Tribulations, Miracles and Promises

Oh my gosh… Advent is here. It seems like just yesterday it was summer and then “boom” it’s Thanksgiving. I hope y’all had a nice “turkey day” with family and friends. I hope you had a chance to bask in the warm glow of those days and enjoy the love that bonds you together with all those folks important to you. And that you brought that sense of family and that warm glow here to church on Sunday morning. Continue reading

First Advent: redemption

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the previous post we were considering the Lukan usage of the word “sign” – 25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Luke’s use of signs only echoes the prophet Isaiah (13:9-10), Ezekiel (32:7-8), and Joel (2:30-31). Thus, these heavenly signs do not just point forward to the coming, but also backwards as fulfillment of the prophets’ word. Promise and fulfillment is one of the major themes throughout Luke. Just as Luke began with shepherds seeing the sign of a baby in a manger in fulfillment of the angels’ message, so this future coming is certain to occur in fulfillment of the prophets’ messages.

At that fulfillment Luke writes that people will be (a) in dismay, perplexed or (b) die of fright (could also be translated “faint”). These words are unique to Luke. But what is more significant is that there are two groups of listeners: “the people/they” in vv.26,27 and “you” in v.28.  The responses to what happens are quite different. The people faint (or die) from fear and foreboding, but you (the disciples implied) are to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (v. 28) For “you” the terrible signs symbolize the redemption that has come near. What does it symbolize for the “people”?

“Redemption” — this word (apolytrosis) occurs only here in all of the gospels. Although it occurs 7 times in Paul’s letters and twice in Hebrews. A form of this word (lytroomai) occurs in Luke 24:21a: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Another related word (lytrosis) is found occurs twice in Luke: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them” (1:68). “At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38). Continue reading

First Sunday of Advent – a context

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In yesterday’s post we placed the Sunday gospel in the context of the Advent Season. Today we can find its place in the context of Scripture.This reading is taken from Luke’s gospel just following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus’ confrontation with the authorities in the Temple (which began back at 19:47, the cleansing of the Temple) now shifts to the future tense. Continue reading

Ship’s Captain

One of the aids to remembering events and where to place them in your life is having major milestones that serve as a point of reference, an external anchor so to speak. Sometimes it’s as simple as our progression through school – “oh, yeah, that happened at elementary school such-and-such.” Middle and high school serve well, as does college and so on. Major life events help secure our memory on the timeline: dating, marriage, children, family vacations. Careers and our work events – all of that and more. It all helps. “Sure, I remember that. It was while we lived in Baltimore, dad was working for Martin Marietta, and we all went to St. Perpetua.”

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Behind the Veil: admonishment

34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

A Final Admonishment. After describing the days of the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus warns his followers that proper conduct is always expected – not just carousing and drunkenness (and such things) but even preoccupation with the anxieties represented by the “thorns” in the parable of the sower (8:14). These pressures of daily life lull people into false security. The exhortation to watch and pray foreshadows the same appeal during Jesus’ agony in the garden (22:46). Continue reading

Behind the Veil: signs

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Only Luke uses the word “signs” in this section. The same word was used earlier in the question “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” (Luke 21:7) and “…There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky”(v.11). Perhaps one remembers that Jesus’ opponents “to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven” (11:16). A little later Jesus responds to this request: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (11:29-30) Continue reading

Behind the Veil: more context

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand……”34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Context in Scripture. This reading is taken from Luke’s gospel just following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus’ confrontation with the authorities in the Temple (which began back at 19:47, the cleansing of the Temple) now shifts to the future tense. This extended section (19:47–21:38) concerns

  • the coming persecutions and the destruction of the Temple (21:5–19),
  • the destruction of Jerusalem (21:20–24), and
  • the coming of the Son of Man (21:25–36) – our Sunday gospel.

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Behind the Veil: context

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”[ 29 He taught them a lesson. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. 30 When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; 31 in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.] 34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:25–36;  Sunday’s Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)
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