Lectionary Reflection: Luke 21:5-19: Are We There Yet?

We used to go to Cape Cod in the summer when the children were little and before it became cost prohibitive.  My elder two thought they were smart.  Even as we pulled out of the driveway, my eldest always asked, “Are we there yet?”  That would trigger her little brother to start to sing.  “I’m being annoying, I’m being annoying.”  You try driving 800 miles with that going on in the back seat!

It sort of remind me of the disciples, or maybe us.  “Look at this beautiful temple.”

“This Temple will be thrown down.  Not one rock will stand on another.”

When?  Are we there yet?  Am I being annoying yet?

What Jesus gave in response was not really a prediction.  I feel he gave history – a template to how the world functioned and would function right up to the end.  So how is your history?

1.         They will come who claim to be Christ

The truth is there were Messiah claimants before, during and after Jesus.  That is why people so often asked him, “Are you the one or should we look for another?”  Right up until the present, if people did not claim to be the Christ, they have claimed to speak for the Christ or understand Jesus above and beyond the average bear.  Consider recent history: The Late Great Planet Earth, The Worldwide Church of God, Moonies, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, all different kinds of “millenialists,” Left Behind… And it was no different throughout History: Marcionites, Nestorians, Aryans, the impetus for numerous monastic movements, Anabaptists.  Everyone had a take on the end of the world.  Rome, Luther, Calvin…  Go back and look at how people reacted during Y1K…

Look at the so-called Great Disappointment of the 1840s (the Millerite Movement).  Jesus was supposed to come down to a certain Hill in Ohio.  Thousands of people flocked there.  When he did not appear, Professor Miller said, “I must have miscalculated,” and went home, but thousands had sold everything to come… So they started the Church of God, the Seventh Day Adventists, and etc.  Everyone had their take on the end of the world.  Many still do.

The truth is when Jesus comes there won’t be any debate about it.  Trust me, everybody will know.  Until then I feel there are more important things for us to be doing… But NO, that’s not good enough for us, is it?  “Are we there yet?”  No.  Sit down.  And don’t bother your brother!

2.         Wars & revolutions will weary this world.  So when has this not been the case?  Rome.  The Fall of Rome.  The Muslim Conquests.  The Great Khans.  The Dark ages.  The Middle Ages. The Crusades.  The Age of Empires.  The many American revolutions.  The French and Russian Revolutions.  The World Wars, the first being in 1812, or maybe during the so-called French and Indian War.  I mean, when has this not been the case?

Ah, you say, but most people did not know about these things until the advent of modern communications.  Wrong.  Edward certainly came home from fighting the French to confront his son.  “What happened to my northern army?”  (I saw Braveheart).  The romans were know for communicating information rapidly and efficiently.  Why do you think they built all those roads?  You know, even before Christ, the Jews knew all about and feared Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.  Besides, it has been more than 400 years of mass communication, what with newspapers, then the telegraph, then radio, then satellites.  And the same goes for the next point:

3.         There will be earthquakes, famines, pestilence: fearful events and signs from heaven.  Would that be the San Francisco Earthquake or the Chicago fire?  A better question might be when has this world ever been free of such things?  It is the brokenness of this world – sin working itself out, daily.  And it will continue until Jesus (unquestionably) comes.  It is the template Jesus gave.  This is the way this broken, sin-filled world stumbles along.

And then he got personal.

4.         But first, persecutions: delivered to Synagogues = social, legal and moral judges & thrown in prison and brought before kings and governors = political authorities.  Don’t worry about what you will say.  God will inspire… but wait, James was beheaded, Peter was crucified, Paul went to Prison in Rome and John on the isle of Patmos.  To this day, Christians are persecuted in the Sudan.  They were thrown in Prison in Nazi Germany as well as Soviet Russia.  They are still thrown in Prison in China.  And persecuted without end, often violently in Muslim countries.  So when has it not been so?

5.         Betrayed by family and friends?  Sure, let a Muslim convert.  They will not only be turned in by their own family, the family will take part in stoning that person to death.

6.         Hated because of Jesus (Christians).  In this country we had a brief (200 or so years) time of peace, back when we were a “Judeo-Christian” country.  These days there are millions of Americans who will not admit that we were ever a Judeo-Christian country.  And these people are trying to separate church from state in a way that the founding fathers never meant.  That is honestly not debatable – but Christianity is being removed from every vestige of public life and it won’t be long before ways are found to stop it in private life as well.  I have no doubt.  It will be “Christianity makes you fat” or some such nonsense…

7.         Put to death, but not a hair will perish:  stand firm = gain life.  So, the world has always and will continue to go to war and we will blow each other up.  The New Orleans flood will never get off the news despite oil spills, tsunamis, volcanoes – well, everything that has always been.  Diseases run amok, pestilence will continue, and (dare we say it) global warming?  Yada, yada.

Meanwhile, on a personal level, we are rapidly returning to a world of hating Jesus ( hating Christians – where most of the world has always lived).  Don’t you know the propaganda?  Christianity is the reason for all wars and all of the suffering in the world besides.  You know the drill:  All Christians are racist, sexist, bigots and homophobes who want to impose their sick, fantasy religion on everybody.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but hey, people believe what they want to believe.

I suppose when you add it all up, this disastrous, sin-filled, violent world we live in really hasn’t changed a lot in the last two thousand years.  Might Jesus come in the morning?  Yes.  Might Jesus wait another two thousand years?  Yes.  It makes me want to pray, even now Lord, come.  I have little patience for those who are determined to ask over and over and over:

“Are we there yet?”

At this point in the trip, not having the patience of God, I pull into the nearest gas station and turn around.  “No.  We are not there yet and ask one more time and you can get out and walk.”  And there is blessed silence for three seconds before I hear, “I’m being annoying.  I’m being annoying!”

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