Weekly Blog - Haddon Willmer - I Am Not A Catastrophist
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Posted on: 25th August 2022
By nature, I am not a catastrophist. But shaken by pandemic, by war between bully powers and their victims, by shortage and inflation spreading hardship and fear even in rich but unequal countries, while consumerism and profits, inertial habit and wilful blindness drive on to break the 1.5 degree barrier: I ask, Is not catastrophe upon us? (Lam 3.54).
Is it not past time to read parts of the Bible, like Daniel 4 and Revelation 18, which lectionaries, in tender infantilizing care, prefer to avoid? Women wept as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, and he said, ‘Daughters do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children. If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Luke 23.26-31). Now, is not the wood dry, the grass ready for burning?
The church has been reeling, for years, in the catastrophe of its own decline. It resists decline by being cheerful, arguing that people cannot be expected to come back to a weeping church. That may be true. But look further: why were the daughters of Jerusalem weeping? It was because they had children they loved, caring with intelligence and vision generated from their commitment to the new embodied life. So, they had sympathy for Jesus even in their pathetic helplessness– he was some mother’s child. They thought what the lawless powers, the blind leaders, were doing to their children was a crying shame. In Jesus, they sensed the catastrophe looming.
Weeping does not guarantee a realistic, useful Church, but a realistic, truthful church will weep, grappling with fear, frustration, and failure. On the way with Jesus, who bore our sins in his own body (Peter 2.24), it will expect and get no privileged escape.
Jesus was not raised from the catastrophe to a safe, 'out of this world' haven. Risen, He came again to his disciples saying, Now we will pick up the mission we pursued in Galilee, and let’s share it wherever we go in the world, even if we have trouble again.
In the world, resurrection and renewed creation give no guarantee against catastrophe. Rather, resurrection resources the prayer for God’s sometimes costly will to be done even now on earth. It strengthens hands to pick up the pieces, to start building back better with the courage and patience that never despises the day of small things (Zechariah 4.6-10).
Resurrection implies that catastrophe is not total. Some remnant remains, the stump can sprout again. (Daniel 4.23; Isaiah 6.13;11). The days of suffering are cut short, restrained (Mark 13.14-23;II Thess.2.6). So be alert to the small, though closing, window of opportunity to save the earth and all in it from extinction.
And, what if catastrophe is total and there is no resurrection? Sorry, that’s a question for another time.