In the Gospel of Luke we read Jesus saying “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” That sounds like the beginning of an essay in Time or the WSJ on current world politics doesn’t it?
How many times over the past few years have you thought or asked “what is happening to this world?” It seems, as my grandmother used to phrase it, like it is “all going to hell in a hand basket.”
That Gospel quote is one of those portions of scripture that makes it hard to respond “Thanks be to God” after you hear it read. This supposed to be Good News. So WHERE is the Good News in it?
If we look closely we see that after pointing out the signs Jesus tells his hearers “when you see these things happening stand up, raise up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In other words stand tall and with anticipation, and be watchful… That is not a call to fear and foreboding.
Jesus gives signs that are present in almost every age and era of humankind.. These are all signs of the times in the world through which we have to look to find the presence of God in the midst of all that is happening.
In the church we talk about the second coming of Jesus. But I have become convinced that Jesus is not some place away from here waiting in the wings for a return. Jesus is always present in our world and our lives. And his admonition to his follower is that we need to be awake and alert in order to find where he is present and active – so we can to share and reveal it to others.
Cary Landy had a song a couple of decades ago “Surprise, surprise, God is a surprise. God is a God of surprises. The exodus of slaves from Egypt was a surprise, the selection of David as king was a surprise; the oil in the lamp of presence in the temple lasting 8 days was a surprise; God taking on flesh in the incarnation was a surprise; the resurrection after Jesus horrific death on the cross was a surprise. We need to be awake and alert in order to see where God is surprising us today.
Sometimes we talk and act as if we really believe that God just sits and waits for us to take God into the world. In reality God is already in the world and God invites us to join the work there – to be co-creators with God of the future.
All too often we see ourselves as victims of the world and of its culture. We too often see ourselves as unable to withstand the spiral of events that swirl around us. We become” weighed down with the worries of life.” And when we allow that mentality to take us over we are not able to discern God’s presence in and around us. We are taken by surprise when we glimpse or experience God‘s presence.
No wonder Jesus tells his followers to stay alert and remain in prayer that we might not become so captured by the events of life that we cannot recognize God’s presence. A presence that invites, cajoles and leads us out from within the four walls of our swlf concwernas, our beyond the confines of our sanctuaries,
out from our religious understandings,
out from our daily life –
out into the world to become a sign of God’s presence in and caring for God’s people and God’s creation.
It is not the birth of a baby in Bethlehem that we await – we really wait for our own discernment of God’s reign active and alive in the world around us – inviting us to join in. And God awaits our accepting anew the invitation to help create a new world made in the loving image in God.