Thursday 26 November Holy Communion St Giles
First Reading Daniel 6: 12 – end
12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: "Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions' den?"
The king answered, "The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed."
13 Then they said to the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day." 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, "Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed."
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
21 Daniel answered, "May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty."
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
"May you prosper greatly!
26 "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
"For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions."
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Gospel Luke 21: 20 – 28
20 "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
25 "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Luke 21 is called Apocalyptic Discourse. All 3 synoptic gospels present this extended discourse – conclusion to Jesus’s ministry – before passion narrative.
Apocalypse = revelation – lifting of veil. Nowadays refers to end of time – like Revelation at end of NT.
Jesus’s teachings are about the Kingdom. The Kingdom will bring hostility, as we read two weeks ago. Jesus’s passion and resurrection act as precursor to Apocalypse. After Jesus has gone, the disciples face immediate hostility as thye struggle to maintain their faith without him present but with guidance of Holy Spirit instead.
The discourse takes place appropriately in the Temple. Focuses on destruction of the Temple – both physically and as necessary event at end of age. The two events are separate – the Romans destroyed the Temple, but thatv was not the end of the age, merely a sign of what is to come.
So Luke says ‘when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know its desolation is near.’ By the time Luke writes his gospel, the Temple will probably have been destroyed, so the words of Jesus in retrospect look like a prophecy that the readers will know has already been fulfilled.
So they will concentrate all the more on the other signs – those that herald the end of time or Apocalypse. These signs include cosmic disasters that climax in the Son of Man returning on a cloud – a direct quotation from Daniel 7, the chapter after today’s OT reading. This is a kind of ascension in reverse.
Like the early church, Luke expected the imminent return of Christ, but they were doomed to disappointment. For us, 2,000 years later, what expectation do we have? Not imminent probably, but our time is not God’s time. Still the message that Luke is giving is the same: only the time is different. Luke still looked for the powerful intervention of God in the world, but he expected it soon.
Our confidence is in the same powerful intervention, but not imminently. The Kingdom of God is with us in one sense already, however, and this is what should control our lives. We should still be prepared for the end of time, which will come like a thief in the night – and so our behaviour should be the same as those in the early church who had a different expectation.
Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.