I suspect some readers are going to see this title and have certain expectations. Some will be disappointed that I am writing on something like this and may never read it again. Others will be so happy and, then, when they read it, will likely be disappointed. And they may never read again anything I write. So indeed, this is about the second coming, but probably not in the traditional way people associate with that idea.
I did not set out to write this little inspirational piece. But the idea was dumped into my lap---or my mind, as it were. I am part of a group that meets weekly and explores spiritual issues. It is a group that has been meeting for many years now, so it is not unusual to get personal stories emerging out of a discussion about some issue. Most of them are important, because the people are important. But most of them do not provoke me to write about it. The one shared recently moved me to reflect and here it is.
The story was a wintertime story and actually was pretty hair-raising. A good friend in the group was sharing about her travels to Florida soon after the first of the year. As might be expected, she left in the cold of winter and looked forward to getting to the southern part of our country to enjoy the warmth of those southern latitudes. However, it was fraught with some tricky weather.
About half way through the journey, the roads precipitously got slick with the ice that formed. She and her companion slowed and were ready to push on. Coming upon a semi going very slowly, they responded accordingly. Soon however, the semi-truck began a slide and moved gracefully to the side of the road. They were ready to swing left around that ditched truck, only to find another semi enters its slide. Danger that truck came to a halt perpendicular to the other semi now grounded at the side of the road. There was no way around. They were trapped---knowing other cars, trucks, etc. were heading down the highway ready to hit the ice and maybe them, too.
Not long after they stopped, they noticed a pickup truck approach. I was listening to the story, but without too much engagement. And then my friend described the guy get out of the pickup. Apparently, he got out, filled some bags with sand and put it around his truck. And then he began to do the same for all the cars now stranded behind the two trucks. What was going on?
Her description of him brought me to full attention. She said, “our savior with a San Francisco 49’s coat and a cowboy hat got out of the pickup truck and made people safe.” I almost laughed out loudly. Maybe it is because I have a warped mind, but it struck me funny that this could be an offbeat way to describe the second coming! And it is certainly a different version that any I had heard.
No doubt, what triggered the association in my mind was her use of the word, “savior.” Of course, that is a descriptive term often applied to Jesus. Christians are used to hearing and using such language to describe who Jesus was and what Jesus was here to do in our midst. It is typical in certain Christian circles to hear language such as, “Jesus came to save us from our sin.” My interest is not to get into whether this is true or not, but to understand it as one way to understand how God is involved in our world trying to make things better. I have no doubt this is what Jesus was up to.
The traditional Christian teaching suggests that the saving work of Jesus continues after his own death. And more conservative Christianity follows the lead of the last book of the New Testament, namely, Revelation, that at some appointed time, Jesus will return to the earth and finish his work. This is the second coming. What was funny in my friend’s story is seeing this second coming as some guy in a pickup, cowboy hat and 49’s jacket. That is not the usual image of Jesus in his second coming.
I could have laughed and left it at that. But maybe there is an inkling of truth here. Maybe Jesus does come again every time someone acts on behalf of others. Maybe every loving act---redeeming some sin, evil or disaster---is a manifestation of the second coming. Maybe instead of one big, last act, it will be a series of mini-actions in multiple places in a variety of times. Who is to say how God may come again and again?
It makes me wonder if the second coming is nothing more than every disciple and every person in the world choosing to follow his example and be part of the power of love in our world rather than participating in the power of the problems of the world. Our work is to be redeemers and not ridiculers.
I know how the book of Revelation talks about it and I am not saying it is inadequate. But I also wonder if there is not more to the story than simply waiting for Jesus to come back again to end this mess. Maybe those of us who are in the middle of the mess can do our saving part right now. We may not need a pickup truck, 49 jacket and cowboy hat, but we can go into those places of sin and danger and work to make folks safe. It becomes a nice metaphor for the work of salvation.