Nov. 17, 2019
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “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.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
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. 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.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
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. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Something to Do
Terrifying Signs of the Coming of the Kingdom
The picture Jesus paints for the disciples is terrifying – wars and famines and earthquakes and persecution. It is also pretty familiar – Jesus could be describing almost any decade in human history. This is why people see the end of the world in every generation, both before Jesus and after him.
But if the end of the world is the the same thing as the coming of the Kingdom of God, the realization of God’s vision of perfect justice and peace for all creation, then why is it so scary? Why does it come with such destruction and suffering?
Because people with something to lose – people who don’t actually want perfect justice and peace – fight its coming. All too often, justice seekers and peacemakers are met with violence. Which means that their work is a double sign. When we see love and hope and self-sacrifice in action, we catch a glimpse of the Kingdom itself. And when we see the war and persecution that rises up to stop it, we know that the Kingdom is near.
So name both signs this week. Look for the glimpses of the Kingdom and rejoice. But also hold fast to the hope that what looks like destruction is actually birthpangs.
the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another…
Do a little internet searching for pictures of glorious temples that have fallen, whether due to war or simply the passing of time. Some suggestions: Coventry Cathedral, the Parthenon, the 2nd Temple, the Luisenstädtische Kirche, the Temple of Zeus at Aizanoi.
Something to Wonder
Beware that you are not led astray
There are many teachers competing for our attention and our loyalty, offering alternative ways to follow rather than the way of Jesus.
When have you been attracted by another teacher? What was appealing about that way? What made you realized you were being led astray?
Are you, perhaps, currently following another teacher some of the time? How can you make sure the way you are following is in keeping with the way of Jesus?
I will give you words of wisdom
Have you ever had the experience of finding words you didn’t think you had? Perhaps when you had to speak in your own or someone else’s defence or at a time of grief or a time of healing? If so, what was it like?
Perhaps words are not the way you move through the world. If that is the case, have you ever been the ability to do something you needed to do but didn’t know how you could? Or the means to communicate something you didn’t know how to communicate? How did that feel?
Have you ever thought of naming that gifted capacity as the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?
Something to Learn
A variety of apocalypses
Shades of Millenarianism from the Economist
This article addresses the role of apocalyptic thought in Iranian theological and political thinking – because the end of the world does not only interest Christians!
Millenarianism and Violence is a short, accessible scholarly article that takes a sweeping look at millenarian movements around the world and the risks they have posed.
Facing a possible Climate Apocalypse puts the climate crisis in conversation with dangers of the past and offers (a rather bleak) kind of hope for the future. Note: this is NOT a politically neutral piece!
And, finally, this article from the Irish Examiner looks at the backlash against Greta Thunberg: Does Greta Thunberg make you uncomfortable?
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.