“When these things begin to take place…”

When life is going well and things are comfortable, yesterday’s appointed Gospel reading from Luke 21 can seem like quite a downer with all its talk of wars and tumults, famines and pestilences, great earthquakes, and the end of the world.  When life is going well and things are comfortable, who wants to hear about those things?

On the other hand, when life is hard and filled with anxiety, Jesus’ words about wars and tumults convey a comfort that surpasses all the sweet talk in the world: “Now when you see these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  All this has been foreseen by God.  It is part of His plan.  The most severe labor pains come just before joy.

Last Monday I had dinner with the American regional security officer in Nairobi, and we discussed all sorts of frightening things, including the very real possibility of election violence next year and the need for evacuation.  After that meeting, I felt anxiety.  Then the next day I followed America’s election results, and from what I’ve read there are a lot of folks over there who are feeling anxiety too.

When we think about terrorism, politically instability, global warming, the moral decline of western civilization, and a host of other horrible things, it is natural to ask, “What is the world coming to?”  Jesus’ answer is that the world is coming to glory.  Don’t feel anxious.  Instead, “when you see these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”