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Perseverance

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What are we persevering for?

While the simple explanation of today’s reading is we’re persevering until the Second Coming of Jesus into the world, I wonder what that means for us. Do we really think that tomorrow, next week, sometime in 2023, or even tomorrow that Christ will come again into the world and there will be a time of judgment where one is taken and one is left? Do we really think this will happen in places of work, and places of home? Do we really live our lives as if this could happen at any moment?
I’d say that most of us don’t. I don’t have any studies or research to base that on, so maybe I should change my comment to — I don’t. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Jesus could come today, I better be ready.” Nor do I think in the moments before I make an important decision, “Will this decision help me be more prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus?”
What then are we persevering for? What are we contantly in a state of readiness for?

What is being persevered for in the Gospel?

Today’s gospel reading is tied to the Second Coming of Jesus, and people want to know when that will happen, what are the signs, how will we know. It is natural for us to work more towards “being ready” when we know the timeline is near.
While Matthew’s version of the Gospel was written after the death of Jesus, the story depicts a group of people who want to know when he’s coming back even before he’s been crucified, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven.
It brings up the image of a child being told to clean up their room before someone comes over. Do we really need to wait for someone to come over to clean up and be prepared? No, we know that. However, there is probably a portion of all of us who wants to know how long we can wait before getting prepared.
If there’s a great deal of time between our preparation and the event, the time in-between becomes time that we “just need to get though” or time that we need to persevere through.
The disciples don’t want to live as if Jesus has already returned, until just before he comes again — they don’t want to persevere during that in-between time.

How did the disciples persevere?

One of the things we assume about today’s gospel reading is it is about judgement. While the Second Coming of Jesus may involve a time of judging our actions and our lives, this reading is about when the Second Coming will be and what we’re to do until then.
We need to set aside what we assume to be the negative consequences of not being ready — being robed in the case of the home owner, and dying in the case of the time of Noah. For the actual description of what will happen doesn’t have any negative consequences.
Matthew 24:40–41 NRSVue
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.
Some commentators aregue that the Greek word for “being left” has negative connotations, but it doesn’t necessarily have that connotation.
If we can put aside the negative connotation, we’re left with a description of that people were doing at the time of Noah — they were eating and drinking (not drunkness and debauchery but banquets and parties), they were marrying. In the time of the disciples, they were in the fields and grinding meal (they were at work and at home.) In other words, between the time the disciples were living in, and the time when Jesus is to come again, the disciples persevered, not in the midst of anxiety about the “Final Judgement” but in living out their lives as normal.

Putting aside the anxiety

Maybe this is the message for us today. In a time where anxiety reigns. We’re anxious about our health, and the health of people around the globe, and the health of the planet itself. We’re anxious about the economy, and what it means for us, for different organizations, and for the church. We’re anxious about so many things.
If Jesus is telling the disciples that preparing for his Second Coming happens in the midst of doing what they were already doing, if Jesus tells them that they won’t know the day or the hour, then they were just to live their life and let God come again into the world when God chooses to do so.
That can free us from a sense of anxiety. We’re not responsible for knowing when it will happen, we’re not responsible to rush and prepare last minute.
Instead we are invited to prepare to live according to God’s will for us in the in-between time from Jesus being with us, until he comes again. That invitation can free us from our anxiety — for we’re invited to prepare for God’s love, God’s peace, God’s joy, and God’s hope to come into the world in just a few weeks.
That is an invitation that the world needs, that is preparation we can persevere with, that is something that will make the world better, and for that we give thanks. Amen.
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