Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

NOT LOSING THE HAIRS ON YOUR HEAD
Luke 21:5-19
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 28–Sunday Between November 13 and 20 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy


5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6″As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after him. 9″When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12″But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.


DIAGNOSIS: Look out!

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Preoccupied
The world holds many attractions, and the disciples are not above noticing them in the Jerusalem temple (v. 5). But Jesus indicates what fate awaits Jerusalem, and with it the whole world (vs. 6, 20-24). The disciples are preoccupied with signs–and Jesus obliges by highlighting three signs: false prophets (who exploit people’s fears; v. 8); wars, tumults, and conflicts (vs. 9-10); and natural catastrophes and cosmic terrors (v. 11). That might be enough to cause one to be even more preoccupied. Similarly in our own lives, while everything may not always be as seemingly cosmic (though they may be portents of such cosmic proportions!), we can be preoccupied with threats and dangers, great and small, that surround and “invade” our lives.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Terrified
The greater danger, however, for the disciples (then and now) is their response to these cataclysmic events. The terror is not only cosmic, but internalized in the hearts of those who see no exit from their impending fate.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Death’s Event
Nevertheless, for all the dangers that lurk without and within, death comes. Theologically speaking, death’s coming to take our lives is also a sign of final, divine judgment. The “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) is not simply the fear of death, but God’s judgment in the reality of our death. There is no escaping that scenario. And there is no wonder that we are preoccupied and terrified.

PROGNOSIS: Looking up!

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: The Teacher’s Testimony
While there is no stopping the events that are to take place, there is One who joins us in their midst, and thereby trumps their deadly consequences. Jesus himself is arrested, persecuted, betrayed, handed over, tried before kings and governors, and put to death (vs. 12, 16). Nevertheless, in this event, he has seen to it that we can be more than conquerors. Unlike “false prophets” who can only hand out fear or make assurances of false promises (v. 8), Jesus is the Teacher (v. 7) who testifies with his own lifeblood on our behalf.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Serene
Jesus gives this assurance: “Not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). Some could show different evidence. So could the apostles and Stephen (Book of Acts). Yet hairs not perishing means that one is perpetually safe, no matter what, including the scenario that we are “put to death” (v. 16). Serenity prevails for the faithful. And by our faith, we endure (v. 19).

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Testifying as Confessing
Like Jesus, we will face our own time of trial. It may even be our own ecclesiastical flesh and blood that brings that trial about (as is always the case in times of confessing). But our defense is the Teacher’s testimony on our behalf; and the Teacher provides the words and wisdom that withstands the trial and the power to overcome all its dangerous overtones. Our joy is that we get to confess it, and live beyond the preoccupation of our fears.

Author

  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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