This is not about hope. This is not about how God will save you. This is not about how you will be better if you are in church on Sunday. This is about you and how you are going to survive what seems like the end of the world.
Apocalypse: A disclosure of knowledge or revelation. Often referencing an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.
We are the survivors of the apocalypse, the heroes of the story who take what they can find and make a way out of no way. We are Forest Whittaker and Theo James in a Netflix Original. Our gas is running low, our anxiety is running high, and our film has just begun. The film How It Ends starts with two people finding their way out of an impossible situation. And this is how it ends (spoiler alert): The main character is almost out of the dooms day darkness when he is — That's it. That's how it ends. There is no resolution, no neatly packaged finale, only a quick cut to black and the movie is over.
I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church. We don't like to talk about uncertainty, I can assure you. However, I am not quite certain what will happen when my life cuts to black. There is no empirical evidence to substantiate claims of an afterlife. When I think about the world, though, I am fairly certain about a few things. The first is this: if we are living in this terrible dooms day Netflix Original, then we are not alone here because I am alive and so are you, and therefore, we will gather what we have and make a way out of no way. The second, that hope is not about what happens after all is said and done, hope is the very nature of our being. And third, I am a child of God who knows that this is more than the apocalypse, it is the rest of our lives. And so, we must wake up each day and find a way to pick up the pieces of what has been broken, bring them back together, and create something beautiful again.
I don't know what happens when the screen cuts to black, but I do know when the film is just beginning we have to get in the car, find the gas canister, and try to get somewhere other than where we are now. "The hope is in the journey" is so cliche and so I will phrase it like this: the hope is in you. When the structures that once held us up falter, breakdown, and crumble away — the "American Dream," the promise of stability, the claims to truth we may have held — we have to travel through the rubble, knowing our hope cannot be in these things because these things have failed us. Our hope now is in our ability to see one another amidst the debris, to bring our gaze down from the tall promises we once held onto and into the eyes of the one across from us. The word apocalypse doesn't mean "the end of things" like a period at the end of a sentence, it translates more closely to an unveiling of something that was once hidden. We are the survivors of the apocalypse living in a Netflix Original because something that was hidden is now being revealed. We remain amidst the rubble of what we thought things were, facing the possibility of what could be.
And so we rise from the ashes with our backpacks in tow and we take heart because the film is just beginning. Our story is God's story, and God's story is one where all will be saved in the end.
Take a look around you and reach out for help where you can find it. Keep an extra gas canister to spare for one running low. Because we are the survivors of this film and that means we are in this together, so be encouraged and have hope knowing that this is the end.
Pastor Nikki Young is the Minister of Worship and Discipleship and Union UMC in Boston, MA. She is a PhD candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University and an ordinand in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.