Have you ever felt like the world was coming to an end? Because that’s just exactly how the original readers of Luke’s Gospel felt. The glorious Temple of Jerusalem, once stately and glimmering white and gold in the sunlight, now lay in ruins. Jerusalem was no more, and a world ended with it.
But we modern hearers can’t possibly find this feeling foreign. We often feel, I think, like the world has come to an end. We all must deal with losses and endings each day. Family, friends and our communities experience various forms of dying and they are never easy. Cancer strikes down a former athlete; a marriage breaks up; an injury makes it impossible to keep a job; aging diminishes a once-vibrant person. And more. Our once proud church seems irrevocably damaged by scandal; our country is involved in a war that will affect generations to come; seeming low interest home mortgages become the cause for struggling families to lose the homes they worked long and hard to own.
And when things like that happen, it’s hard to find words to express our sadness, fear, pain, and desertedness. It can even be hard to find words to raise in prayer when that happens. But Jesus knows this will happen to us and promises that if we persevere, we will gain our lives and God himself will give us a wisdom in speaking that cannot be refuted. What we experience as difficulties and painful endings, he sees as opportunities to witness to our faith in him.
A popular Christian song speaks of being in the midst of the storm, amidst what seems like the end of the world. The refrain gives words that resonate with Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel:
I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
(Casting Crowns, “Praise You in This Storm”)
On the second-to-last Sunday of the Church year, it would have been wonderful for the Liturgy to tie up all the loose ends and give us a happy ending. But that’s not what we have here is it? Why? Because life isn’t that way. Jesus tells us as much today. But the message that we have is that no matter how messy things may be, we can praise our God who is with us even in the storm and promises to lift us up even when the world seems like it is coming to an end.