Theme: Be prepared!
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, keep us from complacency and turn us around, prepared to meet your son coming in power and great glory, that we may stand up, rejoicing, in his appearing to the world, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who brings peace and reconciliation to the world. Amen.
Luke picks up where Mark left off last Sunday in Mark’s Apocalypse. Jesus continues to talk about the signs that will occur at the end of time. Jesus says that there will be signs in the sky, but he is not specific on what those signs will look like. The world will panic over the turmoil of the oceans and their waves. There will be total chaos.
It will be so bad that men and women alike will faint with terror. Jesus then says that the powers of heaven will shake. What does that mean? The power of heaven is God. Is Jesus saying that the calamity is so great that even God will be shaken? It seems we will fear for our collective lives. The destruction of humanity would even cause God to be shaken. The ancients believed that the heavens and the earth were connected. Whatever happens in heaven will next happen on earth.
Then after all this chaos has happened, we will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory. I’m not sure how we will see the Son of Man in a cloud. But apparently however that will happen, it will be obvious. The Greek word translated as nations in the NRSV could easily be translated as the Roman Empire. What will happen in this discourse, will happen to the Roman Empire. If so, what Jesus is saying parallels Daniel. The national powers will be affected before the coming of the Son of Man.
Now, when you see all these things happen, be brave, standing erect, with your heads held high, because help is on the way. Seeing the resurrected Lord will cause us to stand upright, while others cower in fear. Because we know that the worst that life can throw us will be over. Jesus will put everything right.
After Jesus frightens the disciples, he then tells them a parable. “Look at the fig tree and every other tree for that matter. You know that when you see the leaves start to bud out on the trees, you know that summer is around the corner. By the same token, when you see the signs you just heard about, you should know that the kingdom of God will soon be here.”
The kingdom of God means harmony and peace. What Jesus seems to be saying is that there will be great calamities followed by harmony and peace. We will be brought back to Eden. He is also saying that the signs of this end-time are as ordinary as a change in the seasons. We are to live through times of transition and change, not withdraw from them.
Then Jesus cautions the disciples not to think that all of this is for some future time – then they should forget about it. They will live to see these things. Assuming Jesus is right (and why wouldn’t he be right), then what is being described here is a past event to us, likely the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. This was a very calamitous event for Jews and Christians alike.
All the things around us: this church, our homes and the stuff they contain, Placerville, our country, all the other countries, will all go away. The only thing that is constant is the Word of God. The Word of God is the focus of our thoughts, our prayers, and our very existence.
Jesus warns them to stay on their toes. If they become lackadaisical, relaxed, then everything is going to break loose. (I could have used an extra word in there.) Have we become too relaxed? Have we, in this country, become too comfortable? If so (and I think so), then is it possible for Jesus’ warning to repeat in our times? What do we need to do?
If Jesus comes in our lifetime, it might be advisable for us to look busy. (After all, he is the boss.) We wouldn’t want to be surprised. Jesus warns us to pray that we have the strength and wits to deal with his coming again. There have been many wars. There have been many catastrophes. Yet, we are still here waiting for Jesus to come again. We even pray it in our Eucharistic prayers.
Author Doug Mendenhall shares a brief parable that should cause all of us to pause and reflect:
Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.
I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”
I mean, it’s Jesus, you know, and it’s not every day you get the chance to visit with him. It’s not like it’s your in-laws and you have to stop and decide whether the advantages outweigh your having to move to the sleeper sofa.
That’s when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate. I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What's wrong? Who is that?”
So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits. …
My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn't think we were reprobate loser slobs.
I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I’d been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids’ set out on the sun porch, because I didn’t want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.
My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.
I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?
I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn't need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.
I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.
Then the doorbell rang.
Text: 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.”