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Daily Devotional • December 3

Sarah Cornwell
No Defense
 
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 21:5-19

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “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.”

7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray, for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

9 “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.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and plagues, and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 “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. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and siblings, by relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Meditation

Jesus is not very good at polite conversation. In response to the comment, “Doesn’t the temple look nice today?”, Jesus drops an eschatological bomb. Things will get bad (betrayal and persecution); then they’ll get worse (war and insurrection); and then worse still (earthquakes, famines, and plagues). 

Well, it’s not great news, but at least he’s telling his followers this to give them time to stock their bunkers and prepare their defense in advance — right? 

Wrong! 

Jesus tells his followers that they should occupy their minds by preparing to make no preparations. This is difficult for his followers to hear in early A.D., and it is also difficult for us to hear in 2022. We are seeing times of insurrection, famine, plagues, and natural disasters. Christians are being arrested and even executed for their faith in many places in the world. In the midst of this devastation, Jesus is asking us to remain present. Rather than close ranks and retreat behind our high walls, our intellects, and our access to resources that can be procured with little to no human interaction, we are to remain out in the world. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow and orphan, tend to the sick and dying, and visit those in prison. 

The more the world retreats from the physical into virtual (or, in some cases, even literal) bunkers, the more we must remember that Jesus is calling us to remain out in the world. Insofar as Christians are called to prepare, let us prepare to join together. In this way, when the sky begins to fall, we may rush out as a unified witness to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. By the grace of God, may it be so.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have seven children and they live in Wheaton, Illinois.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Nzara – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Church of the Incarnation, Dallas
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