Over the next two days we will endure senseless news coverage documenting the eventual end of the world... or at the least, the end of the Mayan calendar.
This is nothing new for a world that now has access to every crazy view or idea (your reading my writings and ideas is case in point). We all remember the imminent end of life as we know it during the Y2K scare. People were certain the economy would collapse and planes would drop from the skies all because our PC's might not be able to make the leap from 1999 to 2000. Last year a radio evangelist, Harold Camping, predicted the world would end by October of 2011. Rulon Jeff, the FLDS leader, told his children to skip college because they would not exist past 1997. All the way back to the 16th century, we have evidence that a mystic named Mother Shipton predicted the world would end in 1991.
The question is, "does anyone really take these predictions seriously or do we simply use them as an excuse for 'end of the world' parties, survival kits, or even weekend hotel packages?" (See Matthew Hall's article here)
I was living in St. Louis in 1990 when scientist, Iben Browning, predicted a major earthquake would occur on December 2nd. We did not believe his prediction but we did use it as an excuse to stay home from school, "just in case". I don't think my parents believed an earthquake would occur but they went along with my ploy to be home for my own safety.
When I worked with high school students I would ask them what they would do if they knew the world would end and those who answered honestly usually had some version of a life of crime and debauchery followed by a last minute of repentance.
Perhaps what this all points to is the human desire for "escape". We have a constant diet of destruction aired from countries in Africa and the Middle East. We have senseless tragedies hitting close to home in our schools. We have a pending dive over the "fiscal cliff" that we cannot control. We even have controversy over yoga in our local Encinitas schools. Are these all signs that the end is near or are they reminders of a world that is imperfect and at times, quite painful?
In our faith communities we have apocalyptic writings that remind us of the difficulties in life and that point us back to the hope that God is in control and one day will bring peace to our restless world. These writings are less about telling us how and when the world would end and more about reminding us that hope exists and God still fills the world with His love. These writings are about re-ordering our priorities and about keeping us grounded when things seem to be breaking free.
So whether this Friday "starts with an earthquake" or begins with a typical Friday commute, take a deep breath. Say "I love you" to your loved ones. Recognize the good things that are happening in your life. Re-examine your priorites and the goals for which you live. Trust that God is still in control.
And unless you see John Cusak driving a limo through the streets while buildings collapse around him, you will likely make it through the day and I am almost certain most of us will wake up Saturday morning (albeit some will wake up with stronger than normal hangovers).