This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings
This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all nations; and then will come the end. 15 As soon, then, as you see ‘the Foul Desecration,’ mentioned by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy place,” (the reader must consider what this means) 16 “then those of you who are in Judea must take refuge in the mountains; 17 and a man on the housetop must not go down to get the things that are in his house; 18 nor must one who is on their farm turn back to get his cloak. 19 Alas for pregnant women, and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray, too, that your flight may not take place in winter, nor on a Sabbath; 21 for that will be ‘a time of great distress, the like of which has not occurred from the beginning of the world down to the present time’ — no, nor ever will again. 22 Had not those days been limited, not a single soul would escape; but for the sake of ‘God’s people’ a limit will be put to them. 23 At that time, if anyone should say to you ‘Look! Here is the Christ!’ or ‘Here he is!’, do not believe it; 24 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will display great signs and marvels, so that, were it possible, even God’s people would be led astray. 25 Remember, I have told you beforehand. 26 Therefore, if people say to you ‘He is in the wilderness!’, do not go out there; or ‘He is in an inner room!’, do not believe it; 27 for, just as lightning will start from the east and flash across to the west, so will it be with the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever a dead body lies, there will the vultures flock.’ 29 Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light, the stars will fall from the heavens,’ and ‘the forces of the heavens will be convulsed.’ 30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn, when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the heavens,’ with power and great glory; 31 and he will send his angels, with a great trumpet, and they will gather his people around him from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
If the modern reader asks what this strange language is about, the best answser is,”Power”. The cosmic elements are symbols of the powers that struggle to rule the world. Changes in the heavens indicate changes in earthly rule.
The first part of this prophecy concerns the time of suffering, when the land of Israel will be a place of war and destruction Such a time will be bad enough in itself but it will be the stage for false Messiah, perhaps mmen of violence, who will gain a following from credulaous people.
The second part concerns the coming of the “Son of Man” which is code for “The rule on earth of God’s Holy Ones”. (The code is taken from Daniel 7). Jesus emphasises that this will not be like an ordinary event; it will be instantaneous like lightning. Therefore it cannot be predicted or prepared for. God will estab;ish the rule of his holy ones on earth. Before we dismiss this as mistaken nonsense or fantastic gobbledygook, we should recognise that is no more than Christian believers pray for in the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father:
“Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
The prayer is not that believers should be taken out of the evil world; but that the world should be transformed by God’s Rule. Jesus’ prophecy warns his followers against thinking of “That Day” as if iy were simply another day in ordinary time. It is God’s time which overtakes and puts an end to worldly history. How this time impinges on worldly time is unknown. It may already “be happening” for example. But it is a conviction which gives hope to all who struggle to live by God’s goodness in the world as it is; and for those millions of men women and children to whom the world has never given a chance of human dignity. I have lived a lucky life, without oppression, poverty or disease. But I know the “forces of the heavens” who have no care for God or human beings and rule the world for their own advantage, and I’m glad of the promise that one day they will be “convulsed” and their power broken. Meantime I am asked to endure and to help others to do so.