Working with this week's apocalyptic Gospel text evokes
memories of childhood experiences and teachings in a Mennonite congregation
with a fundamentalist understanding of Bible and life. Within that setting,
however, my family was solidly Anabaptist in outlook and rooted in social
justice concerns. My public school was, for a community in the middle of rural
Illinois, a virtual hotbed of ecumenicity, with all the major and many of the
minor denominations represented. All this made for some interesting tensions,
especially in a family with an ethos of discernment rather than rules.
As a child, I remember hearing in church about the second coming and Jesus returning. Long before the Left Behind series arrived, I heard the mournful strains of "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" around our church campfires.
The church has traditionally considered Advent a penitential season, a
time for changing one’s mind and re-turning to God. It’s a time for
preparing the way of the Lord, the One who will come to consummate all
things in the rule of God.
One of the things I love about the liturgical life of the church is the way that the Holy Spirit, quietly and gently, works on us. Through the texts and prayers set out each year in the lectionary the Spirit draws us ever more fully into the Presence. If we read the texts in a literalistic manner, it can sound as though week by week it is God who is undergoing change toward us.