The Pas 26th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 33
Proper 28 – Ordinary/Lectionary 33 – Pentecost + 26
13 November 2016
Psalm 98, BAS pg 836
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
God, who is faithful
when all the foundations crumble:
in the time of crisis,
as holy places fall and nations stumble,
give us the conviction to bear witness to your love,
whatever the cost;
through Jesus Christ, your Word and Wisdom. Amen.
Have you ever thought of life as an adventure? As places to see? As an opportunity to make friends; experience experiences? Impressions to be made?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown up on adventures and adventure stories: quests, adventure, treasure hunting, these were the building blocks of my imagination, and my childhood. I swear, I, physically, wore out several copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and I absorbed every story I could get my hands on that talked about dragons and adventure, about quests and hidden treasure. In addition, these stories stayed with me as I roamed the neighbourhoods and the woods all around me. They were my constant companions along the way. And throughout my life, looking at it as an adventure has always added a layer of mystery, of faith, of belief that I am on a quest, even if that quest, at the moment is to find a good cup of coffee, or to do my grocery shopping.
So, today, I’d like to look at the gospel, but at the same time look at our lives of faith as adventures; adventures that we are living, not just today, not just on Sunday’s, but every day of our lives.
I believe, when we do that, when we can look at the passages of the gospel as adventure stories, then they become alive and we are able, in our imaginations, to enter them, and participate in them in a way that we cannot do if we hold them at arms length and see them only as something sacred that is supposed to instruct us.
I assure you, I’ve learned as much about myself, about how to look at the world with an air of wonder and amazement, and about my desire for adventure from my childhood stories as I have from looking at the pages of the gospels with this same view, or interpretation.
Now, we must remember that if we’re looking at the events of the gospels, at the events of our lives as an adventure, as a quest, then we have to keep in mind that there will be times of apparent reversal, that there are unexpected events, that there are times when we may feel like we’re loosing everything, but at the same time, this is when we know we have to stick with our adventure in order to see the rewards at the end. It also means that we don’t ever step into an adventure at the absolute beginning of the adventure, but only when we, when our character in the story enters the tale, and follows that character and their interaction in the overall adventure to their conclusion. Others will pick up the tale and carry it on when their time comes to enter the spotlight.
For example, for the gospel, today, this is almost to the end of Jesus’ time on earth as the messiah, but that isn’t the end of Jesus’ role in the story. This is one scene in the overall that started when “God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1b) Even then we can find Jesus, we can find the Holy Spirit, if we look for these renowned characters, and we can see them as constants throughout the pages of the bible, even to the end of the book of Revelation when John concludes with “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Rev. 22:20b-21)
So, looking at today’s gospel passage, we see Jesus in the temple, in Jerusalem, with the disciples. We can see them standing at the heart of where Jewish faith is carried out, daily.
They’re standing in the centre of Judaism, and they’re amazed at the workmanship of the temple around them, around us. Amazed at the gifts to the temple that give it beauty, gifts by those who wish to show their thanks to God for the benefits given to their families, to their lives. We can see the same things in our churches, from the furnishings, to the hymn boards, to the decorations around.
My father once told me if I wanted to know the history of his family to take a tour of the church where he grew up, and from the flags in the corner of the sanctuary, to the furnishings of the narthex (the entryway), to the books in the pews the generosity of his family is visible and their thanks to God for the lives they’ve lived is found in every corner of the building. I can see that in the furnishings and the corners of Christ Church, and in all of the other churches I’ve had the opportunity and blessing to work within and to serve.
And yet, the gifts and decorations, the worship aids, and the books all add to the worship experience, whether it’s the churches we worship in today, the churches that our families have decorated with physical signs of their faith, or the temple in Jerusalem. At the same time, Jesus points out that such structures will not last as long as our faith will last before the throne of God.
“5Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6’As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’” (Lk 21:5-6)
Now, looking at the gospels from the point of view of an adventure, a quest, then Jesus’ words have deeper meaning than just to point out that buildings don’t last as long as we’d wish them to survive. In fact, with love, care, devotion, and a lot of work, buildings are able to last for centuries. The temple had originally been built under the reign of King Solomon.
It was rebuilt by the efforts of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah under the reign of the Persians. The Jews know the history of their building, and yet, there it is for the enactment of the life of faith of the Jewish people, although the romans will pull it down stone from stone within the next century, never to be rebuilt in this form, again.
But Jesus’ words, Jesus’ images don’t stop there. He points out great and terrible events in the lives of humanity; all of creation will all come to pass. Jesus knows his time is short, with the disciples, with us on earth, and so he wishes us to be prepared for just about anything. He wishes us to know of the worst that can happen before Christ comes again to usher in the kingdom of God.
In our great adventure stories, our characters are always given hints that worse is coming than they can imagine. Frodo, in Tolkien’s’ Lord of the Rings is told that he can pass the ring to another carrier once he reaches Rivendell, yet, when that time comes, he is the only carrier who is able to put ego aside to embrace the task at hand.
In the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore interests Potter in the myth of the Deathly Hallows in order to give him the tools he needs to embrace the idea that Voldemort will be the one to kill him, to end the curse that actually keeps Voldemort alive.
In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan tells the Pevensie children that the prophesies have always looked to two Daughters of Eve and two Sons of Adam to jointly rule and guide Narnia.
And yet the adventure carries on.
It carries on, today, from the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem, to here, amongst us. it carries on from the ordeal of Jesus going to the cross, not for his benefit but for each one of us.
In the terms of a great adventure, Christ is on a quest to save each one of us from the power of sin and death in order to provide each one of us with the assurance of a life of faith, a life not based on the idea of having to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ in order to earn God’s love, but rather that we have God’s love, unconditionally, unreservedly, for no other reason than because we are a part of God’s creation; and God loves all that God has made.
But Jesus tells us: “12 “they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me.18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Lk 21:12-19)
In terms of our participation in this great adventure, begun in today’s gospel, but still lived out in our day to day lives. In this we hear Christ’s words that all will not be a bed of roses. That it will not be an easy and straightforward journey.
We are forewarned that amongst the political and environmental upheaval that grips the world from time to time, there will be times of great faith and there will be times when we will struggle to communicate our faith, our quest, and our adventure to those who don’t understand. And such a lack of understanding will lead to persecution, and to hardship.
Now, we know from our lives that not all goes as we would wish, or as we would plan. Sometimes we have to take things by the seat of our pants, and even the most brave amongst us will declare that they’re not brave, nor a warrior. Yet, when the time comes, these will be the ones stepping into the fray to defend those whom they love; isn’t this what makes life an adventure? A quest? A reason to look to the sunrise for the next great or minor event that shows us that Christ is a part of our lives, and that we are still moving toward what is described in today’s gospel as the end of days?
We also know that parishes in the north aren’t always what the south or others would think of them. For this reason, it takes one with a stalwart and unwavering heart, with imagination, with faith, and with the steadfastness of faith that shines with the love of God at every step.
From the point of view of an adventure, then it often feels like an uphill climb with few rewards, yet the rewards we seek aren’t in this world.
Like the ultimate destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, our efforts may one day lay in ruins, yet the faith that holds us to this quest is the same faith that built the temple, and still carries on, is still communicated to each one of us, not just in Sunday services, but in all the other things that happen all around, some large, some small, some grand, some little gestures that remind us every day of God’s love in and for our lives, not just today, but every day.
Each of us is living our quest, our faith, our adventure in Christ. We may not know, ultimately, where we will wind up, but we do know that we travel with excellent company, all around us; a company that comes together, works side by side, and supports each other every step of the way until the conclusion of the task at hand.
This is all that Christ asks of us, today, and every day. To come together, to support each other in our actions as Christians, in our lives in the faith of God, always telling the adventures of our faith to those who may not know of it, and always putting Christ first in our lives, in our actions, in our adventures, as we wait for God to declare that the time is now and that God’s kingdom will be manifest amongst us, and that Christ himself will rule our hearts and lives, forever.