws from the very last verses of Revelation.  So this seems like a good time to reflect on last words, last acts, last times, and things that last.

Movie deathbed scenes are often lovely.  The dying woman, with beautiful hair cascading down a perfectly plumped pillow, calls the visitor closer.  “I want you to know,” she whispers, coughing discreetly, “that I forgive you, and (cough, cough) I’ve always loved you.” With that, the woman closes her eyes and dies—neatly and on cue.

Real life is rarely so well scripted.  My dad, no doubt, would have preferred different words for me, had he know they would be last words—something other than, “You’ll never do your hair like that again, will you?”

So why wait?  Let’s seize the moment and offer some “last” words right now.  There’s never a better time than the present to say, “I love you,” “Please forgive me,” “You are so dear to me.”

In that same vein, now is the time to start living as though you were dying. Take a moment to imagine you’ve been told you have a year to live.  What would you do? How would you spend your time?

I took it to heart when, after learning of her terminal diagnosis, my mom found no reason to live differently. Her faith and years of faithful practice offered the foundation that she needed to keep on taking care of business, and family, and friends.  Would you do the same?  Or would you want your life to be different, knowing that time was short?  If so, make changes now, for time is always short.

June 6, 1999, is a significant date for the Edison-Swift family; that’s the day our only child, Annie, will graduate from high school. Her senior year finds Paul and me noting many lasts: the last school cheesecake sale, the last musical performance, and, eventually, the last time we’ll call the attendance office to tell them Annie’s sick.

It’s only natural to be so focused on the new that the old slips away.  I did not note, for example, the last time Annie needed me to tie her shoes or help her take a bath.  I don’t remember when she got too big to carry.

So, while senior-year last times are front and center, I’m going to enjoy them.  I’m going to weep and be mushy with sentimentality.  I’m going to celebrate these last times because, thanks be to God, these times are God’s good gift.

When Annie was almost 5 years old, we were told that she wouldn’t live to see 6.  A kind and caring nurse tried to make conversation with me as she prepared Annie for surgery. “My son turns 12 tomorrow,” she told me, “and that makes me feel so old.” She didn’t realize what she was saying, of course. At that moment I would have given anything to have a 12-year-old-child and “feel old.” Annie’s illness and recovery offered us a dramatic lesson on the preciousness of the firsts, the middles, and the lasts of life.

And Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19, 21).

Lord, forgive us, for we are dense.  These days the best indication of what we value—what we treasure—is the time we give it.  Try keeping a time diary for a week or a month.  Most of us are likely to find that our time diary will not match up with our life and faith priorities.  Most of us, I fear, will find that we do not offer God even a tithe of our days.

In “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” (Lutheran Book of Worship 228), Martin Luther professes, “If they take our house, Goods, fame, child, or spouse, Wrench our life away, They cannot win the day. The Kingdom’s ours forever!”  Ah, that’s the difference between millennial madness and being “Secure in the Promise.” We needn’t fear. The kingdom is ours forever!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sue  Edison-Swift Sue Edison-Swift

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