Luke 21: 5-19
“Take my lips, oh Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
What did you think of that Gospel lesson with its predictions of the end times? Did it resonate with you in some way? Listening to the news on any given day might lead one to think the end of time is near. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” Well, yes. War or near war is a constant threat. “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences” That one is there too. “They will arrest and persecute you”. That doesn’t happen so much in the U.S although right now I hear many people expressing the significant fear that we may move in that direction in the immediate future. There is a good deal of turmoil these days. With all the various reactions to the recent election there’s a lot to think about in terms of our national life.
It’s easy to feel discouraged, or angry, or fearful and I have heard a lot of people expressing all those emotions and more. At the very least we can say that there were no winners in this last election, not really. Deep divisions have been exposed running through our nation and our people. What are we to do with it all? Can we begin to heal those divisions that have become so much more obvious? Can we do the hard work of reconciliation so that we can move forward together? Remember, this Gospel lesson we heard today is part of Jesus’ last public teaching before his crucifixion. He tells us a powerful truth even if it isn’t an easy one to hear. The things of this world are destined not to last. We can’t depend on things created by our own hands, however much we want to. That is bad news for most of us. For the most part that we want desperately to know that we can control things. But could it be good news too? After all, if we don’t have to waste energy trying to control things we have no control over aren’t we more free to use our energy to follow Jesus and do the hard work of loving others? Still, did you hear it? Jesus warns us: “Watch out that you are not deceived” he says, “For many will come in my name” saying “I am he” and “The time is near”. Jesus gives some alternative advice too. “Do not follow them”: he says and “Do not be frightened”.
hat is not so easy is it? It is so much easier to read our times as signs of God’s absence and wonder where God is or why God is punishing us. Luke’s gospel in particular, and scripture generally, tells us something very different. All through the Bible we hear that nothing at all is going on, either in our individual lives or on a global level, that is unknown to God. Nothing. God never said that life will be easy. What God does do is promise to be with us in the midst of it all. We do not need to be afraid. You’ve heard it before. I know you have. Jesus tells us plainly, do not be afraid, because to become afraid is to become part of the problem and that is not what God has in mind for us. You heard what Jesus said. “By standing firm you will gain life” Here’s the thing. We can proceed with confidence because while Jesus didn’t promise to lead us around the troubles of this world. He did promise is to lead us through them. Jesus calls us to an active and enduring faith. We aren’t very good at it usually. Thankfully God knows that about us and has given us some important gifts to help us out. For one thing we have the word of God revealed in Scripture. Did you hear it in the collect? We thanked God for the scriptures and asked that we so “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” that we can hold onto that holy hope of life in God’s Kingdom. But there’s more. We have the Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ even if we do have to come to grips with not knowing exactly how or when he will return. But then there is one more very important gift. We also have the gift of each other, the fellowship of saints. Together we make up the church, the body of Christ. It’s not a particularly popular view in our time when we have become so focused on the individual that we miss, or over look, the fact that Jesus established a community of followers and his teaching and preaching is directed primarily to that community. I suspect that gift of community, the gift of each other, just might be one of the most important gifts we are given. It was into the community of believers that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given after all. It is within that community, bound together in common worship, that we can best listen to one another and support one another. It is through the ministries of the community here at Trinity Church that we can listen carefully to the concerns of our neighbors here in Monroe and, with God’s help, find ways to welcome, nurture, and support those folks as well. Even when they don’t look just like us. Surely we are already doing some powerful ministries, ministries that make a difference. Are there other things we could be doing? Probably. One thing I know for sure is that there are a lot of hurting people all around us, a lot of folks who need to know that God loves them. They need to feel that love, as someone somewhere once said, as love with skin on, real human love expressed in real words and real actions, person to person. We need to listen carefully to one another, respect one another, and hold onto one another. That’s where the Gospel rubs up against our current work of thinking about stewardship. Remember. We continue best as a worshipping and ministering community when we work together, each of us using the gifts we have been given, in order to do together the healing and reconciling work God has given us to do. It’s a big job in a complex and sometimes uncomfortable world. “Do not be afraid”, Jesus said, “for all these things must take place”. Just hold one to me and hold onto one another. And remember in the end Jesus gave us this promise to sustain us through all our times: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Amen.