This Sunday many Christians will hear a little verse from the Gospel of Luke that will scare the daylights out of them.
Actually, go ahead and dare. Otherwise the rest won't make a whole lot of sense.
So, here's the thing about this little passage from Luke (and the ones like it in Matthew and Mark): it's not literal, folks.
Now see, I say something like that (or write something like that), and I get people who retort back with a, "Well, how do you know?"
To which I reply, "The same way I know that Fun House is a play and haiku is a peculiar type of poetry: it's a kind of literature. I know because not all kinds of writing, or speaking, are the same, and this is a particular kind. I know because the scriptures are full of all kinds of writing, and this is one of the kinds."
It's a particular kind called an apocalypse. That word, "apocalypse," doesn't mean "the end of the world," by the way. It literally means, "the unveiling" or "the uncovering."
And apocalypse uncovers a deep truth by masking the language in catastrophic, cosmic symbols. It does so to get you to pay attention. And if you take it literally you are doing the exact opposite of what it's meant to get you to do.
So don't do that. Don't take it literally.