Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 24:32-51) transports me to Wednesday night youth group meeting, Gashes Creek Church, circa 1980. Jack Benfield was teaching the Bible study, and we were on the theme of the last days. Jack read this passage from Matthew, about two being in the field and one taken, two working at the mill and one taken, etc etc and he asked our little group what we thought that meant. One of my fellow teenagers, Mark, known to come up with some original commentary, immediately raised his hand. I know what it means. It means that we ought to always stay by ourselves or in a crowd of three or more, cause it’s dangerous to be caught with just you and one other person. Sometimes it’s good to be in the company of literalists.
Jesus said nobody, not even he, knew precisely when this taking business would take place. He didn’t give a lot of helpful clues to narrow it down. To say that it would be like the time of Noah, with people eating and drinking and getting married, is to say that it could be any time in history. So there’s not really any time we shouldn’t be on alert, on watch, singing the old Blackfoot song, train, train, take me on out of this town. Since there aren’t many of us who will be so intent on watching that we’ll forego the Noah-time activities of eating and drinking and marrying, we’ll have to be on the lookout for Jesus with our mouths full and our minds at times on other things. I couldn’t help but think of an Andy Griffith episode, where Barney got the idea that Andy and Helen were getting married, and he organized a big surprise party for them. Gomer was set up as lookout behind a bush, and he was supposed to whistle or hoot like an owl when he saw them coming, to alert the group inside to hide. Andy and Helen arrived, though, while Gomer was in the middle of eating a peanut butter sandwich. Gomer could get neither a whistle nor a hooty hoot out through his mouthful of peanut butter, so Andy and Helen came into a living room full of people sitting around eating snacks. So much for the surprise, surprise, surprise.
Jesus gave another curious forecast about the events that would culminate in his coming down the tracks on that mountain railroad to take away the watchful, those primed and ready to watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels. He said that the generation of people he was talking to would live to see it all happen. What could that have meant? For me, I take it to mean that Jesus does come to those awaiting him in every generation, including that first generation, and the one after that, and the one after that, right up to our own generation. Jesus roars onto the scene and he takes us, he lifts us from those gravitational fields that pull us down and he takes us from those mills that grind us down. We are a taken people. And we continue to watch, every day, to be taken again. We watch and sing, even while we eat and drink and marry. We can add some Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions to Blackfoot and Charlie Tillman, as we wait for the train to take us on down the line: People get ready, there’s a train a comin’, Dont’ need no baggage, just get on board, All you need is faith to hear the diesel’s hummin’, Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.