December 08, 2017
In the mornings, the first thing I do when my eyes edge open is check the news on my phone to see if the world’s still here.
For myself, I’m not terribly upset about this. At my age, there’s not all that much to look forward to anyway, and I could use some excitement. If the country combusts, oh well.
I very much hate it for my grandchildren, though.
Our pending Armageddon could take any one — or several — of myriad forms.
There’s a nut in North Korea practicing to shoot thermonuclear weapons at New York and Washington.
Speaking of nuts, we’ve got ourselves some president now. In a recent book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” 27 leading psychiatrists and mental health experts deemed Mr. Trump certifiably mental. In a blunter assessment, his own secretary of state described him as a (%$#*!) moron.
In Congress, the president’s Republican enablers intend to run up another $1 trillion on the federal deficit so they can redistribute wealth to their billionaire patrons, while goring the middle and lower classes and (they hope) eventually dismantling Medicare and Social Security, which you once hoped to retire with, you ungrateful gravy-slurping takers.
Meanwhile, we’ve got medicine-resistant, organ-eating bacteria mutating on every solid surface, in our waterways and in the bellies of wildlife. Inevitably, one of them will spark a pandemic that’ll make the 1918 flu look like a sinus infection.
There’s global warming. That’s the crisis least likely to get us, mainly because we won’t survive the rest of these poxes long enough to reap its full consequences.
It’s over, friends. Buckle your chinstraps. As Country Joe and the Fish observed, there ain’t no time to wonder why — whoopee! — we’re all gonna die.
So, the big question is: What are we to do while we’re waiting for the apocalypse?
We can protest, of course.
We can write our representatives in Washington. (Good luck with that.)
We can build bomb shelters in our backyards and stock up on ammo, water and dried fruit.
But mainly, whatever we do — you and I being mere peons — we aren’t going to stop Kim Jong-Un or the 3-year-old in the Oval Office or any of these other threats.
In the end, we won’t be the actors, you and I; we’ll be the acted upon. That’s what we get for choosing not to dominate the world, my fellow slackers. We were too busy attending our kids’ soccer games and helping with charity auctions down at the church-house.
Back in the first century, St. Paul addressed a situation not all so different. He, too, lived in a tumultuous era that gave people tension headaches and queasy innards. He expected the end any minute.
As is the case with almost everything the gospel addresses, Paul’s advice was counter-intuitive.
Paraphrased a bit, here’s how he urged his followers to behave while they waited for the second big bang:
Make sure to respect those in your church who lead you spiritually in the right paths, he said. (Note: This assumes your spiritual leaders are steadfast and display sound judgment.)
Strive to remain at peace with your fellow travelers as you journey together through this treacherous time.
Do your best to calm the unruly and hotheaded.
Encourage those who are scared.
Help those who are weak.
Be patient with everyone, whatever their issues.
Don’t repay the evil others do to you by doing evil to them. Instead, seek whatever’s good for all, regardless of whether they’re part of your group, or whether they’re friend or foe.
As the times worsen, never to lose your joy. Choose happiness, no matter what else happens.
Talk to the Lord about everything you encounter.
Be thankful for your blessings rather than bitter about your losses.
Leave room for God to supernaturally intervene. Listen for him to speak to you and direct you.
No matter what your culture’s common wisdom tells you, carefully examine everything for yourself. Hold onto the parts that are smart and good, but reject anything that’s dumb or crooked. Don’t be led into wrongheadedness. Don’t close your heart.
Dear St. Paul, thank you. From one Paul to another, I appreciate your sage ideas.
Of course, nearly all of what you said is so not me.
But I’ll try to do these things, I promise, until that morning I discover that my phone is belching smoke and there’s no one but zombies left on the other end of the line.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.