THEME: REMAINING FAITHFUL
A new heaven and a new earth . . .wars and persecutions. . . they don’t seem to go together.
What were the lectionary folks thinking?
These seemingly contradictory passages speak of endings and beginnings—the vision of what can and will be—times of trial, times of peace.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
It is the contradiction we live in every day.
We are caught between despair and hope; caught between people who tell us to be realistic and our vision of a better life.
We are caught between those who believe the world is going to hell, and those who see a different life—a better life, a life that can come to be, will come to be, if we only believe the promises of God and live into them.
In the midst of a turbulent world, it can be very difficult to hold on to hope and to continue to do the right thing when so many people around us are living by the values of expediency and self-centredness. Contrary to what some preachers may say, Jesus did not promise to protect us from the pain of living in such difficult times. The Gospel reading for this Sunday makes that very clear.
But what Jesus did promise was that we would be empowered by God’s Spirit to stay faithful and to witness to the world about the way of Jesus and the life it brings.
It may feel daunting to face the call to be a witness to Christ, but this doesn’t mean that God is asking you to stand on street corners and preach. Rather, in the midst of a world of suffering, our best witness is to reject selfishness and think of others, to reject despair and continue to hope, to reject violence and work for peace, and to reject division and hatred in favour of love for those around us. These Christlike attitudes and actions do not require dramatic efforts. They are expressed in the simple routines of our daily lives.
This week we will meditate on living as people who witness, in our daily interactions and routines, to Christ’s love and hope.
It’s amazing how, in spite of their history, the people of Israel still revered the Temple so highly. It’s not that it was wrong for them to appreciate having a place to gather and to worship, but the
Temple had tended to become an object of worship in itself. When it was destroyed at the time of the exile it threw the people into despair because they believed that, with no Temple, God could no longer be available to them. It took a number of prophets to remind them that God was not confined to a building. In today’s reading, we see that the same reverence for the Temple remained in the hearts of God’s people. How shocking it must have sounded for the disciples when Jesus spoke so confidently and easily about the coming destruction of this grand edifice. Jesus’ words were fulfilled in the war of 66 – 70 AD, when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
When Jesus spoke about these terrible events, he offered his followers no promise of escape or protection. Rather, he called them to remain faithful and to witness to God’s grace and love through the turmoil. Persecution was to be seen as an opportunity to share faith, and betrayal was a chance to show the power of God by remaining faithful and loving throughout.
It’s important for us to remember this call of Jesus as we face trials today. Few of us will be threatened with death for our faith, but we will be tempted to respond to the taunts and betrayals of friends and opponents with anger and vengeance. But the way of Christ calls us to respond, even to our antagonists, with grace and love. How can you do this today?
Do: One of the best ways to express love to others – especially those who oppose or persecute us – is to speak words of blessing (benedictions) over them. When people see that we won’t play their antagonistic game, it often softens their hearts and stirs an interest in the way of Jesus. Try to speak blessing over everyone you encounter today.