The early church were expecting the end times in their own life time. So as you would expect this would influence their worldview. How they saw everything around them, including their attitude to work. (Epistle) Thinking what is the point of it all if it is coming to an end anyway. These readings are put at the end of the church’s year to remind us of the fact and reality that life will end for us, as individuals, and that change at all levels is inevitable.
What matters is how well we live our lives in the here and now.
Throughout the land we commemorate remembrance Sunday for all victims of war, especially the fallen soldiers of wars in the past 100 years. This being the centenary of the 1st World War we remember especially the events of 1916. For Europe of 1914-1919 it must have felt like the end of days.
There are four emotions related to endings:
- Sadness, related to a small loss.
- Sorrow, related to a large loss.
- Grief, related to a traumatic loss.
- Mourning, related to enduring loss.
There are several symptoms of grief, feeling physically drained, susceptible to illness, can’t think clearly, loss of interest and neglecting work and self; to name but a few. And there are stages of grief that it is helpful to know so we can cope with where we are at; anger, guilt, depression; and tasks we can engage in to work through the process, talk about it, allow yourself to feel it, adjust to the new circumstances.
At the core of our faith is the personal example of Jesus himself. Holy Week is the journey of endings and Holy Communion is the lasting symbol of his abiding presence.
What matters is how well we live our lives in the here and now. Our faith invites us to deeper into a life in the spirit and be buoyed up by the gifts of love, joy and peace. This does not take away the experiences of sadness, sorrow, grief and mourning, but gives meaning to a greater reality that is eternal in its reach.
I want to conclude with one of my favorite stories or parables, about an old mule that fell down a well. And that was the end of him, or was it?
The Old Mule in the Well
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' – or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathised with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened ...and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the dirt hit his back ... a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!
It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us.
May God bless us this week as we, "shake off the shackles and step up out of the wells" in which we find ourselves!
"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." - Phil. 4:13
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