New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Signs and Persecutions
7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
9 “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Being a faithful Christian is something I strive for, but know that I fall short of every single day.
With that said, what does being a faithful Christian really mean? This week’s Gospel from Luke seems to be a doomsday prediction on the surface. Jesus teaches that our temples will fall, false prophets will lead us astray, our families will turn against ourselves and there will be some really bad stuff happening in the world. Followers of Christ will be treated as criminals and be hated; all while wars and natural disasters are happening around us. Pretty heavy stuff, but not too far fetched if you just watch a little television in the evenings. Jesus then says the most calming things: don’t worry about preparing to defend yourself, as he will give us the tools we need to be protected and we will not be harmed in the process of all this doom and gloom.
There are a lot of preachers teaching this “end of time” preparation stuff and tons of books that attempt to explain how it all will end for us here on earth. There are classes you can take to prepare you and your family for the end of the world by hoarding canned goods, toilet paper and gallons of water and how to live off the grid if needed. The news is full of stories that can align tightly with the scary parts of the reading for this week as well – it’s not a huge leap to think that the end is near.
The title of this blog entry isn’t “The End is Near,” but rather focuses on the time is now. Reading this Gospel through the first time might elevate your heart rate a little, but go back and read it again. This is a lesson on peace – peace in the here and now. Jesus tells us about all the bad stuff while at the very same time reassuring us of our safety and security in his arms.
I’m a pretty positive person who tends toward the optimistic slant in my views of the world. So I’m drawn to the part of today’s Gospel that focuses on faith. I hear today’s interpretation of Jesus’ words in Luke as this; “Draw near to me in faith and I will give you all the tools you need to stay on the path in the face of the world of distractions and conflict.” The folks who say that we need to be ready for the end of times are focused on their own skills and tools – I choose to let my faith give me the tools I will need that I cannot even muster from within myself on my own. It’s way easier to get discouraged and sad by the news around us than it is to remain faithful to Christ. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do. “By your endurance you will gain your souls” is the last line of today’s reading. Endurance is about getting back on track as we follow our Lord and Savior through this world that we humans do a great job of destroying. And gaining my soul sounds a lot better than having enough canned goods when all is said and done. So the time is near alright – the time to get right and stay right in our faith. There really is no better time than now to join with God in his plans for us.
In this scary world, we give thanks to you Lord, for being our protector and provider of more than we even knew we needed. Thank you for giving us the wisdom to choose to follow you in the face of adversity. We love you and look ahead to our perfect relationship with you through Christ our Lord. AMEN.