Lamentations de Jérémie sur la destruction de Jérusalem, Rembrandt (1606–1669)

God's word on Sunday: God will provide courage to persevere

  • December 1, 2018

1st Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2 (Year C) Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

What do you say to people who are suffering and being oppressed? 

Many prophetic responses in the Old Testament begin with “the days are surely coming.” This was meant to be a comfort and a reassurance that God had not forgotten or abandoned them. 

Jeremiah prophesied during the run-up to the destruction of the temple in 586 BC. His words had not been heeded and an unavoidable disaster loomed on the horizon. Jeremiah did as many prophets — he looked beyond the impending event and into the distant future. His words were meant to be remembered amid their sufferings. 

God could not provide a shortcut or free pass for what lay ahead, but the promise of new life, happiness and prosperity would give the people courage and strength. A descendant of David would restore the two kingdoms and govern the people with righteousness and justice. They would dwell in peace. 

Did that happen? Not exactly. There were high points and low points in the centuries ahead, and whatever freedom they had after their return from exile vanished under the Greeks and then the Romans. But their zeal for the ways of God and their identity as a people never wavered. They knew that God was with them, and that deliverance was on the horizon. 

The people of God are facing some tough times today. Elements of the Church have let them down in a big way and many are now disillusioned and disheartened — and understandably so. One might ask where God is in all this. 

Jeremiah and the prophets would reassure us that God is both beside and in front of us, leading us onward while giving us the strength and the courage to persevere. There is a future; there will be growth and new life; there will be righteousness and justice. But first, just as with those that went into exile in Jeremiah’s time, there will be a time of deprivation and cleansing. Then will come the dawn, and we must be there to greet it.

Paul has some inspiring words to guide us on that journey. He urges his followers in Thessalonica to increase their love for one another and to set no limits to it. 

By walking the path of love, they would enable God to strengthen their hearts and transform them in holiness. They would be able to stand blamelessly before Christ on the day of the Lord. By living intensely this life of love and holiness, we will be immune to the many negative things going on around us and to the negative energies of others. With regards to our life in the Lord, we are not powerless or at the mercy of people and events.

Jesus used terrifying end-time language to describe the approaching universal judgment. He would play the key role as the Son of Man coming on the cloud with great power and glory. 

In apocalyptic theology, events of universal significance were always heralded by signs and wonders in the heavens. It will be a time of fear and terror, as the very foundations of our world will be shaken. Some today would point to many signs that this is approaching. After all, there is fear, dread, uncertainty and the crises of our economic, political and religious systems confronting us. But these have always been present and almost every age has believed that the end is at hand. 

At the beginning of the third millennium, we might be forgiven for our lack of enthusiasm or excitement. It hasn’t happened and it is unlikely to occur in the near future. 

The warning that is given by Jesus still applies: be on guard and alert. There are many real dangers that face us, both as individuals and as a people. Disaster can come from any quarter — environmental, social, political or economic. We live in a violent and unstable world and there is a high level of fear and anxiety. 

How important it is, then, to remain spiritually aware and focused at all times. We do not need to let events simply overtake us and we do not have to be helpless victims. With trust in God and a well-honed spirituality we will be able to discern the path of God even during perilous and confusing times.

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