Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 38

Read Matthew 24:1-22.

For me the key to this eschatological teaching is in being able to see trials and tribulations as birth pangs. (24:8) I realize that as a man I'm on thin ice saying too much about the process of giving birth. But I've seen first-hand that it's painful. And that it leads to new and amazing life.

There is a difference between the suffering that leads to loss and the suffering that leads to new beginnings. Except that we believe that even death is about life changing, not ending. So even the end of a terminal illness and all the suffering that accompanies it is sometimes experienced as a release, as a letting go, as the death that leads to new life.

Endings and beginnings, beginnings and endings. You can't have one without the other. In big and small ways this bears out in our experience. Yet most of us resist endings and in turn miss out on new beginnings. We get stuck instead.

The historical events of 70 CE - the destruction of the Temple - must have been a very painful ending. Lots of trials and tribulations. Yet it gave way not only to the early Christian communities, but to new forms of rabbinic Judaism. The Wailing Wall remains as an icon of this transition. In our lives, in our congregations, nothing ever stays the same. To be static is to die. So how can we develop eyes to see that death and loss never gets the last word. That in every ending there is a new beginning.

One of my very favorite Advent hymns is  Signs of Endings All Around Us. I like it that it raises questions - rather than loudly proclaiming self-evident truths. It asks us to wonder, if in the midst of all the signs of endings that surround us, that they might be signs also of new beginnings. The first verse goes like this:
Signs of endings all around us / Darkness, death, and winter days / Shroud our lives in fear and sadness / Numbing mouths that long to praise. / Come, O Christ, and dwell among us! / Hear our cries, come set us free. / Give us hope and faith and gladness. / Show us what there yet can be.

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