Get Over Yourself! Luke 21:5-19
This is Part Two of a three-part series of reflections on the lectionary gospel readings leading up to Advent. See the introduction to the series here.
Over the next couple of weeks we're trying to prepare for Advent. What obstacles lie in our way? What impedes or works against our preparations?
What obstacles lay in Jesus' way -- obstacles to people being receptive to his message and opening their minds and hearts to his teachings?
Do you think his lack of tact could have been an obstacle to people's getting with his program? We can't really leave Jesus alone for a moment in these closing chapters of Luke without his offending somebody else. After his run-in with the Sadducees last week, he immediately turned his sharp tongue on the scribes (20:45-47) and rich people (21:1-4). Everyone knows that if you want to climb the ecclesial ladder, you schmooze people with influence and money. Somewhere along the line Jesus got his communication strategies reversed -- his M.O. was purposely to offend those who held his life in their hands and persistently to befriend social losers, people who could do absolutely nothing for him. He got his "offend" and his "befriend" backward. If he had been my son, I'd have given him a piece of my mind. Mothers want their sons to outlive them after all.
But maybe his "in your face" approach was just as well. Do people who are comfortable and have all their needs met ever open their lives to God by reasoned argument and gentle persuasion? Maybe he figured he'd speak the truth, no sugar coating, and let the chips fall. Oh, he wept over the recalcitrant city (19:41-44), but then it was time to cleanse the Temple and speak the truth.
So wealth and power are two obstacles to preparing for Advent.
A third, apparently, is following false teachers (21:7-9). Jesus warns his listeners against those who teach "in his name" and then seek to invite people to place their trust, lives, and funds in their hands. "Do not go after them" (21: 8).
I can't think of anything or anyone that we would trust with our lives and funds besides Jesus, can you? I mean, preachers always accuse people of that, but they're so vague about it. What would it look like for somebody to place her trust in something besides Jesus? For someone to invest their financial assets in some cause that is against the spirit of Jesus' teachings? For a person to spend most of his time in a pursuit that brings shame to the message of Christ? We need examples. Otherwise, it's just a generalization. I call it the "hovercraft sermon" -- it hovers above life, never really convicting me of anything and never really convincing me of anything either.
What would it look like to have a misplaced sense of urgency that propels us in the wrong direction? What would it look like to feel like "I have to respond to this and I have to do it now!?" "The time is near." And for that to be completely false and take me down a path that is wrong for me or anyone else?
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.