I’ve gotten a few calls recently where I pick up the phone and hear, “Do you think this is the Apocalypse?” It’s a jarring question that catches me by surprise every time. So let me start by saying, “no.” This is not the end of the world. This is not apocalyptic. At least, not in the pop-culture, Left Behind, sense of the word.
Yet the word stuck with me this week. In the Greek, apocalypse means uncovering or revelation. In many ways, the current pandemic has served to uncover and lay bare our social values. It reminds us of things we would rather not see. Covid-19 has revealed how fragile our bodies really are. The pandemic has shown which bodies our culture deems more valuable than others. When we have conversations about sacrificing the old for the sake of money (as if those are the only two choices) it reveals something about who we are and what we value. When Asian Americans are being assaulted for not being “American” enough or for being perceived as responsible for the virus, we have to contend with the ugliness that reveals. When hospitals create policies prioritizing access to life saving treatment in a way that moralizes ableism, that shows us which bodies are valued as fully human and which are not. When communities of color carry the brunt of the burden with higher death rates and less access to medical care, that reveals something about who we are as a society. I confess that at times it is difficult to behold.
Seeing these failings is uncomfortable but faithful work. In the Acts of the Apostles we find that the Spirit constantly leads the church into uncomfortable spaces where they are required to wrestle with their ideas of who has value, who doesn’t and why. Can Saul the persecutor be embraced as a fellow believer? There are arguments over whether gentiles should be included at all. There are questions about whether circumcision is required, are the dietary laws mandatory and other signifiers of who’s in and who’s out. Through it all the Spirit reveals how the old way of ordering the world is broken and calls the church into a new way of being. As we enter Pentecost, I wonder what the Spirit might be calling us to see anew. Where that might lead? Could this be an invitation into something better?
In Jewish tradition there is a parable that says if you are going to plant a tree and someone tells you that the Messiah is here, you finish planting the tree. Similarly, a Muslim story says if you are planting a tree and the four horsemen appear on the horizon, you finish planting the tree. When the end of the world comes, however joyful or terrifying that might be, the faithful thing to do is get planting. Seeing the brokenness of the world is painful but it is also an opportunity to plant seeds. How might we plant seeds of justice, mercy, and joy? How is the Spirit calling us to sow seeds of hospitality and grace? Do we have seeds that will shape the world to look a little more like the reign of God? Planting is an act of hope, that the end of the old world will be the beginning of the new. That’s the kind of apocalypse I can get behind.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” -Matthew 13:31-32
Holy Spirit, thank you for being at work in this world. Please give me eyes to see where I can join in your work. Reveal to me the places where I can plant seeds of God’s reign. Lead me into new movements of faithfulness and presence as one who is called to be salt and light in this time and place. Amen