A challenging reading in our Gospel selection from Matthew this morning. Jesus first predicts the utter destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And then, in answer to the question "when," Jesus gives warnings about false leaders, and torture and death to believers, and rampant lawlessness causing the hearts of many to grow cold. He holds out a carrot, though, to those who persevere: salvation. He never directly answers the timing question.
Matthew was writing after the fall and destruction of Jerusalem, to a community under siege on all sides. They were living, what to them felt like (and was), an apocalyptic existence. The world as they knew and understood it had ended. What could their life be like without those familiar constructs around them?
We turn the midway-point-corner in Advent tomorrow. Today's reading is an excellent one on which to reflect what the Incarnation means to us, to our world. Jesus' presence here was meant to be, and continues to mean to be, apocalyptic: we are a people who must live, and be a model of, change.
And change scares almost everyone, particularly in church-land where everything that has been done must be repeated or "it's not my church anymore." The truth is, it was never our church: it was, is and will continue to always be, God's church. We are stewards for a short period of time.
We all can have a penchant for control and many times church is that place where we think we can place some structure around an unstructured life. If we are honest with ourselves, and with this concept of "church," than we can and should admit to ourselves that those control-mechanisms we are enforcing on an institution that is not ours, are actually strangling it, and are anathema to the definition of its existence. Those enforced structures are examples of our not being good stewards.
Jesus says that people's love will grow cold because of abounding lawlessness. For what is lawless a metaphor in our existence in our intentional communities? Could our resistance to change, and our insistence that all remain the same as it always has been, be lawlessness? Isn't the very nature of Jesus, of the Incarnation we are preparing for this Advent, the very definition of apocalyptic change? How do we let go of the comfort-of-the-familiar and live into the unknown of the future?
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, MN, 2011.