Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV)
Verse 5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, Verse 6"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." Verse 7They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" Verse 8And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them. Verse 9"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Verse 10Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; Verse 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. Verse 12"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. Verse 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. Verse 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; Verse 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. Verse 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. Verse 17You will be hated by all because of my name. Verse 18But not a hair of your head will perish. Verse 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.
In the 1950s, a traditional African American spiritual emerged as a song of comfort expressing God’s providence: “He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got the itty-bitty baby in His hands. He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands. He’s got you and me, sister, in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.” In today’s gospel Jesus warns about wars and earthquakes, famines and plagues; dreadful portents and great signs from heaven; and then he encourages his hearers, “Don’t worry about it. I have your back in this world. It will all turn out well. I will even make it an opportunity for you to testify.” Everything is in God’s hands. By God’s mercy we will be delivered from anything that would threaten us in this “temporary” world. By that same mercy we will be given life without end in the next. The same One who has “itty-bitty babies in His hands” promises us that “not a hair of our heads will perish.”
Sovereign God, help us to realize you ultimately have the whole world in your hands. Lead us to trust in you and your mercy always. Amen.