Who knew?!? The World’s End is just a little more than 7 miles away from Eagles Mere, PA. I discovered this apocalyptic location when I went for a hike in the Loyalsock State Forest. We are fortunate to have a state park there. 19th Century Loggers completely deforested the old growth forests of Eastern White Pine and Hemlock. Clearly, millions of animals’ world came to an end because of Pennsylvanians’ needs for lumber. A new world came into being when the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources purchased the property in 1932. The Civilian Conservation Corps began restoring the area throughout the 1930s and thereafter.
However, the end times for this pristine region are potentially occurring. The earth under the forests is rich in shale. Seemingly Pennsylvania doesn’t own mineral rights in most of its parks. Should a company such as Anadarko decide to drill for shale they will imperil the area’s environment and inhabitants including bears, otters, deer, turkeys, and more than 200 species of birds. (Kibbe, 2004). Your thermostat is set at _______?
Why are you so grim today Jim (you may ask)? Well, I usually blame such episodes on my melancholic Celtic heritage. Walks in the woods accompanied by my appreciation for this planet’s grandeur invokes a sense of commingled woe and wonder.
Here’s another matter disturbing my soul. I’m not a huge of Linkin Park. I have friends who are. Chester Bennington’s suicide shockingly grieves them. His battles with depression and addictions are documented. The suffering he experienced must have been overwhelming. I have had friends commit suicide and I’ve thought about it too. Some of the weeds that spring up in our psyche go well beyond our genetic matrix. We live in desperate days and some people can’t handle it. I am sad every time someone or something dies tragically and unnecessarily.
More than 44,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34. (National Institutes of Mental Health, 2016). I doubt that most opioid overdoses are classified as suicides and they probably should be. Everyone is worthy of love and belonging.
That last point is what’s got me wound up the most. In Sunday’s Gospel text , Matthew’s Jesus shares a story about weeds and wheat winding up in the same ground. The wheat was doing very well on its own until an enemy came along and through some weeds into the same soil. The workers desired to quickly pull out the weeds and the chief gardener directed them to leave them together. “Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Matthew is the only synoptic gospel who shares this parable. It seems that Matthew’s Jesus wants Matthew’s listeners to pay close attention to whether or not they are righteous and faithful. Such virtues seemingly get you into the heavenly barn when the endtimes happen. Nonbelievers or heretical folks…. well hang out for the eternal fracking party.
That’s nice and oh so bonecrushingly unfair . The woeful human weeds, get burned while the righteous shine like the sun. I need a different interpretation than that one. Maybe I’ll preach on Jacob and the ladder descending from heaven instead.
Here’s a simple yet paradoxical theological point. Life is no picnic. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Celtic or a member of some other cultural group. You and I can’t control whether or not some greedy mining company is going to start fracking the beautiful forests in Pennsylvania. We can complain like hell and in the end it may not matter.
People who wrestle with depression and addictions need help. They sure as hell don’t need to hear that they are going to eternal damnation. What seems evil to me is to not to strive to protect God’s creation, God’s creatures, and our neighbors, especially people who wake up in the morning believing that this life isn’t worth living. Can we fix other people. No. Can we strive to be agents of God’s healing. Yes, this is delicate work and we won’t always succeed though we try.
For some reason, the presence of evil is inherent in God’s creation, and therefore in ours. I understand that many Christian theologians want to erase God’s divine thumbprint on evil. I’m unconvinced. The little I know about cosmology and biology is that the universe somehow operates with seemingly bad things harming seemingly good things. Black holes consume entire galaxies. Suffering happens in the World’s End State Park, in the hearts of rock stars, and throughout gardens everywhere.
Okay, theodicy (why does evil exist?) is way too big of a problem for me. What seems much smaller and a little more manageable is that weeds and wheat are aspects of my human condition. They probably are for you too.
There are degrees of choice in paradoxical wheat/weed living. First, when possible, enjoy picnics – especially when wandering onto life’s uncertain and potentially wicked roads. Don’t fall too much when getting outdoors in PA. Minimize the weeds of depression with the wheat of wholehearted living. Listen to what the roots of pain are trying to teach rather than ignoring them. Identify when displaced dissatisfaction is working overtime. Seek out activities that are enriching. Give to people, especially someone in need of encouragement, compassion, and justice. And, keep searching for the World’s End with the hopes of not finding it until the appointed time and place.
Blessings along The Way