Proper 28, Year C
Luke 21:5-19 - link to NRSV text
If you want to see what put Jesus in the mood to talk about destruction, check out Luke 20:45-21:6, which sets the stage for this Sunday's gospel. In chapter 19, Jesus has condemned the Temple establishment as turning what should be a house of prayer for all people into a "den of thieves," and at the end of chapter 20 and the beginning of chapter 21 we see a specific example of what Jesus was condemning. He warns his disciples to beware of those who "devour widows' houses," and then sees it happening before his eyes as a poor widow puts her last two cents -- all she had to live on -- in the Temple treasury. The whole scene -- from Jesus' calling the Temple a "den of robbers" because of its unjust exploitation of widows to predicting its destruction -- evokes Jeremiah, so this Sunday's gospel is continuing in the jeremiad groove. Luke loves to show Jesus as a prophet, and the tradition of reading Deuteronomy 18:15-18 as predicting that a prophet like Moses will arise to proclaim the eschaton, the end of humanity's history of injustice. With Jesus' prophetic proclamation of the coming crisis (really, my alliteration there was unintentional), Luke is saying that, at least in a sense, the eschaton is here.
Would Luke's readers buy that? You bet. Everything in this Sunday's gospel that Jesus says is going to happen has already happened by the time Luke wrote. The book of Acts describes how some of them happened -- the famine, for example, and Christians being hauled before governors. Other things, like the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. (or A.D., if you prefer), remain "off-camera," but they are well-known to Luke's readers, as the earliest plausible dating for the gospel is around 80 C.E. So Luke's readers don't doubt Jesus' word here; they've experienced how "this writing has been fulfilled in your hearing."
How would this knowledge affect them? Would it stir up a kind of Left Behind hysteria? No. Jesus' word (with apologies to the Hitchhiker's Guide), includes the message, "DON'T PANIC."
Don't panic in the face of human destruction. Don't panic about wars and rumors of wars. Don't panic when the sky itself shows troublesome portents. Don't panic when Jesus' demand that God the Father, Christ our Mother (to use Julian of Norwich's image), and our brothers and sisters in Christ take priority over our biological family leads to the fulfillment of Jesus' word in Luke 12:49-56, and friends and even our parents and siblings reject and wound us.
It may be tempting to panic, as we ask ourselves how, in light of the violence and pain we see, and especially when following Jesus brings conflict to our families, it could possibly be true that, through Jesus' ministry, "the kingdom of God has come to you" (Luke 11:20). But we are not to ruled by fears. Jesus is still with us, giving us words to bear witness to his healing and reconciling of the world to himself. We believe that work will be consummated, and God's will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. Endure the troubles, which will pass; hold on to Jesus' vision for us and for the world, and we'll hold on to our souls, our integrity and our destiny.
The rulers of this world put on a convincing show of power, but we who know Jesus know what real power is and what it's doing among us. In a meditation called "until the end of the world" that I contributed to Get Up Off Your Knees (pp. 28-29), I put it this way:
The world of darkness and violence, of injustice and hatred, has ended, is ending, will end. The world [the prophets] proclaim can't be stopped with the sword, the might of institutions, or the betrayal of a brother. The universe arcs toward the justice for which it aches, and the whole world -- martyrs and traitors, soldiers and healers, lovers and lawyers -- will one day echo the song of the angels: Holy, holy, holy is the God who is Love, who is now, who is then, who is ever. Amen.
... and thanks be to God!
My Inaugural Address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!
eschatology,End Times,second coming,rapture,secret rapture,Second Resurrection,Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead,
End of days,Day of the Lord,Endtime,Judgment Day
Posted by: Secret Rapture | Dec 30, 2005 5:58:07 AM
This week's gospel reading is quite relevant in the light of what's going on in many parts of the world especially here in Asia. Rising or trying to rise from the heap of poverty and the ravages of internal armed conflicts, many asian countries have been concentrating on infrastructure development which sidelined the importance of total human well-being. Political leaders and economist in collusion with some Church leaders are taking the direction towards fortifying structures both economic and political and put aside the ethical aspects of life. Jesus addressed the imperfection of human structures and inaugurated the new dispension which is based on justice and peace. I hope that with this more and more concerned Christians will follow Jesus Christ rather than lure of wealth, fame and power.
Posted by: frank hernando | Nov 16, 2007 8:19:01 PM