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Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom


Advent Sunday

Text:
Luke 21. 25-36 "When everything is Shaken "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined Sharing Together:

Share together some of your experiences of the unexpected arrival of people on your doorstep or unanticipated events that took you completely by surprise. Could you have been better prepared for them and if so how?

A Window on the Text

A happy New Year to you! Advent Sunday is the first Sunday in the Church’s year and this is the Year of Luke. In coming months we will journey with the writer of the third Gospel.The gospel reading for the first Sunday in Advent focuses on a future time in world history when Christ will reappear. In their household gatherings, the first Christians celebrated the triumph of the risen and ascended Christ over all the powers of evil and death believing that a day was coming when God would finally establish his reign (empire) of justice and peace on earth and the whole of creation would be renewed. The Greek word for ‘coming’ is parousia (not used here but see 1 Thess 4:15) and was deliberately taken from the language of Empire and used by Christians to refer to Christ. Parousia was used of the triumphant entry of the emperor into cities. For the early Christian communities parousia was used of the return (reappearing) of the exalted Christ who would usher in God’s reign on earth. Luke uses imagery similar to that in Daniel 7 to describe a great cosmic upheaval that will leave humanity in a state of shock and awe as God enters the stage of history. The sun was a symbol of the power and might of Rome and its Emperor, and the moon and the stars represented the cluster of client kings who ruled on Rome’s behalf in the provinces. When the Human One appears, all visible and invisible powers of Empire will be shaken. That moment will mark the end of the Age of oppression, violence and injustice (tribulation) and the dawn of a New Age of love, peace and justice for all peoples and for creation itself.

We live at a time of upheaval and uncertainty. Global warming and climate change, a looming fossil fuels crisis and depletion of planetary mineral resources and destruction of natural habitats and species extinction coupled with wars, a refugee crisis and economic meltdown, have left people in a daze. Is this the beginning of a sad end or the sign of a new beginning?

Jesus says that when all the signs around seem to be pointing to immanent disaster, when death and destruction seem inevitable, when there is much turmoil and uncertainty and people are gripped by fear and deep anxiety then that is the time for members of the Christian community to hold their heads high in the knowledge that the day of liberation is drawing closer. These cataclysmic events are simply labour pains, signs of the birthing of something new – signs of the arrival of God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. This is good new of transformation of the earth not its devastation. Far from being about the escape of Christians from a dying planet this is a challenge to Christians to engage more deeply in the work of transformation as we prepare in advance for the day when all things will be made new.
Responding as a community
  1. How do you think history as we know it will end? Do you find talk of end times helpful? At the present time there is a lot of interest in the prophecy that the 21st December 2012 will mark the end of history as we know it. How might we engage in conversation with people about such claims?

    What do you make of Jesus comment that ‘this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place’? What does ‘all things’ refer to? Do verses 5 to 24 provide a clue?

    What signs of God’s reign do you see around you? How might you cooperate with those signs? How might you make God’s reign more visible in and through your life together as a community this Advent?

  2. Eugene Petersen translates verse 34 as follows: "But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise...." How can we avoid getting caught up in the partying and shopping frenzy in the lead up to Christmas? What alternatives might we offer?
Praying Together

Pray for the summit in Copenhagen on 5th December when world leaders meet to make decisions about tackling Climate Change.

Share together hopes and fears that you have for the future and pray for each other.

End your prayers by saying together
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.
Going Deeper
  1. Any attempt to turn Luke’s distinctive hopes for Jerusalem into a justification for the modern state of Israel would be futile and misleading. On the other hand, there is a danger in abandoning first century expressions of hope because of their strangeness and replacing them with generalities. Luke has creatively reworked Mark 13 in this passage. Both he and Mark were standing in a tradition that knew about horror. For the future they could imagine such horror. Images of horror invite us to identify the reality they mirror both in retrospect and in looking to the future. The speculative and overdrawn imagery also matches reality for many people today and so invites us into solidarity. See http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkAdvent1.htm

  2. In his book Jesus and the Victory of God, Tom Wright says:
    "the 'coming of the son of man' does not refer to the 'parousia' in the modern scholarly, and popular, sense of a human figure travelling downwards towards the earth on actual clouds... The word 'coming', so easily misread in English, is in Greek erchomenon, and so could mean either 'coming' or 'going'... The 'coming of the son of man' is thus good first-century metaphorical language for two things: the defeat of the enemies of the true people of God, and the vindication of the true people themselves. Thus, the form that this vindication will take, as envisaged within Mark 13 and its parallels, will be precisely the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple" (pages 359-60).

 

 


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