Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Already Know How It Ends

In seminary, I had a professor who admitted to an interesting habit:  He would read the last chapter of a mystery first, and then he would go back and start the book from the beginning.  We, quite naturally, objected.  We said that knowing how the story was going to end would ruin the whole book.  What enjoyment could you get if you knew how the story was going to end?  His response was interesting:  he said it all depended on what you wanted from the story.  If you wanted the big surprise of “whodunit,” well, then you needed to read the story the way it was written.  But if wanted to enjoy the craft of the artist, then you needed to read the last chapter first.  When you know how the story is going to end, you can watch the way the writer weaves the various threads together to form the finished product.
Thinking about it in that way, reading the last chapter first kind of makes sense.  Granted, it is a different way of reading, a different way of enjoying the book.  It may not be the way most of the world reads books, but just because it is different does not mean it is wrong. 
Now, there is something else about reading the last chapter first – and this may sound a little odd – but there is something comforting about it.  No matter what is going on in the story, you know by the last page of the last chapter, the story will have reached its resolve.  It may sound obvious, but since you know how the book will end, you know that the book will have to get to that end.  So you can comfortably watch what happens in the book, knowing it will all work out.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this in life?  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to know exactly how life is going to work out; to know the last chapter?  You know we try to read the last chapter.  We read horoscopes to give us some insights into what is going to happen.  We have all kinds of ways to try to predict the future.  Ten years ago, there was all kinds of anxiety about Y2K.  Many people thought they had read the last chapter and that everything was going to end when we entered the year 2000.  I guess even one of the local Mega-church pastors was telling people that they needed to be prepared for the end to come in 2000.  Now, we have movies and books telling us that we need to worry about the earth ending in the year 2012.  (Dec. 21st of 2012 to be exact.)  And so the anxiety continues.
This is the interesting thing about what the world puts out there as the last chapter of the story:  In just about every story we hear from the world, the last chapter involves pain, death and destruction.  Bad things happen and few people, if any, are able to escape.  But so often, the last chapter, as told by the world, involves total destruction, complete annihilation of all.  And I think the really sad part of this is that the world just eats this stuff up!  I don’t know why, but people just seem to go crazy over all of this stuff!
And people have been going crazy over these end of the world scenarios for centuries!  I once worked with a guy who kept quoting the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation and kept talking about The New World Order.  He kept telling me about how “they” were trying to create one world currency and how “they” were keeping track of us by our debit cards.  Truthfully, I felt that if “they” needed to keep track of everything I did, “they” must surely have a boring life!  But he kept it up.  He was totally worried about the whole New World Order thing.  He also kept pulling Bible verses to back up what he said.  Finally, I had to put a stop to this.  I asked him, “Did you read the end?”  He stopped and looked at me.  I asked him again, “Did you read the end?”  He asked, “End of what?”  “The end of the story?  Did you read it?”  I asked.  “In the end, God WINS!”
This seemed to have no effect on him.  Well, almost no effect; he did stop talking to ME about The New World Order.  But I am willing to guess he still will not use a debit card.
As people of faith, we should be more like my seminary professor than like my coworker.  We need to remember that God has written the last chapter.  We need to have faith that we can trust in the true word of God.  Through our faith, we know how the story will end.  We know that the last chapter has everything to do with love and nothing to do with death.  In faith, we know that Christ vanquished death and that eternal life reigns.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King.  Today, we celebrate the end of the story.  Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ over death.  The feast of Christ the King gives us strength and comfort in the same way that reading the last chapter can give us comfort.  No matter what we see, we can be sure that Christ will emerge victorious.
We do not need to worry about asteroids striking the Earth.  We do not need to worry about Yellowstone exploding.  We do not need to worry about total chaos breaking lose in 2012.  We do not need to worry about these things because these things are not the end of the story! 
Knowing the ending opens us up for all kinds of possibilities for us!  Knowing the ending gives us the comfort of knowing that we really can’t mess things up too badly.  Knowing the ending means that we have the freedom to be out and about in the world.  If we trust that Christ is King and believe that Christ will reign victorious, then we can be comforted in knowing that no matter what is happening, that God the creator is still in charge.
Christ the King marks the end of the church year.  It is important for us to remember at the end of the church year the promises that God has made to all of us.  It is important that have faith that what we see now is not how the story ends.  It is important for us to know that God has more in store for us!  Remembering that God has already written the end, allows us to enjoy the way the story of our lives unfold.  Remembering that God has already written the end allows us to appreciate the genius of our creator God.
Today we celebrate Christ the King, the end of the story.  Next week, we begin our wait for the birth of Christ, we wait for the story to begin.  But in all things, in our times of celebration and our times of waiting; we need to remember we are people of the promise.  We have the promise of life, love, and joy in abundance.


R B said...

Excellent, Ben! and precisely to the point of what the Christian community needs to be saying to itself and to the world. The Revelation given to St. John was never intended to scare but to give hope and assurance of the fact that, as you put it quite succinctly "God wins!"
I am reminded of my reaction when the idiots shout "we're all going to die!". My usual response is "Yes. So what's your point?" That we are all going to die is not news. That God wins is. And it is Good News.

Urspo said...

I wasn't aware other churches celebrated Christ the King, as the Catholics do. I see it as a sort of New Year's Eve, prior to the start of Advent.
you must be happy as a clam at high tide!