The words of next Sunday’s gospel will seem disconnected from our own experience of life. Despite ourselves, we are already responding to prospects of Christmas, warm fires on dark nights, Christmas gift lists, and good food.
Meanwhile, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. What is all his talk of “wars and rumors of wars … For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines” about?
How can we respond to such a picture from the comfort of our own armchairs and lives lived in relative prosperity and peace? How might we reconcile these ominous phrases of “earthquakes” and “famines” with the gingerbread houses and twinkling lights already lining our thoughts?
The words strike a discordant note, foreign and uncomfortable at best (and seemingly out of step with getting a jump on our merrymaking). But a closer examination of this text draws me to the calm confidence of Jesus as he gazes into his future. His own death is fast approaching, yet he speaks not of fear, but of keeping trust with God, of remaining focused on the truth, of hope. He reminds us that we have already been given what we need, no matter the circumstances. In fact, he elaborates by reminding us not to become distracted when matters go awry, but instead to remember the fact of God’s love and provision for us. Chaos is not the point; the generosity of God is.
Thus, our response to this gospel begins not in the paralysis of anxiety, but in the assurance that all will be well. God, says Jesus, is taking care of us and we are called to act upon it. Our freedom lies in our entrance into the divine embrace of this truth – from it emerges all gratitude for life, all thanksgiving for blessing, all generosity to others, all hospitality, and all joy.
Make time and space to consider and know from whom our wellbeing has come. It is from that place, and that place alone, that we can begin to become stewards of our faith and lives.
The Reverend Susan N. Eaves