“For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:37-42)
Greetings, Fighter, and Happy Advent.
In the calendar of the church, this Sunday – Advent Sunday – is the first day of the year, and the following Season of Advent takes us right up to Christmas Eve.
The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin, ‘advenio’, meaning ‘coming towards’, which makes sense as we are coming towards Christmas. The readings for the first Sunday in Advent though always remind us that we are also heading towards something far more ominous – a time of judgement!
The scene depicted in Matthew’s Gospel (quoted above) is referred to by some sections of the church as ‘the rapture’, where Jesus is understood to be extracting all His chosen people from the earth and leaving everybody else to fight it out!
I’m not sure exactly how this scenario fits in with Jesus’ promises about the Kingdom of God, but I do know that Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins created a mega-successful “Left Behind” multimedia franchise, exploring all the dramatic possibilities. If you missed the “Left Behind” series, you may grasp all you need to know by watching The Simpsons parody, entitled, “Left Below”.
Personally, I have trouble with the ‘left behind’ reading of this text. If the ‘coming of the son of man’ is going to be like the coming of the flood in Noah’s day, with one person suddenly being taken away and another left behind, it’s the one who is taken (by the flood waters) who is in trouble. The one who is left behind is the survivor!
I’m also not sure whether Jesus’s warning was meant to refer specifically to the end of human history or whether He was warning us to be ready for any number of crises. For tragedy so often strikes us when we least expect it. Who amongst us saw COVID coming a few years ago? Who foresaw the ‘War on Terror’ before 2001. Who knows what is coming next?
Whether we are dealing with natural disasters or acts of deliberate human violence, crises are often as unexpected as they are destructive, and the damage appears to be so random. I remember a woman I spoke to in hospital in Damascus in 2013. She was a hairdresser and had been cutting someone’s hair when a mortar shell landed in her shop. Her client was ‘taken’. She was left. Similarly, I can think of two healthy men of the same age (myself and my friend, Father Alexi) who both got COVID at around the same time. One was taken (dear Alexi) and I was barely affected!
Yes, it’s Advent, and that means Christmas is coming, which should put a smile on our faces and add warmth to our hearts. Even so, there is darkness on the horizon too. We need to be alert, for “if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.” (Matthew 24:43)
We had a historic Sunday Eucharist last weekend, it being the first time that we have streamed through our own website – www.thesundayeucharist.com! 😊
Of course, I managed to muck things up completely to begin with as I had the site open in the background while I was doing the livestream, resulting in everything echoing back to me after about a 5-second delay. I couldn’t work out what was going wrong at first until I realised that it was me! Thank you to Kamini, Andrew and Father Ola for bearing with me.
The recording of last Sunday’s session is relatively long as I included a lot of the introductory discussion which focused on last Saturday’s freedom rally in Sydney Square and the unfortunate antagonism between the Dean of Saint Andrews’ Cathedral and the event’s organiser, Aussie Cossack. The Cossack had told the Dean that he might call on all those attending the rally to pray for the Dean if he didn’t cooperate. The Dean took this as a threat and suggested that the Cossack had ‘weaponised’ prayer! I’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that one.
This Sunday we are privileged to have another wonderful trio join me:
- Tom Toby – our favourite Shia Muslim – will bring us the Torah reading
- David Baldwin will give us the Epistle (from Romans 13)
- Karyn Hemming will lead us in prayer
We try to get going online at around 11.45am and begin the liturgy at midday. Join us whenever you can. You can connect to us directly through our website – www.thesundayeucharist.com – but if you want to interact with the team by sharing your comments, you’ll still need to connect through either Facebook or YouTube.
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What’s on this week?
- Saturday, November 25 – Boxing from 3 pm @The Fight Lab
- Sunday, November 27 – The Sunday Eucharist at midday
- Tuesday, November 29 – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, December 1 – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
Before leaving you today, I must tell you of the wonderful time Joy and I had on Wednesday, attending Tom Toby’s Arbaʽeen photographic exhibition, capturing the pilgrimage to Karbala (in Iraq) that takes place every year, commemorating the death of Imam Husain, the grandson of the prophet. It is a very sacred event for Shia Muslims, and Tom’s photographs do truly capture something of the power and emotion of the event.
May God Almighty bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
Your brother in the Good Fight,