(You could begin by reading the scripture passage. Better yet, ask someone to read it to you. The Word of God is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus seems to take a perfectly ordinary conversation and turn it upside down.
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Jesus' disciples seem to be praising the beautiful Temple built for God, but Jesus begins to speak of it being torn down. Why does he do this?
The disciples do not ask why, Instead, they ask,
“Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
Jesus does not tell them when. In fact, he warns them against people who say they know when. The destruction of the Temple will occur, Jesus says. It will be just one terrible thing among many.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues...
We know about war. We know about earthquakes and hurricanes and floods. We know about hunger and sickness and death. These things happen right now. Jesus seems very gloomy. Why is he saying all these things?
Jesus knows that the world is not yet as it should be. He knows that the Kingdom of God is not yet complete. Who will help him to build it? Who will help him make the Kingdom happen right now?
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
Jesus seems determined to be gloomy today. Is he trying to scare away his disciples? Is he trying to scare away us? Or perhaps he simply wants to be honest. There is going to be trouble because we choose to be his disciples. There is going to be trouble because we choose to make the Kingdom happen right now. There is going to be trouble because not everybody likes these choices.
This will give you an opportunity to testify.
Oh, super. An opportunity for public speaking. This just gets better and better.
There will be times in our lives, Jesus says, when we will have to speak about our faith in God. We will have to tell people what we believe, and not everyone is good at that. Especially when it is about something so close to our hearts. We feel vulnerable; we could get hurt.
But Jesus says,
So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.
We do not have to prepare! (That is not something we hear very often!)
Jesus, the Son of God will give us the words to say. He will give us wisdom.
With the Holy Spirit with us, we do not need to be afraid.
not a hair of your head will perish.
Jesus speaks to all disciples but he says "head" not "heads." What could this mean?
By saying "not a hair of your head"—like we all share one head—he shows us that all disciples are in this together. What hurts one of us, hurts us all; what helps one, helps us all. Like the branches of the True Vine, we are all connected, and Jesus says that together we will all be saved.
This is good news. We are not alone. We belong to a community of believers, the Church.
By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Jesus speaks to each disciple but he says "souls" not "soul." He makes it sound like we will each gain more than one soul! Who are the other souls we are gaining? What could this mean?
The Greek word for "endurance" means to grow despite harsh conditions. It means to be hardy and strong—like a weed that grows when everything else fails, like an impossibly small mustard seed that becomes the greatest of shrubs, so that
the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. (Matthew 13:32)
Who are these birds of the air that come and make their homes in the Kingdom of God? Who are the souls who need to find rest in the safe branches of the Kingdom? Who are the people drawn to us because of our faith in God?
Perhaps these are the souls that we gain for God when we endure through all the troubles and trials knowing that God is with us right now.