Y’all know I love a good apocalypse, right? Whether it’s John Cusack fleeing the Mayan apocalypse with his estranged family or Jake Gyllenhaal fleeing a global-warming-caused Ice Age or Elijah Wood fleeing meteor-induced tidal waves, I’m in. (Not Bruce Willis flying into space to stop a meteor. That movie just sucked. Totally.) Perhaps a part of my adoration of the Buffyverse is that they had at least one apocalypse per season. I am sad to have missed Left Behind in theaters, but I’m sure I’ll be able to pick it up in a Costco bargain bin soon. (I’m sure several nearby churches would give me a copy so that I would hear the Gospel of God and Guns.) There’s just something about the end of the world that fills me with glee! That’s why this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Each year, just before the birth of the adorable little baby Jesus, the world ends. As we talked about last week at All Souls, the liturgical calendar gives us the opportunity to rehearse cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. We confront these realities symbolically so that we are transformed into the sorts of people who know what to do when they finally, ultimately occur. In some ways, the deaths we rehearse in Lent and All Souls are individual, marking our place in the grander scheme. But the next few weeks mark the end of everything. In that sense, it is rehearsing not our own mortality, but the end of all things and the beginning of the ultimate reality into which we might live.
An apocalypse tends to focus things. In film it provides motivation and dramatic tension. It moves things forward and forces characters to make choices about how they do so. In the biblical text, it serves a similar function. Because there is a final reality put forward, we must make a choice about who we will be in that final reality. Will we be prepared? Will we look out for ourselves? Will we be passive? Who do we become in anticipation of that end? Will we be sheep or goats?
Probably the dominant understanding of the End Times in contemporary American churches is the Rapture. Even when denominations reject this theology, their laypeople persist in embracing it due to its pervasive presence in our culture. It so happens that some of the passages presented by the lectionary for next few weeks are classic Rapture texts. So we’re going to hit it head on for the next few weeks in a mini-series on the Rapture. We’ll talk about its origins, about what it presents and what the Bible says, and we’ll talk about where this theology might take us.
Spoiler alert: despite my love for apocalypse, I think Rapture theology is terrible theology. However, I do think it offers something that speaks to real human experience. It speaks to a need for closure, for validation, for identity, and, in its own way, for justice. I’m just not sure it speaks to the best versions of ourselves, the self that is the image of God.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about the origins of Rapture theology and the context in which it rose to prominence. Bring your Scofield Study Bibles.
Grace & Peace,