Unless your church is into Left Behind books and such, we don't tend to talk about the end times much--other than that we know Jesus will return. We especially tend to gloss over that discussion when it involves mentioning that believers will be persecuted in the last days, like tonight's passage, Luke 21:5-19, briefly mentions.
It wasn't our focus at church tonight. Which is fine. But I think our churches in the West tend to gloss over those passages because they're not a reality for us. And we can say that's the blessing of the freedoms we have in our part of the world--which is true--but I wonder if it's also because we're not living out our faith that boldly. We don't have to. We like to think of ourselves as a "Christian nation."
We also tend to not want to rock the boat. We tend to think of issues of justice as either the government's job or the church's job, but not ours. We tend to not be very radical in our love for others--at least not in the way Jesus radically loved. We sometimes like our Christianity to be safe, accompanied by a security of knowing that we'll escape hell.
I know this is sometimes true for me. I like to keep my faith safe so that others won't judge me or think I'm a religious freak. So I think this is our cultural challenge: to live more like Jesus lived. Radically loving.
*gets off soapbox
Jesus says that His followers will be put on trial someday, but not to worry. "This will be your opportunity—your opportunity to tell your story" (Luke 21:13, The Voice). We focused on that tonight at church.
Jesus encourages us to "stand firm, and you will win life" (21:19, NIV). We discussed tonight how stories bolster us for standing firm. During the infant years of the church, they didn't have sermons in their worship times; they told stories. Everything was passed down by oral tradition. Only the scribes had the Scriptures written down.
So tonight we told some stories. They reminded us of God's faithfulness. They helped us to recognize the people God used to minister to us unexpectedly when we were in need. They connected us to others. They opened our eyes.
Stories are good. We don't share ours enough.
I remember a time several years ago when I was working at Twin Lakes Christian Center. I was putting on a winter retreat for jr. high and high school students and I needed volunteer counselors for the cabins. It was my responsibility for every retreat and camp I programmed to make sure we had all the volunteers and staff we needed. At this retreat a former camper and summer staffer brought a group of friends up from the college he was attending. It was a huge help.
One of the times before free time started, I was showing a group of them how to load up campers on wooden toboggans and send them down the toboggan chute we had that went out onto the frozen lake. While the five of us were standing in the wooden "silo" that sheltered the top of the chute, one of the college students asked about our stories.
So we took turns sharing a brief recounting of how we came to know Jesus. I can't remember any of the specific people who were there with me or their specific stories, but I remember the sacredness of that moment.
We were each encouraged. We were each strengthened in our faith. We were each reminded of why we were doing what we were doing.
Today at church, the leader for our story activity shared how each time when we gather together at the beginning of our evening and circle up for a prayer before we eat, she is bolstered by the fact that she knows each of our stories. We are connected. We are testimonies to what God can and does do.
Stories are good. We need to share ours more.