Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pentecost 24 - Proper 28

O Lord, absolve Your people from their offenses that from the bonds of our sins, which by reason of our weakness we have brought upon ourselves, we may be delivered by Your bountiful goodness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

People are always curious about the future. What is going to happen? Religious fanatics draw upon isolated passages in Scripture, tear them out of context, and make biblical symbols represent modern nations or persons. Jesus in the words of our Gospel simply tells us what to expect - nothing more and certainly nothing less. With this we ought to leave it.

Is there anything we can do about the coming of the end of the world? Do we sit with folded hands and wait for the worst? Are we passive victims of world conditions? The Gospel gives us plenty to do until the end of days. About this we need to be concerned rather then fixating on the specific day and hour of the end.

This Christ would have us do –

1. Expect trouble. Vs. 2 – “Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." Again, in time, Jesus’ words were fulfilled. In the year 70 AD when the Romans entered the city of Jerusalem the great temple was torn down. Not one stone was left to stand on another. To this day there is only a small remnant to that great temple. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is all that remains of this great temple.

Yet to this hour there are days and times of trouble. People who expect peace will not find it. Those who want to rid this world of injustice will become disappointed. This coming Saturday members of our congregation and our Decatur community will gather at Wyneken School to prepare 40,000 meals. Will it eradicate hunger? Of course not! But we can, at least in a small way, make a significant impact in our community. Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you”. (Matthew 26:11) These words should remind us that trouble and challenges will always befall us, for we live in a broken world that does not always play fair, which is a not always kind, where good people do suffer and bad behavior will sometimes be rewarded. Circumstances differ for each individual, but all share the same experience. As you cry out to God in your need, He hears. He answers.

2. Take heed. Vv.5, 9 - Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you… You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of Me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” There is a reason Christian for you being the target for such scrutiny and prejudice. It’s not about you – it’s about Him. On account of Me you will stand before governors and kings. Because of Christ and your allegiance and commitment to Him you will be met with resistance. But at the same time you will be given opportunity to be witnesses to them.
Ten years ago this nation reeled in horror at the news of a senseless school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO Cassie Bernall a 17 year old teenager when asked by her killers “Do you believe in God?” answered “yes”. Then they asked her why, though they didn't give her a chance to respond. In the words of Cassie’s mother, “They just blew her away." Cassie Bernall, by her own description of herself, wasn't much different then that of her killers. She was also an outsider, lonely, "a loser without a date for the prom." And. indeed, at a point, she was strongly tempted to the same kind of anger, hatred and bitterness as her killers. Yet, how different her life ended from theirs. Her killers died angry, hysterical, and mad with rage. She died, not unlike Jesus, praying, refusing bitterness, loving, even as she could taste the exact same loneliness as her killers. In Cassie's case the good won out, she died in a fashion remarkably similar to Jesus. She died refusing bitterness in the midst of rejection.[1]
3. Proclaim the Gospel to the nations. Vs.10 - And the gospel must first be preached to all nations (and then the end will come).” The Gospel of the kingdom has been preached around world as a testimony to the nations. Jesus said in Acts, “And you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Within the first generation of Christians that prophecy was fulfilled. Look at a globe. Find a place where the gospel has not been proclaimed. The gospel has literally been preached around the world.

But in this generation, something extraordinary has taken place. Our world took a dramatic change on September 11, 2001 when three commercial airplanes were used as weapons of destruction against American interests. The war on terror was officially declared on that date – September 11, 2001. How significant was that event in world history?

Most of you can recall with vivid memory what you were doing on that Tuesday morning eight years ago. But do you recall what happened four days later on a Saturday morning, September 15, 2001?

On that day, September 15, 2001, a prayer service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. That service was beamed around the world into every corner of this planet. On that day Billy Graham proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ from that church and his message was heard literally around the world. For us, in this generation, Mark 13:10 was literally fulfilled on September 15, 2001. Of all the places our Wyneken eighth graders go to visit in May the National Cathedral is the place where the words of Christ concerning the end took place for us in time and space. They were in kindergarten then. I’m sure they don’t recall much of the events of September 11, 2001.

When this year’s 8th grade class goes to DC they will have hardly any recollection of the events of September 11th - but they will see where September 15, 2001 now takes on far greater significance and importance for us - as we anticipate the last pagan to be converted. When that happens – when the last pagan is converted - then the end will come.

4. Endure to the end. Vs.13 – “All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Notice the Savior’s words. “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In spite of great opposition, in spite of challenges great and small, in spite of a future which we do can not see – God wins! All the Lord asks of us is to remain faithful. Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of everlasting life. This the Savior promises. Stand firm in His promises.

Lord, let at last Thine angels come
To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home
That I may die un-fear-ing
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace
Lord Jesus Christ my prayer attend my prayer attend
And I will praise thee without end

[2] Stanza 3 of Lord, Thee I Love with All my Heart Lutheran Service Book © Concordia Publishing House 2006 St. Louis
Martin Schalling 1532-1608

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