Author: Chad Hyatt
Reflection: v. 31, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away’
‘It’s the end of the world as we know it,’ R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe sang in 1987. I’m not sure I feel fine, but I do know every end holds the possibility of new beginnings. An apocalypse isn’t the literal end of the world. But it may seem like it, as old systems fail us and the foundations upon which we have staked so much of our hope and security shift beneath our feet. In that sense, it may seem very much like our world is ending. As Jesus put it, it’s like ‘heaven and earth’—our whole universe of meaning—is passing into nothingness. That’s certainly how those who were listening to Jesus at the time would have felt. After all, he’s foretelling a Jerusalem overrun by Roman armies and the Temple of God destroyed—only days before his own violent arrest and execution. But the inevitable destruction, death, and disorder of unjust social systems can open us to new, more life-giving ways to order our lives.
And that’s the key: there are ways of ordering our lives, as individuals and as communities, that may appear to be what we want, but the truth is they lead us all toward death—because those ways harm our neighbors as well as ourselves. Greed doesn’t create true wealth. Walls won’t keep us safe. Violence never solves problems. Addictions never cure our pain. An apocalypse—in personal or global terms—is when the lies we have carefully woven to overlay our injustices are stripped bare. Suddenly, we can see. When the false idols that blind us are exposed for what they truly are, then we can clearly see the true and living God calling us to order our lives anew.
From the rubble of an old world, we can build a new one where love for our neighbor guides us in all our relationships, communities, and institutions. That’s the word of God that will never pass away. As our old idols crumble—along with the worlds of meaning we have constructed around them—that’s the word of God that can create a new heaven and earth where justice makes it’s home.
Prayer Jesus, your word lasts when our worlds fall apart. Help us to build our lives and a better world on your word: love your neighbor as yourself.