17 November 2013
The Church year is ending. Next week we proclaim, “Christ is King” The rule and reign of Christ is the objective of the entire Christian story. Yet today, the Second-to-Last Sunday of the Church year, Jesus predicts that the end of days will come. We are reminded that this reign will come with sure, clear signs.
When will these stones fall? That’s what the apostles wanted to know. The destruction of the Temple. Will that be the end of the world? Jesus wants to make one thing perfectly clear. When these things happen, it is not the end of the world.
Stones have been tumbling for centuries. In recent years, stones have been dropping in the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It happens also in the private lives of people who lose jobs, get divorced, and face medical issues.
When these things happen, be not deceived. The end is not yet. These are only birth pangs. Labor pains. When there are labor pains, we know that new life is near. Rather than looking for escape into the afterlife, Jesus calls for us to give birth. In the midst of a world filled with stones falling, war and earthquakes (Vv.9-11) Jesus points you to cling to Him for life.
Today you have been put on notice. Turmoil in nature and amongst people will plague the earth. As a follower of Jesus, you will be singled out for persecution, betrayal and hatred. All because of His name. Yet, not a hair on your head will perish.
How can this be? How can you escape? How do you dodge the bullet aimed at every Christian? Over thousands of years and countless generations, Jesus speaks directly to us with the freshness of this morning. By your endurance, you will gain your soul.
You can’t help but feel that following Jesus isn’t unlike being a turtle without a shell. There is no call to arms. There’s no warning to stockpile goods. Or food. Or weapons. In preparation for what’s to come. There’s no command to build a bomb shelter. Or an ark. There are only three brief commands. Don’t be terrified…Don’t be led astray…Don’t prepare a defense.
Don’t be terrified. “Fear not! I am with you, O be not dismayed. For I am your God and will still give you aid; I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand. Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”
Don’t be led astray. False Christ’s and counterfeit Messiahs are always about. They exist to seduce and mislead. Don’t follow them. Listen still to the voice of your shepherd Jesus.
When the world around you descends into darkness, you can still shine with light. Don’t expect society to go your way. Bear witness to another Way.
Don’t prepare a defense. The reason you were born, the purpose for which God brought you into this world, is to bear Christ’s forgiving presence into a world that is desperate for it.
Because Jesus loves you, He always tells you the truth. Even when it is hard to find the good news behind the dire predictions. These words of the Savior were spoken just before His Passion. Jesus clearly sees what He must endure for your sake. He looks beyond His looming agony and foretells what we must endure for His sake.
To carry you home, Jesus will soon carry His cross. To follow Him home, you must carry your cross, too. For some, the cross is relatively light; minor inconveniences, petty prejudices, snide remarks, negative peer pressure, constantly navigating a world of vanishing values.
For others, the cross means martyrdom, either by the sword or by prejudice. Many face sanctions - ranging from death to imprisonment, harassment to expulsion.
This Christian life is more than a marathon. It can also be a dangerous obstacle course. Expect to be tripped. Expect to fall. Endurance means more than just chugging alone. We must often pick ourselves up and get back into the race. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Thank you, Jesus. In Your love, we rejoice and endure.