Daily Scripture: Luke 21:5-19
Reflection: The Rev. Dr. Steve Pankey, Rector—Christ Episcopal Church, Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky
Jesus is pretty good at offering really dangerous one-liners. At least one of them appears in the lesson from Luke appointed for today’s reflection. “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” I mean, if that doesn’t sound like something the Church, siding with domineering governmental regimes said to the oppressed and impoverished peoples of central America, I don’t know what does. Thank God for liberation theologians who were willing to say, “Nope, that’s not what Jesus had in mind.”
The tendency in reading this verse is either to say, “be patient in your suffering because God is going to redeem it… someday.” Or, to make it some quasi-bootstrap theological tenet and think, “I’m in this on my own. It is me and my own endurance that will see me through.” Nope, I don’t think either of those is what Jesus had in mind. Rather, what I think Jesus is trying to establish through this entire passage is that even in the most difficult of circumstances – when the Temple is being destroyed, when you are being arrested and dragged before the magistrates, when there are wars and earthquakes happening all around, when the whole world seems to be coming to an end – God will not abandon you. The promise here is of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing presence. The deep truth is that we are never really on our own, and when we try to act as if we are, that’s when we get into trouble.
My wife is a runner. She’s completed several half-marathons. She’s run one full marathon and is training for her second. As one who barely runs for 30 minutes three-times a week, I’m happy to call her an endurance runner. She, however, looks at ultra-marathoners for that distinction. Did you know that people run 50, 100, or even more miles? On purpose? They really do. Anyway, what I’ve learned from following these endurance runners is that one simply cannot run 50 miles all by themselves. It takes a whole team of people to help one runner endure the race. Some folks stage food at rest stops. Others pace the runner for some distance to ensure success. Those who are really brave will change the runner’s shoes and socks at various points along the course. Endurance is a team sport. Endurance is impossible on our own.
This is, I think, the true gift of endurance. It isn’t another thing we should feel guilty that we can’t accomplish, like losing those 10 pounds or reading the Bible for 30 minutes a day. Endurance is the gift of being carried by God and one another. Endurance is the gift of helping God carry our neighbors. Especially when times feel difficult and when the odds seem overwhelming, endurance is the gift of community that can carry us through. Who is God inviting you to carry on their journey of endurance? Who is carrying you?