Ellen Rothweiler, Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

Do you worry about the end of the world?

End of the World as We Know it

A lot of television and film media use the end of the world as a setting or plot point to tell a story. The Day After Tomorrow details the end of the world with the onset of a second ice age, while Seeking a Friend for the End of the World follows two characters who are spending their last days on earth before an asteroid hits, finding what really matters in the end. Other post-apocalyptic media tackle what life is like if you happen to survive some cataclysmic event. The Walking Dead tells this tale using a zombie apocalypse as a catalyst while The Hunger Games examines how power can corrupt and consume life while desperately attempting to preserve it. 

These and countless more books, movies,  and television shows speculate on what the end may be like. Why the fascination? An article in Good Houskeeping listing the top 20 end of the world movies, offers that “world ending movies are a mirror that reflect societies biggest paranoias back at us.” Are we hoping to prepare ourselves for what’s to come or just playing out our greatest fears to somehow diminish the power they hold over us?

Discussion Questions

  • Do you enjoy “end of the world” media? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Does thinking about the end scare you or make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?
  • If you knew the world would end tomorrow what would you be sure to do today?
  • An R.E.M song includes the refrain,”It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”  What does that suggest about how change can be both daunting and welcome?  Can you think of a time in your life when change was painful but ultimately positive?

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Malachi 4:1-2a

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Luke 21:5-19

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This part of the Gospel of Luke is pretty scary stuff!, especially when we see many, if not most, of the events listed are happening in our world today. This seems to be a road map for the end of the world. Jesus says these things will happen and then, but not immediately, the end will follow.  We are not the first generation to see in these words an eerie similarity to unfolding events; many have peered into this passage for a clue regarding when the end will come. 

If scripture tells us what leads to the end of the world, why do we still spend so much time guessing and imagining? Because it is still uncertain. Jesus warns that many will come saying “I am he!” and “The time is near!” but we need not follow them. The passage begins with people asking for answers. When? How? We still ask these questions today and fill in our own answers. 

Where is the Good News? In the midst of these things we will endure. Christ will be with us offering wisdom. We need not have the answers, for Christ will provide the words we need. Part of being a Christian in the midst of a scary and uncertain world is trusting that God holds the future–and that is enough. We can find peace knowing that these things are not for us to know or understand. This truth does not sound terribly comforting when we see suffering. Yet, if we spread love in the world as we find tragedy, we are offer the comfort others need. We are not in control and we cannot fix or prevent bad things. It is enough to know that God is with us and that we will endure.

Discussion Questions

  • How many of the events listed in the text can you see happening in our world today?
  • Do you seek answers when bad things happen? What questions do you ask?
  • What would you want God to say in reply to those questions?

Activity Suggestions

Watch all or part of one of the 20 Greatest End of World Movies and discuss what it has to say about human endurance in the face of tragedy.

Closing Prayer

God of mercy and power, sometimes it seems that our world is spinning out of control, that suffering is all around us and chaos near at hand.  In turbulent times give us confidence to entrust ourselves to you, bear witness to your never failing love, and strive to be instruments of your purposes in all times.