There are a land rush around 100 years ago around the Oklahoma panhandle. Vast new areas were being opened up for farming, tractors pulled plows side by side to till the land more thoroughly and completely. It was a land subject to droughts, and averaged less than 20 inches of rain a year, but the experts said the climate had changed. Those who remembered droughts in the 1890’s were scoffed at, surely those days would never return. For several years, there were huge crops of wheat, farmers made money and planned to expand their operations, borrowing to purchase machinery and more land.
But then, the Great Depression brought a collapse of prices, and wheat went through the floor. No problem, they produced more to make up the difference. Then the rain didn’t fall for years. Great stretches of tilled earth were pulled up into the sky and were blown as far as New York and Washington. It was the Dust Bowl, a man made catastrophe that had never been seen before.
Some left, but many hung in there. They lost a lot: crops, animals, land, even their lives. The nation reached out to help those who stayed: when feed companies realized dresses were being made out of grain sacks, they put patterns on them so they didn’t look awful when they were used that way. But the rains came back and when they did, the people learned to farm a new way, a way that conserved the land and made it less susceptible to future droughts.
Jesus calls the people of his age to be alert. It was a time of strife, turmoil, a time of revolution. The society of that time was in a lot of stress: people were being forced off their land, some into slavery, the Romans ruled with an iron fist, and the Temple leadership collaborated with the Romans, selling out their own people to stay in power. Things had to change, and Jesus warned his followers to expect it. But beyond that, the time to come would be a time of promise, a time of redemption.
The times changed: around 30 years after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, the Great Revolt of the Jews against Rome happened, and its defeat left Jerusalem in ruins and changed Judaism forever. Christians survived the end of that world, and in the short term found themselves subject to ridicule and persecution as they were expelled from synagogues. The Roman culture tried to assimilate them, force them to accept the primacy of the Emperor as a God, and the superiority of Roman culture above any religious teaching. However Christians survived, they learned from their experience, they modeled their lives on Christ as best they could, and their fortunes changed for the better.
Our times will change, even dramatically: they always have, they always will. Bad things happen to good people, bad times come and go, there’s always a threat on the horizon, uneasiness broadcast in the news. When we least expect it, something big will happen, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or 9/11 and the world we’ve known will be different overnight. But there is always hope, always life, always blessing from God, even then things seem lost.
Jesus comes to us to give us His promise. He will be with us no matter what; He will see us through to the other side. We’re called to be alert to what’s going around us, to learn from our experiences, to take life as it happens. Living in today is possible because we know how things are going to end up: God wins, Christ wins, we win. We know that on the other side, the fullness of God’s Kingdom will come to pass, and that will be better than anyone can imagine. Just as God’s promise was fulfilled beyond expectation in the First Coming of Christ, the Second Coming will be better than we can imagine.