Date: Pentecost X Wednesday + 8/8/07
The short pericope we just heard is from the larger section of Luke’s Gospel where Jesus is speaking about signs and warnings about the end times. The first part consists of words predicting the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 ad. Suddenly, however, Jesus addresses the ending of the whole world as we know it, signs that are to point to His second coming in judgment and deliverance. He speaks about the sun and moon and stars being shaken. These are all signs that the world is coming unglued. God’s orderly creation—the predictability of sunrise and sunset, the tides of the sea coordinated with the gravitational pull of the orbit of the moon, even the stability of the stars used for navigation at sea—all these, and more, will become unstable and revert toward chaos. The reason for all of this will escape many. Jesus says there will be anguish and perplexity among people who are not hearers of the Word. But to those who “hear the Word of God and keep it,” Jesus’ words offer comfort and hope, for all these things are signs pointing to the coming of the Son of Man.
These signs will be observable to all. But they will not be observed by most people as “signs” that have any meaning other than just random chaos and disaster. “Signs” are recognizable markers or events that point to a cause or meaning. In this sense take the recent collapse of the interstate bridge in Minneapolis. We view it as just random chance whether certain individuals were on that bridge at the time of the collapse or whether they were just approaching it or had just crossed it before it happened. That disastrous accidents happen to some people and not others at any given moment has no meaning in itself other than we are all vulnerable all the time to the suffering that is but the common lot of all mankind. Yet, for those who are and have been “hearers of the Word” we take every disaster, every occasion or form of suffering as a sign that points to our daily and constant need to repent of sin, that is, of our rebellion and separation from God. This is what it means to look at everything through theological eyes. Not a religious hallucination that tries to calculate a one-to-one relationship between a particular sinful act and God’s wrath or punishment, but a knowledge of the doctrine of sin and grace that sees always the ultimate cause of all suffering and death and the ultimate deliverance that is alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the life of the world.
The cataclysmic end of creation as we know it will be because God has withdrawn his benevolence. God’s goodwill toward the originally good work of his hands is increasingly turning into anger as his patience runs out with corrupt and perverse humanity. We have entered an age when the Church, those who are hearers of the Word, is becoming an increasingly smaller group. This is a sign of the end of all things. Whether the Last Day actually occurs in our lifetime, or whether this is just another historical phase to be followed by another awakening and then another falling away none of us knows. What hearers of the Word do know, however, is that these are times pointing to the need of all to repent, to turn and return to the Lord your God Who still shows Himself to be gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.