Summary: In Luke 21.25-28, Jesus turns the curiosity about the end times into living in the present with hope for God’s purposes.
Sermon for the first Sunday in Advent 2006
Like a similar passage in Mark, today’s Gospel forms part of Jesus’ response to discussions about the end times. For some people curiosity about the end has continued unabated down through the centuries despite Jesus’ encouragement to concentrate on other aspects of the faith – like getting on together in the here and now. The Thessalonians seem to have taken speculation about the end to new heights as some downed tools as they waited for the second coming. With no useful work they went about annoying others with their theories. It is this attitude that St Paul confronts when he counsels: “As for the times and seasons, brethren, you yourselves know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Who could blame them for being a little curious? This hope of the completion of God’s plan must have been an exiting prospect for the early believers. After all, they were alive during the time chosen for God’s coming to earth in the person of Jesus.
Well, haven’t we all let curiosity get the better of us? Once when Jenny and I were touring in Europe we landed in a Hotel outside Venice. (As some blokes are want to do) I began by exploring the features of our room. I checked out the TV, air conditioner and coffee making facilities. Then I came across a most curious thing. In the shower cubicle there was a cord hanging from the ceiling. A cord, in the shower – like one of those old light switch cords. I stood there transfixed for a while as I wondered whether I could get away with tugging it. Then my curiosity got the better of me. I pulled the cord. While I was waiting for the result of my effort the phone rang. I picked it up. There was no response on the other end. I went back to my cord and tugged it again. The phone rang again. This time there was someone on the other end: “You pulla the cord?” asked the person on the other end. I hesitated but in the figured I’d been caught red-handed. “Yes.” I admitted. “You no pulla the cord. The cord is for old people when they fall over in the shower. You no pulla the cord!” OK, I no pulla the cord. When we went down for dinner Jenny and I discovered that just about every other bloke in our tour group had pulled the cord!
But wait a minute! If I had not pulled the cord I would not have found out what it was for! I think curiosity is necessary for this life to which we have been called. Sure I could have asked, but where is the fun in that? That is in spite of one of the most frightening stories I ever heard as a kid. Pandora’s Box. Like Eve in the Biblical story Pandora gets the blame for letting loose all sorts of evils on the world. There is an interesting twist to the story. After all sorts of pain and suffering emerge and inflict themselves on humanity and Pandora closes the box she opens it again! This time something else comes from out of the box, concealed among the evils of the box is the little voice of hope.
Whether or not we would rather while away our time in the peaceful ignorance of companionship in the Greek tradition or in the perfection of the Garden of Eden in the Judeo Christian tradition we are forced to face what life presents both good and bad. How many times might we have been accused of opening a ‘Pandora’s Box’ only to forget about hope? There is no going back to the simple world before the box was opened, just as there was no way back for humanity after eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. If we go around pulling cords we have to take the consequences. Even after the devastation wrought on the world by Pandora there is hope. It seems that curiosity and hope go together.
Hope is crucial for humanity and paramount in Christian life. “Faith, hope and love abide”, says St Paul. Hope is made real in the forgiveness God offers us through Christ. How many times have we strayed from God’s presence only to find God comes looking for us “in the cool of the evening” as Holy Scripture pictures it in the Book of Genesis? In Scripture the hope we hold is pictured in various and imaginative ways. Jeremiah harks back to the golden era of David and says that is what it is going to be like again. This descendent of David will bring justice, righteousness and safety to his people. The followers of Jesus are curious about events and times. The Thessalonians are so hopeful they believe they can just sit back and wait.