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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The Readings for Sunday, November 14, 2010:

First Reading: Malachi 4:1-2a

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Isaiah 65:17-25

Psalm: Psalm 98

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Isaiah 12 (Isaiah 12:2-6 NRSV)

Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Gospel: Luke 21:5-19

Here we are, back to apocalyptic texts, a rather strange turn just before we launch into Advent (and just so you won't be surprised, those Advent texts can be on the apocalyptic side too). This week's Gospel is the type of text that many Christians use to support their assertion that we're living in the end times, that the rapture is near.

Keep in mind that the idea of rapture is fairly new; most scholars date it to the middle of the 19th century. But Christians have felt besieged since the beginning, and indeed, in many decades, they have been severely threatened. Lately, we’ve seen massacres during church services, both here and abroad. It’s a sobering reminder that we live in an unstable world, a world where true sanctuary is rare.

Perhaps the Gospel writer wants to remind us of the cost of following Jesus. Even those of us who won’t be massacred or martyred for our beliefs may find it hard to live openly as a Christian in this world. Many people assume that all religious people are kooks. The idea that a person could be an admirable believer is not one that we find reinforced in popular culture.

Perhaps the Gospel shows us the larger cost of existing in the world. Even if we're lucky enough to be born into a stable time period, to be part of a country with a stable government, if we're conscious, it's hard to escape the conclusion that it could all vanish at any moment. And even if we don't suffer on the grand (genocidal) scale, most of us will endure more loss than our younger selves would have believed could be survived.

Before we sink too deeply into depression, we need to remember that Jesus came to give us Good News. And that Good News is that we have each other, and we have a God who loves us, no matter what. If we devote our lives to that love, then we can survive all sorts of betrayal, loss, and persecution.

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