In her short story Revelation, published in 1965, Flannery O’ Connor offers the reader a detailed psychological and spiritual portrait of a character named Ruby Turpin. Mrs. Turpin is a “respectable, hard-working, church-going woman,” white, middle class, and Southern. The story is set in the cramped squalor of a doctor’s waiting room, where an array of white characters – elderly and young, well-to-do and poor – are waiting to see the doctor. The omniscient narrator gives us a particularly intimate portrait of the thoughts that run through Mrs. Turpin’s head and heart, revealing an elaborate, personal hierarchy of class, race, and social status. As the story unfolds, Mrs. Turpin’s interior judgments roil and seethe. The casual conversation she makes with other patients slowly reveals the painful web of classism and racism in which they are all unconsciously enmeshed. And Mrs. Turpin’s running, interior dialogue with Jesus reveals the ways that she uses prayer to validate her prejudice, thanking Jesus for placing her exactly where she is and making her who she is and not like the others she has deemed inferior.
This evening is the first of a three-part Advent sermon series we have entitled “Ero Cras,” which is a Latin acrostic translated “Tomorrow, I [that is, Jesus Christ] will be there [that is, there for you].”[i] Following the liturgy on these three Tuesday evenings we invite all of you in the congregation to join us for a soup supper, and with opportunity to ask questions of the evening’s preacher. These next two Tuesdays in Advent, the preacher’s focus will be “Hope” and then, “Desire and Longing.” This evening my focus is “Judgment and Salvation.”
For several reasons, we are in a bit of a time warp listening here to what Jesus said. Jesus would have spoken these words in about year 30 c.e., making his prediction about the temple’s impending destruction. It did happen, but not until forty years later, in 70 c.e., when the Roman Empire’s occupation forces did completely destroy the temple.[i] Not one stone was left upon another, just as Jesus predicted. Luke is writing his Gospel account 15 years later than that, in about year 85 c.e. Luke is quoting Jesus based on what Luke has been told by eyewitnesses to Jesus, plus what other people have remembered Jesus’ saying. The temple was destroyed; there were indeed wars and insurrections, which increasingly compromised the pax Romana; and in the midst of these horrific experiences, Luke had his own experience of Jesus’ good news: how who Jesus claimed to be and what he promised to do was all true. Luke was a believer.