A Sermon by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod, Dean
When The Kingdom of God breaks in
Text: Luke 21.25-38
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. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
When we come to Advent we are confronted with some tricky readings. End time readings about the return of the ‘Son of Man’, destroyed temples, cosmological upheavals, famines, and pestilence. Most of us are left scratching our heads trying to make sense out of all this.
There have been basically 2 approaches. One is to take all this material literalistically and much preaching in certain circles on trying to spot the signs of the times and living in fear and foreboding that Christ might return today. The other, which I think has largely been the average Anglican way, is to just ignore these readings as much as we and get moving as quick as we can to Christmas. However, there is another way that honours the truth being expressed. Can we make sense of these sorts of readings and find ‘Good News’ in them, because as they stand, they don’t sound particularly good! Well, as you might be guessing, I think there is.
- Apocalyptic – amplified parables.
I often think of these sorts of readings and in particular this teaching of Jesus as amplified parables. You may remember a simple teaching from confirmation classes, and the like, is that parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Jesus used common everyday stories to teach about the ‘reign of God’. Stories that explained how the surprising graciousness of God fills the lives of those who let it. Think about some of your favourite parables: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the surprising growth of the mustard seed. They all point to God’s reign beginning in the lives of the people who hear them and respond to them.
Let’s take that up a notch, and you begin to appreciate the purpose of apocalyptic. Wars, rumours of war, catastrophic global events, known to the people of Jesus’ times and our own, are being used by Jesus to point people towards God’s reign on earth as in heaven. This earth is passing away. I think we all get a sense that that might be true, but God’s reign stands for ever. The question at the heart of all this, are we ready, and does God rule take central place in our lives. If everything is swept away, do we still have the faith to stand?
- 2. This generation will not pass away …
Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
This has proven to be a difficult verse for many people. What is Jesus referring to here? It was a warning by Jesus of what eventually did take place – the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Those who were reading Luke about 80 AD would have remembered this. Jesus had told them Jerusalem would fall. The signs of time pointed towards this: the growing unrest against the Roman Empire, the intolerance that the Roman Empire towards insurgents, and their military strength did not bode well for those who rebelled and for those who were left in Jerusalem to witness its fall. Jesus was right – his generation did see it.
Conclusion: Making Sense of it all.
This chapter begins with Jesus watching people putting money in the Temple treasury (we had Mark’s version of this story a few weeks ago). transient and uncertain dimensions of life are in the foremost of his mind. Things that people take for granted and in which they took much pride are passing away. The Kingdom of God was coming into the world and all things were going to pass away. This is disturbing to our comfort. We must be ready for when the Kingdom crashes into and messes up our lives. But this is GOOD! God’s reign brings with it justice and peace, if we let it. The world as we know it must be changed, and only God’s Kingdom can do it. We play our role by focusing on God’s reign of mercy and justice and let those things shape our lives.