Easter 2C, Revised Common Lectionary

“All the tribes of the earth will wail.”

He is coming with the clouds…

I know, I know. It’s a pre-scientific worldview, gnostic even. We know better than to think heaven is out there; we know the cosmic expanse of space and the composition of clouds and the conflict between belief and knowledge.

Spooky Jesus on the Cloud Elevator
Spooky Jesus on the Cloud Elevator

But look! He is coming with the clouds!

Today in South Central Pennsylvania, the clouds were thin, not much more than a veil paling the blue spring sky. Trees are budding, although it has been terribly cold at night, which is hard on pansies. The sun shines, even so, and we embrace the idea that spring is coming, is here, despite the chattering teeth and winter coats at the Little League field last night.

We’re waiting on something we want, desperately. We want warm weather, daffodils in bloom, an April that makes sense.

After twenty-five years in Maine, I’ve grown more patient, even philosophical.

After many more years watching for Jesus, I am also patient.

“All the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be.” (Revelation 1:7, some of it)

We don’t want that.

We don’t want the days it’s too humid to go outside, either.

We’re seeking a snapshot moment — Jesus returns! Look, the tulips! The baby can sit up by herself!

The next thing you know, she crawls away, mosquitoes bite, and the tribes wail. We can’t hold the ideal moments. They always lead to something else.

(20, 11 and 15-wow)
(20, 11 and 15-wow)

In my backyard in Maine, everything came late — first the forsythia, then the flowering apple tree, then the lilacs. As spring turned the corner toward summer, the rhododendrons out front finally bloomed, the last ones in Portland because of their shaded environment. We took a lot of pictures in front of those rhododendrons, vibrant purple and overgrown long before it was our house. Day came when we had to cut them down lest they grow across the front steps — a moment that felt apocalyptic — an ending.

The tribe wailed.

What’s the platonic ideal you seek, the snapshot moment? On Patmos, John dreamed of the day Jesus would return on the cloud elevator and set things right, so beautifully and clearly God’s own self and Jesus at the same time that no one could ever question it again. It’s a pretty cool dream if you don’t like things the way they are, if you’re hungry or homeless, oppressed or neglected, or very very sure your particular Jesus team is the right one.

It’s also a primitive dream, isn’t it? Someone said he was lifted up to heaven, in the clouds, so to get back, he has to come down again.

For us, the cosmology feels all wrong.

But I’m a cloud-watcher anyway.

Also a pansy-watcher.

It He’s around, I’m determined to see Him. And if I wait, I’d like to think it will be with relief.


2 thoughts on ““All the tribes of the earth will wail.””

  1. I love this reflection Martha, especially where you wrote, “We can’t hold the ideal moments. They always lead to something else.” It’s the notion of holding that trips us up. We’re meant to flow, like the rivers of living waters.
    Hope you and yours are well!

  2. I grew up in a rather fundamentalist church–and all the time, preachers railed about Jesus coming again. Scared me half to death…maybe that was the point. So, when I saw a particularly lovely cloud arrangement, I would freak–oh no not that. Anyway, I took to guessing that Jesus would return at every hour of every day–so as to foil the verse that says “no man (or woman) knows the hour of His return.” My logic–if I had guessed all the various times, Jesus couldn’t very well return and say “No one knew I was returning.”
    Thank goodness for spiritual maturity. First, the return has nothing to do with lovely cloud arrangements. Second, the kingdom is now. Not some future apparition appearance.

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