Monday, August 22, 2011

The End

That is what you see when you finish a book or watch a movie.  They suddenly stop.  Sometimes there is a satisfactory conclusion, one that is to our liking and sometimes we almost cry out, "No! Don't end this way!"  I remember seeing a movie called "Under the Same Moon".  It was the story of a woman who left Mexico to come the US to work.  She was an illegal alien and took many risks to get to the US so that she could send money back to her parents who were taking care of her elementary age son.  The boy began missing his mother and decided that he would go the US himself and find his mother.  He had her address on an envelope from a letter she had sent him so he started out on the long journey of crossing the border illegally and falling into the company of some not so good company.  He looked up at the full moon in the sky many times and imagined that his mother was looking at it too.  Finally, he reached California where his mother lived and began his search.  It took him a long time and then, by chance he located her.  The two of them stood on opposite sides of a busy street on corners looking at each other.  Would he wait for the light to change or rush into the street endangering himself?  And then the movie ended.  I literally said aloud, "NO!" 

I will never know what happened to that boy or his mother.  Perhaps that left the door open for a sequel to be made someday.  The book of Revelation in the Bible ends in such a manner but we have a satisfactory ending.  The story is told of the Christians in seven churches who are being persecuted by the Roman Empire and its ruler, Domitian.  God tries to deal with him to convince him to stop the madness he is visiting on the Church but he is convinced that he is a god and wants everyone to worship him instead of the God of Israel so he continues to murder Christians who refuse to worship him.  God brings about plauge after plague onto the Roman Empire (sounds a bit like the story of Pharoah in Exodus, doesn't it?) until finally all of Babylon (the name for Rome in Revelation) comes crashing down in defeat.  The saints in heaven rejoice and those who gave their lives in martydom are welcomed into Paradise.  John describes what that looks like for them and their new life is filled with joy forever. 

The central theme of Revelation is trust in God, faithfulness even in time of trial.  John urges his listeners to stay true to God and not give up because they will conquer if they continue to be true to what God has revealed to them.  That theme speaks to us in our day also because we are tempted to give up when we think our prayers are not answered.  We lose hope in the face of adverse circumstances.  We live in a world that seems to be out of control so we wonder how we will manage in such an environment. 

People who live in our part of Texas are genuinely worried about the lack of rain.  We look at our brilliant blue skies day after day, many times cloudless, and wonder when we will see rain falling again.  Our days are long and hot and the water we have is drying up before our eyes.  When will it rain again? We are beginning to wonder if it will ever rain again for us.  It does not matter that the Governor called a big prayer rally in Houston and prayed for rain.  Still, no rain has fallen.  It does not matter that a local church had a 24 hour prayer chain for rain recently--still no rain.  We may even wonder what do we have to do to make it rain.  What can WE do?

Perhaps we are asking the wrong question there.  Maybe we do not have to do anything except trust God to provide for us as God will.  Maybe the lack of rain has little to do with what we can do but more to do with our faith in God and how we will sustain it in the face of adverse conditions.  Can we continue to trust God when we do not see results from our prayers?  Can we continue to know that God will provide when one of the necessities of life seems to be disappearing?  Will God allow us to go without water and not be able to meet our basic needs? 

There have been many times over the course of human history when humans have been affected by adverse circumstances.  In all of the times, humans have survived by trust and courage and the strength of the human spirit.  God has enabled humans with intellect and courage so that they can assist one another in times of adversity.  Our need is real but the circumstances are not as dire as we may imagine if we begin to work together creatively to search for an answer.  Perhaps God wants us to stop wasting water in the many myriad ways that humans waste this precious commodity.  Perhaps we are to think about conservation and better ways of living rather than how we can have enough water to live as we are accustomed to living.  Our modern lifestyle has convinced us that we must live in a certain fashion to be comfortable but we may need to reconsider what it means to live with the resources we have at our disposal. 

When the Christians in the first century began to lose hope, John described for them a scene of beauty and plenty that would be theirs if they continued to trust and persevere.  His message to them is also the message for us--God is still in control.  Don't give up but continue to trust, even in the face of challenges, and we will see the outcome that will be revealed to us in the future. 

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

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