By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 17:20-37
20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. 26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30— it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.” 37Then they asked him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
In The Shawshank Redemption, a prisoner is paroled after spending decades in prison. He had become accustomed to a way of life in prison. The predictability was reassuring, and confinement had become a form of security. Unable to adjust to freedom after nearly a lifetime of incarceration, this former prisoner takes his own life. For those who have been in prison for a long time, freedom can be incomprehensible and terrifying.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus speaks to us of the day of his return, when those redeemed by his grace will be liberated from sin and death. We have been held captive a long time. And for some of us, life on the inside hasn’t been so bad. Sure, the idea of freedom seems nice, but our lives are so predictable now. Here, we’re secure and we’ve got just enough to make the idea of sudden liberation unappealing. Yes, there’s pain, death, and all manner of evil, but for the most part, that happens to other prisoners in a prison far away. In my institution, sacrificing some freedom — my very soul — seems a reasonable compromise for the stability. I may even be grateful to the devil for being such a kind and generous warden.
It’s a brilliant strategy of the devil: the more comfortable he can make us in prison, the less likely it is that we’ll want to leave. At all times, we must remember the truth: Christ is coming to establish his kingdom and set us free. It is that kingdom in which we should wish to live. And on the day that freedom comes, we must be eagerly prepared to walk out and leave that false sense of security behind us.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Sambalpur (North India), the Rt. Rev. Pinuel Dip
Diocese of Dunkwa-on-Offin (West Africa), the Rt. Rev. Edmund Dawson Ahmoah
Diocese of Durgapur (North India), the Rt. Rev. Sameer Isaac Khimla
Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, North Carolina