Where do people of faith find hope in times of trouble? Where do they turn in times of duress, when their world has been turned upside-down, when their expectations have been shattered, when their beliefs and assumptions have been called into question? Today’s lessons may give us a clue.
Scripture scholars tell us that Luke was writing to a group of predominantly Gentile believers near the end of the first century. Some ten or twenty years earlier, in the year 70, they had witnessed the destruction of the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. It’s difficult for us to imagine how devastating these events were for the Jews and for these early Christians.
One thing the early Christians didn’t get quite right was the future. They expected that any day, any hour, Jesus would return and usher in the new order. The New Testament ends on a note of expectancy: “Surely I am coming soon”, he says [Rev. 22:20]. And references to future generations virtually disappear. The early church didn’t have much to say about future generations because they didn’t think there would be any—or, at least, very few.
For a long range, forward looking plan we have to look back, ironically, to the Hebrew Scriptures, the “old” testament. All through the Hebrew Scriptures are countless references to the children and the children’s children—down through the generations. Ancient Israel was intensely interested in future generations. Abraham is promised the blessing of countless descendants–they would be as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth, he would be the father of a multitude of nations [Gen. 17:5]. To have many descendants, stretching far into the future, was a blessing from the Lord. Ancient Israel looked forward, far into the future.