Reading: Luke 17.26-37
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them – it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
‘On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’
Today’s reading provides us with more words from scripture that speak to the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. Jesus’ words are speaking of the end of the world, the apocalypse. These words paint a bleak picture of despair and confusion. They tell of a time when we will be going about our ‘normal’ everyday lives and suddenly there will be confusion, even chaos. The ‘normality’ we have created for ourselves will be overturned even to the point of us being confronted with what we can only describe as ‘the end of the world’. Bleak words indeed!
But … there is also hope in these words. Jesus is certainly giving us a warning of a moment that is inevitable, even if it is not imminent. He is warning us of the suddenness and the unpredictability of the end of times. He is warning us that how and when such a time will come is totally outside our control and our comprehension. Our notions of human order and structure will be swept aside as God’s glorious kingdom finally makes itself manifest to all.
So, in this bleak ‘end of the world’ scenario, where are the words of hope? First, we have to understand that this world is the creation of God, and that it is a gift to humanity. We have been created in the image of God, and yet we assume too much. God made us in his image, he did not make us to take his place. The wonders of creation were created for our nourishment, both spiritual and physical. Those wonders were not created for us to exploit and abuse. The way humanity has misunderstood its place in creation has made the end of the world more obvious in its inevitability. So, we need to remember our place and see the hope and joy that God put in this world at the moment of creation.
Secondly, as we come to terms with our relationship with God, we need to understand that nothing in this world is more important. At the coming of God’s kingdom, as when the moment comes for us to die in this world, we are powerless to change and control the end. There is no point trying to dash back into the flood or the fire to retrieve our earthly treasures, because they are no longer of any importance, just as they are of no real importance in the daily lives we carve out for ourselves.
At the moment people speak as though the world has come to an end. Whilst there doesn’t seem to be much talk of ‘apocalypse’ there is talk of devastation and destruction. Today’s reading helps us put that in perspective. Our lives may be fraught with unexpected challenges and difficulties, we may feel isolated and helpless, but … God is there. We have to let go of our very human need to be ‘in control’ and let God take our hands and lead us. Then we will know true peace and joy.