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Related Bible reading(s): Luke 21.25-36

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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

Heads-up warning?

The coming of the Son of Man – apocalypse or advent: what do you see coming (Luke 21.25-36)?

Context

  • ‘Maybe it’s the apocalypse?’ The brand-new film Ghostbusters: Afterlife, released at the end of last week, looks back to the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie to bring an exciting story back to life for a new generation. Both films seem to loosely quote Revelation 6.12: ‘And I looked as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. Judgement Day.’
  • ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress.’ We cannot read Luke 21.25-36 and not hear again the echo of warnings from COP26.

 

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

  • Many of us might dream that we had a really cool grandparent who was a train driver, a firefighter or a soldier – I actually had grandparents who were all of the above! But, in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mum and her two children move to a small town from the big city, they begin to discover their unknown personal connection to an original ghostbuster, along with the secrets and legacy their grandfather left behind for them. By some spooky coincidence, the small town they move too seems to be growing into the centre of some very strange paranormal activity, as ghosts appear in the streets, signalling the impending apocalypse. The film was written by Jason Reitman, with Gil Kenan, but also directed by Jason Reitman, very deliberately based on the 1984 Ghostbusters film, directed by one Ivan Reitman, Jason’s father – who produces this film. Why all this needless information about directors and producers? Well, this father and son relationship has a huge influence on this new film. Aside from saving the world from an impending apocalypse, this is a story of discovery about a family trying to discover who they are, as well as who their father/grandfather was. And, yes, it is also about the apocalypse!
  • Seeing signs in the sun, the moon and the stars were a common feature of prophetic and apocalyptic pronouncements in Jesus’ time. But in Luke 21.25 these signs are turned upon their head because they announce not destruction of the world, nor the end of days, but a new beginning, an advent – the coming of the kingdom of God! In a world struggling to stay positive in turbulent times, we need a bit of hope. Where in your church or local community can you see small signs of hope as you begin Advent together? Maybe you could share and celebrate these small signs each week of Advent, or encourage people to write them down, possibly alongside each door that they open on their Advent calendars?
  • In the new Ghostbusters film it is a young girl, Phoebe, who utters the words: ‘Maybe it’s the apocalypse?’ Phoebe is the kind of child who struggles to make friends and who some might unkindly label as ‘different’. But she (as she brings her brother and eventually her mother along with her) sees the world differently, and has faith in and beyond science that things can be turned on their head. Some might struggle to see beyond the fearful signs at the beginning of today’s Gospel passage, but Jesus spoke about the signs of hope that were appearing all around them. Through discovering a belief in things that many thought unbelievable (i.e. ghosts), Phoebe finds hope and strength in the family and extended family around her in order to overcome a major apocalypse! Surely then, we can search for signs of hope for us arising from Jesus ‘little apocalypse’. So how do we respond?
  • Alan Rickman, playing the role of the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1990’s classic film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, gets to deliver the awesome line: ‘Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.’ He might have been a baddy, but at least he was open and honest! We might long for a little more clarity, openness and honesty from our government at the moment in terms of planning for and protecting us from Covid as we approach Christmas. No one wants another Covid Christmas! How can you and your church lead the way to keep people safe, while still celebrating the gift of hope that comes with Jesus at Christmas? Where many people in society might be feeling despair as we properly begin the Advent season, what support and hope can you offer to NHS workers and care workers? Is it time to let such people know that you are thanking God and praying for them, like Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13?
  • We haven’t been able to leave COP26 alone in recent weeks, and rightly so, but it seems the warnings from Greta and other environmentalists came back again to haunt us this week in Luke 21.25-36. In verses 25-26 we are given powerful images from nature, which will bring fear and confusion to many. How can we stop ourselves or others from being overwhelmed by the negative signs in the seasons, and instead look for signs of hope in things which are beginning to change where you live, as Jesus’ fig tree offers signs of summer? Where can you see those small seeds of hope?

 

Questions for discussion

  • In the new Ghostbusters film, two children (and their mother) discover that their grandfather had saved the world from an apocalypse. Do you have relatives who have (in some small way) saved people in times of struggle? Could you name other such people from your community? How might you give thanks for these people, like Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13?
  • As we read Luke 21.25-36, we can see signs all around us of things that are not looking good in terms of both the Covid pandemic and the state of planet upon which we depend. As you begin Advent in your church community how can you be more on your guard against the dangers we face? What signs of hope do you believe came in the Son of Man that you want to share with those who struggle to believe in the faith behind Advent and Christmas?

Tim Lowe is a minister of the United Reformed Church, serving with St Andrew’s Roundhay, in Leeds. He is interested in story-telling through the visual arts and films, so he enjoys a safe trip to the cinema. He has also just booked his Covid booster jab, to keep himself and everyone else safe as life gets busy in Advent!

 

Check-in

Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

The Christmas TV adverts for 2021 have now launched, and many have an air of defiance after the so-called ‘cancelled Christmas’ of 2020, with messages such as ‘Can’t stop me now!’ and ‘Baubles to last year!’ Last year, we discovered that many of the things which had underpinned our celebrations were not as sure and certain as we had thought and many of the things that we put our trust in were little more than sinking sand.

In this week’s reading from Luke 21, Jesus warns of the confusion, danger and fear that humanity will face in the end times, there will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. There will be roaring seas and confusion on earth. It will seem like the world is in danger.’

When we reflect on the uncertainty and fear we have faced over the past two years and consider the many ways in which the world seems to be broken, an understandable response would be: ‘stop the world, I want to get off!’ But when we look closely there is much to hope for as we see glimpses of the kingdom of God at work through the church and its people.

Jesus promises that ‘…my words will not pass away.’ (v. 33b). When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we have a sure and certain hope in him that will not fail. And that is something to celebrate.

Becky May is Founder of The Resources Cupboard 

 

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