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When I was a young evangelical Christian, I was terrified by prospects of the end of the world. From my Bible reading I heard about Jesus coming like a thief in the night, as a consuming fire. When the Yom Kippur war broke out in Israel in 1973, I was sure Armageddon was right around the corner. The end of the world was a time of judgment, fear, and condemnation—a dreadful and dreaded reckoning to my mind.

The Gospel of Mattew paints a different picture:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:34-40

The ones engaged in these simple, yet costly, acts of feeding the hungry, providing water to the thirsty, giving clothing, tending to the sick, visiting prisoners, are the inheritors of the kingdom. Those who failed to take such actions are not in the line of inheritance. These standards, according to Jesus, are not about belief, but about action. Not intention, but practice, matters.

T S Eliot notes:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

“The Hollow Men”

The end of the world may come not from bombs or cataclysm, but from our failure to do acts of basic compassion, addressing fundamental human need. The whimper we will hear is not the hiss of the lake of fire, but a child’s cry for bread and water.

-The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector