Our last, desperate hope

By William O. “Bud” Reeves
Special Contributor

One of the most popular entertainment genres right now is apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movies and TV.

In these shows, an earth-shattering crisis threatens the world with destruction, or else the cataclysm has already occurred, and the survivors are trying to pick through the pieces and carry on. Whatever the crisis—alien invasions, nuclear holocaust, zombies by the millions—there is a last desperate hope for humankind, and our heroes fight against unimaginable odds to save the planet.

Reflecting our reality

Bud ReevesI believe these plot lines are so popular because they mirror the reality we experience. We all navigate personal crises that threaten the security of our world: death, disease, divorce, addiction, heartbreak and anxiety. We run to church and hear the cataclysmic stories of decline, financial struggles, leadership failure and conflict. We look to our culture and see a technology-driven apocalypse, a chaos of political gridlock, cut off from the anchors of tradition and morality, spinning wildly out of control.

Dr. Greg Jones, a professor at Duke Divinity School, has said, “We don’t know where we are going, but we are doing it at warp speed.” It’s a good question: Where are we going? Where is our hope?

Age-old struggle

Neither our struggles nor our questions are new to humanity. The disciples asked for a sign of the coming Kingdom of God that would give them hope—while the Son of God stood in their midst!

Each of the synoptic Gospels has a “little apocalypse” in which Jesus warns of the trouble that will come before the Kingdom does (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). And the Book of Revelation lays out in poetic detail the end of the world and the new heaven and earth.

Apocalyptic hope has always been popular in troubled times. The message of biblical apocalyptic literature can be summed up in three statements:

1) It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

2) In the end, God wins.

3) Those who endure in faith will share God’s victory. That’s some good hope!

In these cataclysmic times, we welcome the Advent hope: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The coming of Jesus fulfilled the desperate hope of a people oppressed by poverty, military occupation and religion. They had waited for centuries for the One promised by the prophets.

His coming is still our hope. For all our personal brokenness, for all the struggles of the Church, for all the suffering of the world, Jesus is still the answer. Every Advent we wait, and every Christmas we celebrate the One of whom we sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

And in Advent we anticipate his coming again to redeem creation and establish the eternal reign of God. This has been the faith of the Church from the beginning, and we recite it every time we share the sacrament of Holy Communion: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” That, too, is some good hope!

The battle for planet Earth is long and hard. We have one last desperate hope. His name is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Thanks be to God!

The Rev. Dr. Reeves serves as superintendent of the Northwest District. Email: breeves@arumc.org.