Malachi 4: 1 – 2a
Thessalonians 3: 6 – 13
Luke 21: 5 -19
Before coming to the community, now just over thirty years ago, I was rector of a small parish on the west coast of British Columbia. The Parish of Salt Spring Island, was, as its name suggests, on an island between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The rectory was just perfect for me; a small two bedroom house built in the 1920’s or so. It was situated at the head of the harbour, facing southeast.
I had two favourite rooms in the house. One was the living room that had a fireplace and newly refinished hardwood floors. Shortly after I moved in, I came downstairs for my coffee one morning, and stood breathless as I looked into the living room. The sun was just coming up, and the living room glowed. It reminded me of one of my favourite prayers.
Gracious God, your love unites heaven and earth in a new festival of gladness. Lift our spirits to learn the way of joy that leads us to your banquet hall, where all is golden with praise. We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord.
That morning watching the sun come up in my living room, I had a vision of that banquet hall where all is golden with praise. I loved my little house from that instant.
These are the end times. I said that to be provocative, though for some people, today, it may hit a little too close to home;[i] but it really is an end time. It’s the end of the liturgical year. In two weeks it will be Advent. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year – a time of expectant waiting for the Savior to come into the world for the first time. But that’s in two weeks. Now, it’s the end of the liturgical year, and so our readings are apocalyptic in tone in anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming. When will the Second Coming take place? Jesus said, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first….Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”[ii]
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.