Two stories illuminate my response to our apocalyptic fears. In 1982, one of my college students painted the house of a farmer, living in Central Michigan. After completing his work, he asked the farmer if he would like him to caulk the windows for greater insulation. The farmer replied, "Don't bother, Jesus is coming soon!" I suspect that this farmer regretted his decision after living through the frigidity of a Michigan winter. A few years before, when my wife and I were living in Tucson, Arizona, a Christian sect down the street from us determined that Jesus would return in December 1979. They quit their jobs, sold their homes, and settled in the Catalina Mountains above Tucson to be closer to the descending Christ. During that time, our son was conceived. Both the sect and my wife and I were preparing for the future, but today my son is 30, and raising his own son, while they are still waiting.
Perhaps, the imagery of apocalypse can remind us of the fragility of life and challenge us to seize the moment. When someone tells me Jesus is coming again, I usually respond, "Yes, he is," and then I add, "He's coming every moment." What I mean is that God is part of every moment, calling us to decision: will we choose life or death? Life is serious -- as well as joyful -- business and we would do best to wake up both May 21 and May 22 with the affirmation: "This is the day that God has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it." Rather than RSVP for a future of doom, let's accept the invitation to treasure each moment, embrace beauty, share words and acts of love, and joyfully create and plant seeds for trees whose fruit we will never taste.