Now, and Then

malachi

The Pas Proper/Ordinary 33 – Pentecost + 23
Year C
17 November 2019

Malachi 4:1-2
Psalm 98 pg 836
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke21:5-19

God of all holiness,
in your realm of glory,
those who are poor now will receive the kingdom
those who are hungry now will be filled,
and those who weep now will laugh and leap in joy.
Strengthen us by this vision,
so that, with the saints before us,
we may bring near your justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
__________________________________

I was looking at the gospel for today, and in the background of this passage, in my minds eye, I see life in the twenty-first century.

In our passage through the bible, through the gospels, we often come to such passages and, like the disciples, we look at the structures of the world around us like tourists, instead of looking at the cross to which Christ points, and toward which Christ is moving.

So, looking at the world around us, with its garish distractions, and we gawk at the ongoing political situations with their ‘sideshow antics’ of distraction techniques, and we wonder when Christ will come again, instead of listening to what Christ has to say about hard times ahead.

I was looking through my files recently. You know, purging what’s no longer needed and keeping what’s still relevant, (really, something I should do more than once a decade) and I came across a cartoon of two men chatting at a cocktail party, and the caption read: “It’s just Armageddon, it’s not the end of the world.”

And this is the way in which the world seems to work, although what the structures of the world truly want is for us to panic because it’s Armageddon and ignore the fact that the end of the world will only happen when Christ comes again.

How often have we faced the imminent coming of the end of the world, in the tabloids, in the news headlines, in the gossip rags of the day? And yet here we are, still.

Armageddon seems to come and go, yet the world hasn’t come to an end because God’s not ready to return to us, yet.

So, as we look at the world around us, as we read the news headlines and the tabloids that are all looking for the most sensationalist way to present any and all information, we have to return to Jesus words, today, to give context and hope until Christ, until the Son of Man comes again.

Today’s gospel tells us: “5 Some 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.”
7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”” (Lk 21:5-7)

And Jesus reply, I think highlights one of the problems facing the church, today. The problem is that we live in a perpetual state of hope, and anticipation; and its exhausting!

We life in this (eschatological) tension of ‘now, but not yet,’ although we only remember that when we’re faced with such texts as we see, today.

We live with the expectations that Jesus talks about, and through all of what we see taking place today, and to it all, God’s response is “not yet, but soon.”

And this is hard!

This is life as Christians, as followers of Christ, as the children of God. At the same time, this is the hardest thing we will ever do in our lives as we wait for the second coming of Christ, as we wait for God to deem that the time is right for the end of times to be made real.

The disciples ask “7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”” (Lk 21:7-9)

So, really, this is the crux, this is the cross of what it means to be a follower of Christ, to be a Christian, today. And since Christ utters these words on the steps of the Temple more than 2000 years ago, they still hold power and encouragement for us, today.

And as we wait, as we anticipate, such predicted changes that Jesus talks about, today, have happened, often throughout history.

The Temple in Jerusalem – ordained and ornamented to the glory of God since the days of Solomon and rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, now longer stands stone upon stone honouring the faith of the Israelite people in their ancient practice of animal sacrifice. It was destroyed by the romans 40+ years after the crucifixion of Jesus, and now it is the Dome on the Rock, celebrated as one of the holy places of Islam.

At the same time, this same place is still honoured by both Jews and Christians, today, as well as Muslim’s in our lives of faith.

And yet the caption proclaims: “It’s just Armageddon, it’s not the end of the world.”

There have been, and continue to be false teachers in the world, some of whom have claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, from time to time. Yet here we gather to continue to learn from the sages of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament, and the words of Jesus lovingly translated for our use, still today.

And still we remember “it’s just Armageddon, it’s not the end of the world.”

News reports continue to tell us that war continues to wage across the breadth of the world. Conflicts over resources and physical possession of territory, to ideas of genocide based on tribal affiliation, race or creed, that seek to promote one race over another, whether intentionally or no, again, to assure global conquest by one over another rather than letting the peace of God reign in our hearts and lives.

And yet, throughout this litany of woes that will mark the beginning of the end of times, Jesus give us words of hope.

Jesus proclaims that, although it feels like the world is against us, although it seems that the world is going to hades, in a handcart, here we stand. Here we wait.

Here we anticipate the return of the Messiah, the second coming of the Christ, until the day he is once again in our midst.

And at the same time, here we wait, as the world is rebuilt in God’s image, as we anticipate the coming of Christ, as we look for the new heaven and the new earth promised in the Revelation of St. John of Patmos.

And, as far as I can see, this is why Christianity has its ups and downs, lately. Why more people claim to be people of a spiritual discipline than actually attending and following such faiths as Christianity.

This is the reason the disciples ask: “7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”” (Lk 21:7) Jesus’ reply is “19 Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Lk 21:19)

As humans, we’d like a clear-cut timeline to when God’s will, will be done in our lives. We’re fine with delayed gratification as long as we know how long that delay is going to be, for the earth.

We’d like to know we can count on getting the groceries, today, and knowing that the second coming will happen by 4:30pm on Thursday, next, so we can plan accordingly.

And it’s this generations long anticipation that just seems to wear on each one of us, on our lives, and on the way society, in its rush to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ to ‘C’ and so on just doesn’t seem to stop to smell the flowers, any longer.

This way of being a Christian, though isn’t an easy way to live, but it is the way to life. Because “it’s just Armageddon, it’s not the end of the world.”

And here we see the problem society has with Christianity, today. We’re like a coiled spring, always in anticipation of the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, today, but that hasn’t happened, yet.

But this isn’t the end of it, for our world, or for our lives as Christians.

Rather Jesus points out that not only will the world be subject to chaos because of the will of God, but so will our lives.

After all, being a Christian in the world hasn’t always been the safest of positions, and even today, it is able to be fraught with peril.

Remember the persecution of Saul, before the will of God made him Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Remember the persecution of the early Christians who just wouldn’t ‘play ball’ with the way of life for the Romans and their veneration of the Emperor as a god.

And even after that, there was the chaos of the Reformation, as people strove to define how to worship God in ways that built up the person, and the population. And today, in the offshoot of both the Reformation, and the period of Enlightenment we find a general and an overall distrust of Christianity, and an active life of faith in the face of the assertions of science.

But Jesus even anticipated this, standing on the steps of the temple, in Jerusalem, over 2000 years ago.

Jesus tells us: “12 “But before all this, 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.” (LK 21:12-13)

But once more, Jesus doesn’t leave things there. Rather he gives us words of encouragement. He foretells the presence in our lives of the Holy Spirit who gives us words to proclaim in times of stress.

And still today, people try to perceive us as a little ‘off kilter’ because we’re prone to say “Its just Armageddon, its not the end of the world,” because we know that Jesus tells us: “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Lk 21:15)

So, yes, we wait. Not without hope but filled with anticipation that the will of God will be fulfilled when the time is right.

And yes, we look around and we are able to observe the changes to the cosmos in wars and in disasters and in property damage and still we look in anticipation to the second coming of the Christ.

And throughout everything, we have Christ’s reassurance, that for a life lived in an anticipating faith, “18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Lk 21:18-19)

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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