The Church at the Cross
In this weekend' Gospel reading we get a scene with Jesus and his followers in the Temple in Jerusalem:
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "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."Then Jesus goes on to talk about signs of the end of times in speaking of wars and insurrections and persecution of Christians.
John Pridmore writes of this passage in England's Church Times saying in part,
We live in the same period of "salvation history". The first of the "last things" has already taken place. The Temple is no more, even if, sadly, many of our subsequent church structures can be seen as pathetic attempts to rebuild it. Now we live in the interval between the first and the final of those last things.The full text of his essay is here Second Sunday before Advent. In the King of Peace archives is the sermon These Things Must Take Place.
This is the era on which the second half of our Gospel reading focuses. It is the age when believers are betrayed by family and friends, when they are arrested and persecuted, when they are put on trial, imprisoned, and executed. Jesus's predictions are literally fulfilled in the events Luke records in the second of his two volumes about the beginnings of Christianity, in the book known to us as the Acts of the Apostles. Again, his first readers will have registered, as we do, how clearly Jesus saw what was coming.
Betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, and execution: the writer of these notes confesses that such trials have not overtaken him since removing to Hove. Nor will they be the experience of most who read these comments. We are not Filipino Christians working in Saudi Arabia, nor are we among the tens of thousands of believers reportedly enduring torture and starvation in North Korean labour camps, nor are we Pentecostal pastors locked in shipping containers in Eritrea, nor do we run Christian bookshops in Gaza.
Nor does Jesus speak of the times when Christians have been the perpe- trators rather than the victims of perse- cution—even if some of the horrors they have inflicted have been on each other. But whether the Church is persecuted or persecuting, it is always the Church at the cross. There we are either sharing Christ's sufferings or inflicting them. We carry his cross, or nail him to it.
The first of the last things was the destruction of the Temple. No longer do those golden walls blaze with the light of the rising sun. Now we must wait and pray for grace to bear what may be required of us. If the days are dark, it is the darkness before dawn.
As George Macdonald used to say: "The light is only the other side of the hill." That promised light is greater than the light that touched the Temple with fire. Our Old Testament reading tells us to look east. There—soon—"The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings."
Labels: Gospel reading