December 2, 2018
Sunday Between November 27 and December 3 Inclusive
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 21:25-36, The Message or Luke 21:25-36, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Anyone who remembers being in church two weeks ago will be puzzled about why we are hearing this end of the world stuff all over again.
What a difference a couple of weeks can make in how a text can speak to us. We have a whole new Year; a whole new Season. And so a whole new question:
Hands up, who spent today expecting, anticipating, being alert for the coming of the Son of Man? Being alert for the fulfillment of God's promises? For the coming of God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven?
Hmm. I wonder what it means when many, perhaps most, of us no longer live in anticipation of the fulfillment of God's promises in our lifetime? But this is precisely the God-sized anticipation that the Season of Advent calls us to re-new and rehearse.
The birth of a baby. A heavenly declaration of peace on earth. Angel songs of joy. A guiding star. All these are truly worth celebrating. But these are the appetizers that invite us to a richer feast - to the non-coercive work of God to lure the heart of creation into alignment with God's heart.
The powerful, violent, fearsome images used by Jesus in this passage remind us of how far we are from God's heart's desire - if God's will were to be imposed on earth, at God's sole initiative, and over-riding the earth's built-in processes for change, then we would see that what is needed is not a few minor tweaks here and there; cataclysmic over-turnings are needed. Fainting from fear changes are needed.
But to those who have been well schooled in the teachings of Advent, who have taken its lessons to heart, who have not been distracted by the cheery songs and glittery gifts, whose hearts continue to long for God's deeper purposes - for these ones, Jesus says:
Don't faint from fear. Instead, stand up. Raise your heads. Your salvation is drawing near.
As one whose Advent this year is being lived within the experience of a cataclysmic injury in our family, I can attest to the truth of this teaching. Though terribly frightened, we have not fainted. We have stood up; raised our heads; and - though we are in the early days - are beginning to see faintly that our salvation is drawing near.
So whatever we might want to make of Verse Thirty-Two 2,000 years later, our family can testify that Verse Thirty-Three still holds: Jesus' words have indeed not passed away.
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, (see link below), pages 310-314.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, Richard Rohrbaugh, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)
25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 21:25-36 (The Message)
25 "It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, 26 in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.
27 "And then—then!—they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! 28 When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!"
29 He told them a story. "Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. 30 When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. 31 The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God's kingdom is about here. 32 Don't brush this off: I'm not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. 33 Sky and earth will wear out; my words won't wear out.
34 "But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, 35 for it's going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. 36 So, whatever you do, don't go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that's coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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