I’ve always found his words bit troubling, but a powerful descriptor of desire and hate. I’m not sure how this world will end (though the impacts of human overconsumption and pollution on a finite planet might give us some idea). Robert might be right. But for me, I don’t muse on an ending.
I muse on a beginning; a new heaven and new earth where crying, pain, guilt, loneliness, racism, sexism, pollution, hatred, boredom and indifference are wiped away, not with fire, and not with ice. With love. Revelation 21, though too often simplistically applied as a formula for the end of this world, doesn’t create a new world out of fire or ice. The poetic imagery used is of marriage, of God coming to dwell among us mortals, of covenant relationship founded upon love. The text says that some things do burn when that sort of love happens. The things that pollute, the things that lead to cowardice and murder and dishonesty. Those burn away, as love reveals a more excellent way. But what is left is meant to last: a tree with leaves that heal the nations and a river of the purest water. What is left is God once again making a home on a renewed earth.
For me, Lent is a time of living in the uncomfortable, perplexing place of looking for a light of hope in a cold, dark night. It is about facing the things of death, while looking for new life. Lent is when I open my eyes to try to see how God is bringing light especially when things seem cold and dark, even when that light makes about as much sense as that picture I took. And Lent is about having enough whimsical faith to dare believe that the new world might already be creeping into this one, in ways that are so small and ordinary we might otherwise miss them: in a niece who says “I love you, Weeza” without even thinking, in shared laughter and stories, in tasty food and strong coffee, in choosing kindness when the choice of indifference is always easier, in the everyday choice to cherish this planet because it is a gift from God. Yes, the world may end in fire, and it may end in ice. But a new world is already beginning.
And that world begins in love.