Posted by: mikebackup | November 16, 2013

The future…

Luke 21:5-38

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said,‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’

‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’

He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’

10 Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

20 ‘When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

29 He told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 ‘Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Let’s begin this reflection with an understanding of how challenging what Jesus said was at the time.

Herod’s newly rebuilt (John 2.20) Temple in Jerusalem was the enormously impressive focal point of the religion of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Holy of Holies, and so the Temple enshrined the sacred commandments of God and was the place where the presence of God was focused. It was to the Temple in Jerusalem that the pilgrims journeyed for the religious festivals. In post-exilic times, the Temple was presented as the place of true worship of God. In this context it was natural for pilgrims to admire the beauty of the building dedicated to God (21.5), and to look for spiritual leadership in the Temple.

But Jesus’ actions in cleansing the Temple (19.45-46) had challenged the power of the temple authorities. He had had arguments with different factions among the temple leadership (Chapter 20) and, in this context, predicted that the Temple itself would be destroyed. The disciples asked when this momentous event might happen, and they did not get a precise answer from Jesus (7-8.). Luke’s version of the predicted fall of the Temple seems clearer than the other synoptic accounts, in that he was talking particularly about the fall of Jerusalem, after a lengthy and indeterminate period of time, rather than the end of all things. He warned his disciples that they would have to endure very dark times (betrayed even by family), and must not be led astray (by false teachers), but they could be sure of ultimate victory (not a hair of your head will perish). Jesus’ claim was that forgiveness was God’s free gift, not something that needed to be bought by the purchase of animals to sacrifice in the Temple. It was a challenge to the whole economy of the temple authorities! They saw the threat as ‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation’ (John 11.48).

Jesus says his followers should not let themselves be weighed down by the difficulties of this world. Indeed, his words in verse 13 suggest that persecution would give them an opportunity to bear witness to what God had done, and was doing, in bringing an ultimate new creation out of chaos. Through endurance the faithful gain their souls (21.19).

The reading outlines the wisdom that putting faith in God’s purposes is for the long haul. Those who guard the faith have to hold on to it despite suffering, persecution and much hardship. They safeguard the faith, believing that God will ultimately bring victory, even if immediate events appear to show that evil and chaos have the upper hand. Sad times will divide even families against each other. Corrupt regimes will fall. Even the bastions of our faith traditions can go. Just as the spiritual power of the Temple had become debased, along with all those who upheld it, the Temple would eventually fall. Good times will come again, as outlined in the psalms, when God’s remembered love and faithfulness become visible again.

So that’s how challenging it was at the time, what about now? I’ve felt this reading over the past week and I need to share why. I will say though that the way I’ve felt it is in terms of what Jesus is saying about change, and the uncertainty and difficulty of it. I’m not standing here with an ‘End of the world is nigh’ placard on – not at all.

To use a Biblical term, the ‘birth pangs’ of change are now present at Boulton Lane and seem to point to something new emerging by next July. Let me explain further. Coming together at that time will be a number of endings. My three years at Broadway will finish, Lisa will finish her teacher training, I will finish my NAM period, Alvaston Baptist will be looking to their next step as John leaves. In each of those things are pangs of change.

When Broadway finishes it will leave us £2000 a year down and along with the distinct possibility that the ladies group may finish we will be a further £1000 down for next year. In normal circumstance for us we are always close to the edge financially. It has always been great testimony for us that you’ve been able to support firstly a Minister in Training and then a Minister.

This year however, we’ve regularly got closer and closer to that edge and currently in a position that’s very worrying. I’m currently so concerned that it may require a drop in what I receive as we go into next year to enable ministry to continue. Lisa is receiving a bursary each month for her studies and we’re reflecting on whether we can use that to support church finances if needed. Interestingly that ends in June as well; meaning in July something else would have to happen.

In June Lisa will hopefully qualify as a teacher, but there will be the small matter of getting a job after that. Many NQTs have to wait some time until they find a position. From July that means as a family we could be very financially vulnerable until Lisa gets a job.

In the summer, around June I will formally clear the formation years to become a Baptist Minister. It will have been a long, joyous, difficult and every emotion between experience! At that time I’m also allowed by the Ministry Department to consider moving to a new fellowship. You have to stay for at least three years after ordination. By then Alvaston Baptist will be clearer on their immediate future after John leaves. Pray for them today as our Regional Minister Mike Fegredo helps their initial visioning.

I will be honest and say my feeling at present is that by July one of two things will be about to happen. Either my time here will be drawing to a close or I will continue but with a different shaped ministry incorporating Alvaston Baptist that is financially and ministerially viable to all involved for at least a few years.

I’m hoping you see why I’ve felt the reading this week. The end of what we know and an uncertain future is a strong possibility and we need to start our prayerful reflecting now. You may feel it too as you realise you are the Captains of the Boulton Lane ship. I help steer it, minister to you and minister on your behalf. Ultimately though you are in charge and you will need to listen to God carefully as we go into next year before you decide the future direction of this community. The finances, Broadway and Alvaston have all been discussed this year, it’s that now we need to focus on their realities. If some of you are at all unsettled by this, come and see me.

What we must do is trust God and have our eyes on the long haul. If we don’t we will lose our way and that must not happen. Jesus is upfront about the difficulties following him brings, but he is also upfront about the joys – and that’s living a life in the Kingdom of God. If we try hard at our faith we can live our entire life with one foot permanently in the Kingdom. Jesus is preparing us for that eternal life when both feet are in and that’s what we must give thanks for and make sure our decisions reflect our journey towards that reward.

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