Reflections on Luke 21:5-19
As Christians we believe that we have received a message of good news in and through Jesus Christ. Yet this morning we have read difficult words that have come to us from Jesus. They are words which contain an edge of prophecy, a prediction of calamity and suffering.
‘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.’
These words of prophecy have been used over the two millennia since Jesus spoke them to offer hope in the midst of distress, hope that Christ is coming; hope that the suffering that we see and experience has meaning; even if the meaning is only the sign of God’s coming.
I am always wary of reading words of scripture too deeply into the world around us but these words feel that they carry some weight this week.
Just a few weeks ago we followed the news of unseasonal bushfires in New South Wales and this week we have seen the heartbreaking images flowing out of the Philippines in the wake of Typhon Haiyan, reportedly the biggest Typhoon to ever reach landfall. The devastation is immense.
At the UN convention on climate change the representative from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, has gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with his brother who has been working for three days without food in the wake of the storm. He has been carrying the dead to places to be buried.
For any of you, for any of us, who have personally lived through times of trauma and heartache, through wars, through flood, through drought we know that Jesus words of prophecy apply to the moments of our ordinary lives in which we enter into extraordinary situations of pain and of suffering and it is only in knowing the rest of the story of Jesus that we can find hope.
Jesus begins his prophecy with the words of the destruction of the temple. In John’s gospel when Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple he alludes to his own death and then goes on to say that in three days I will raise it up again – he alludes to his resurrection.
Without the words of hope which come from the resurrection the idea of the suffering which Jesus prophesies leave us in darkness and despair. Our suffering personal or global comes without hope.
The resurrection says that even though death might swallow us up new life awaits. New life awaits those who have lived through hell on earth and God’s promise is for the renewal of all things in Jesus.
The message of Jesus is not that God wills our suffering but that God is with us in our suffering. The message of God in Jesus is not that God wishes to destroy some but not others or to unmake what God has made. No, the message of God in Jesus is that suffering which we experience, which I believe always remains cloaked in mystery, is not something which God stands apart from. God is with us in Jesus.
The message that we carry is good news, it is not easy or unproblematic; it is not straightforward and painless; it is not trouble-free and effortless but it is good. It is message of resurrection, of life in the face of death, of creation in face of oblivion, of hope in the face of despair.
On this day when we do and should find ourselves lamenting for those who are suffering whether it be in the Philippines, or in NSW; whether it be in Afghanistan or Syria, whether it be in our personal lives or the lives of those whom we love let us hold on to the hope we have in Christ Jesus and let us pray for the coming of God’s kingdom in all its fullness.