It seems that every year as Hollywood looks for another story to tell, they find a summer blockbuster that narrates the cataclysmic destruction of the world. Perhaps the writers take their plotlines from these words of scripture: natural disasters, political persecutions, famine, and epidemics are voiced by Jesus himself as threats to the lives of his listeners. But Jesus speaks to their fears through a bigger and more powerful story than the most vicious peril.
Jesus doesn’t speak magic words that remove the people from their circumstances. In fact, he tells them not to prepare words in advance if they get taken before a court and put on trial for their faith. Jesus’ words of encouragement help them realize that the absence of difficulty is not the mark of faithfulness. Difficulties are guaranteed. And the difficulties don’t mean that they are experiencing punishment. As they await deliverance from their present (and future) problems, Jesus admonishes them to receive what they encounter with a posture of openness to being rescued by God’s hand. He even goes so far as to say that not a hair on their head will be lost.
What a bold statement! We know that people have and will lose their lives due to persecution, disease, and other disasters. His words suggest that we hold fast to gain our lives, which reorients our perspective so that we can remember the deeper reality of life spent with God both now and in eternity. May we hold fast, living our earthly lives shaped by that hope; for it is in doing so that we truly learn to live. That story carries a better plotline than any Hollywood blockbuster!
God, I trust that you will give me words to speak in times of difficulty, and wisdom and strength to endure whatever comes my way. May I hold fast and gain true life. Amen.
Isaiah 65:17-25 looks toward God’s creation of “new heavens and a new earth.” Jerusalem itself is not to be restored but created anew, a place in which life will be revered and protected and in which God will permit no harm to any of creation. The New Testament lessons remind us of the reality— the sometimes painful reality—of the present. Second Thessalo- nians 3:6-13 warns against the disorderly conduct of those who believe that the newness of the eschatological future permits them license in the present. Luke 21:5-19 adds an element of sobriety to the singing of new songs and the expectation of a new future. The faithful are called to bear witness to God’s future in the present, precisely when the new future cannot be seen and even when it seems most improbable.
• Read Isaiah 65:17-25. How does the promise of the new heavens and new earth encourage to tell a new story?
• Read Psalm 118. Which story will you tell? The one of your captivity . . . or the one of your salvation?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Where in your life do you need to be more disciplined so that you do not deceive yourself?
• Read Luke 21:5-19. What signs from God are you seeking instead of trusting in what you know about God’s character?
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