- Isaiah 65:17-25
- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
- Luke 21:5-19
Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
The weeks between All Saints’ Day and Advent aim at bringing our lives in tune with God’s Kingdom. Somehow these Sundays include the expectation of Advent for the coming of Christ – however not only looking forward to his first coming as a the God incarnate, but to his second coming. But in both seasons, it’s all about the coming or manifestation of God’s kingdom.
When Jesus had his earthly ministry, the power of God’s rule was there wherever Jesus was present among people: people were set free from destructive patterns of life. Furthermore, he wanted to set the standard of a new way of living as he invited people to be his disciples. God’s kingdom is about the goal of creation and salvation history i.e. a redeemed humankind that is the body of Christ. Life is fulfilled as each one of us serves one another and the whole in love, following Jesus’ example.
In the readings today we find different aspects of this coming kingdom and how the coming kingdom manifests itself in our present-day life.
Isaiah describes the coming rule of God as a restoration of Jerusalem. Houses will be rebuilt, people will enjoy the fruits of their labour, and all will have a long and blessed life. And Isaiah ends with a vision of the harmonious living together of humans and nature. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” And God will never be far away; when they call out for him, he will listen and answer and be with them. This future kingdom is almost Paradise re-found.
The epistle has some suggestions for living a proper disciple-life not associating with people living opposite to the Gospel-values. It focuses on honest work and warns against idleness. St. Paul doesn’t mention the second coming of Christ in this section of his letter, but it is an overarching theme in 2 Thessalonians. Thus, we prepare ourselves for the coming kingdom of God not only through spiritual exercises, but in an honest daily life and in sound human relationships.
In the Gospel Jesus prepares his disciples for some of the trials that will precede the coming of God’s kingdom in its final consummation. There is the danger of falling from the faith in Christ, there are wars and insurrections and rumors of war, nature will be out of order, and there will be persecutions of the disciples. But the Holy Spirit will come to their assistance. All the difficulties give the disciples a chance to testify to the truth of the Gospel; they will make Christ known.
Thes last half years we have witnessed almost apocalyptic scenes in Hong Kong. Is there any chance for the protesters to see their quest for freedom fulfilled? Which side will win the struggle? To whom belong the victory? Or is only Ragnarök, annihilation, the flames of doom and perdition the end result?
In my reflections on the HK situation and today’s readings I turned to chapter 2 and 3 in the book of Revelation to see what Jesus would say to the congregations in Minor Asia in times of spiritual struggle, remembering that the word “conquer” is used at the end of each of these letters from Jesus to the congregations. This made me ask, what is victory? What is it to conquer? If I shall call no man my enemy and love those who harm me, and pray for my persecutors – how shall I understand “victory” and “to conquer”?
To conquer is never to subdue another person, it is not to make yourself stronger and superior to others. To conquer is to succeed in growing into the likeness of my Son, Jesus Christ.
To conquer is to die from your old identity, your fallen identity. Your old identity was one of self-interest, of creating your own success – often at the cost of the happiness of others. To conquer is to repent and change the direction of your life; to conquer is to rely on my Son and in the power of my Spirit to enter a brand-new life. When you have died from yourself, you’ll share the throne of Christ with him.
To conquer is to believe in my promises and to follow the Word, to serve in love, patience and faithfulness – even as you meet contradiction, persecution and slander. To conquer is to call others into faith. You will be like a pillar in my heavenly temple and my Son’s name will be yours.
To conquer is to find your first love and to grow in your faith relationship with me. To conquer is to grow in love for your fellow disciples and to serve them with the gifts that my Spirit bestows on you.
To conquer is to care for the stranger and the one who opposes you – and to care for creation that suffers because of human exploitation.
The one who conquers will eat from the tree of life and be nourished by the bread from heaven – and my Son will always be with you and you will always be in his company.
May be there’s some hope in Jesus’ way of turning around the meaning of the words we use as when the conqueror is the one “acts justly and loves mercy and walks humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)
Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, now is and ever shall be world without end. Amen.