Minnesota Episcopal
Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Lectionary Reflection

Year C, Advent 1
Episcopal Standard Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary

Luke 21: 25-36

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’


Reflection on Luke 21: 25-36
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

So far as gospels are concerned, Year C will be the year of Luke. On the first Sunday of Advent it is appropriate to survey the two-volume work of this author who both wrote a gospel and constructed the first chapter in Church history (Acts).

Some characteristics of Luke stand out. First, prominent in his theology and Christology is social justice. For instance, though all three synoptic gospels include Jesus' rejection at his hometown, only Luke quotes the texts in Trito-Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2; 58:6) that Jesus read in the synagogue on that occasion. Jesus' comments on the text, as relayed by Luke, emphasized God's saving acts outside Israel in Sidon and Syria, and by implication attacked the provincial nationalism of the congregation. He did so with such effectiveness that "all in the synagogue were filled with rage" so that they took Jesus to the top of a cliff from which they had expected to hurl him down to death. (Jesus announces the universalization of the gospel, but we hear an off-stage trumpet of crucifying doom.)

Luke thereby showed the deep roots of Jesus' public ministry in prophetic emphasis on righteousness within the public realm. Social justice is a pre-eminent theme also in ecological consciousness, for it includes commitment to Eco-Justice, which explores connections between ecology and economics, between the creation around us and the fiscal intentions within and among us.

There are other characteristics in Luke's work: his interest in medical terms (leading to the description "Luke the physician"), in geographical matters as exhibited in his extensive use over land and sea of the journey motif (not only in Acts, but also in Jesus "setting his face toward Jerusalem" at Luke 9:51-19:27), his interest also in relations between rich and poor.
The section 21:25-31 adds another Lukan characteristic. There are various apocalyptic "signs" of redemption coming. Here is Luke's eschatological emphasis. For our laity the term "eschatology" may amount to a technical term. In this technological era, however, we should not retreat from the use of precise language. Laity deal with technical terms as a matter of course, thereby demonstrating their capacity to understand and use them. Why expect a faith rooted in at least 3 millenia of continuous community not to have its own special vocabulary?

For Luke the goals set before the Church (the community called out in order to be sent into the world) exercise powerful influence on daily life here and now. That's eschatology (study of the "eschaton," the end-time goal). There may be fear and foreboding, along with the powers of the heavens being shaken. But Luke looks beyond those portents to the "power and glory" of the coming "Son of Man" (another technical term). When those "signifying" events come, it will be a time of great expectation and hope. At that moment "stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Another technical term is "redemption" (apolutrosis), a word that signified the buying back of a captive or slave by paying a ransom (lutron). The advent of our release into the freedom of God's own people is what Luke proclaims here.

Printable version



To Reflections on other Readings for Year C, Advent 1:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary
Revised Common
Old Testament
(Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Zechariah 14: 4-9
Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Psalm 50
Psalm 25: 1-9
New Testament Reading:
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
Luke 21: 25-31
(this page)
Luke 21: 25-36
(this page)

John G. Gibbs, PhD, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he wrote this reflection in 2012. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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