Frightful and hopeful words of Jesus
Proper 28 November 17, 2019
The Rev. Deacon Lisa Kirby
Today Jesus is talking about the end times and looking at the Gospel we have to understand that in the years after Jesus death and resurrection the people thought that the second coming, the last judgement would come in their lifetime.
In fact, this lesson was probably written around the time that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, 35-40 years after the death of Jesus, in 70AD; to the Jewish people this was a horrible blow. It had stood for 100’s of years and was emblematic of Jewish faith and culture
It’s almost as though Luke is saying “look, Jesus was right.”
But then Jesus goes on about earthquakes, famine, plagues, wars, insurrections. Then he gets personal—you will be brought before kings and governors, because of me; you will be betrayed by your entire family and your friends.
Earlier he has warned them about false prophets coming to them and saying that they are the Christ(Remember, not that many people ever actually saw Jesus and there were lots of folks in his life time claiming to be the Messiah.)
I’m not sure much has changed. We live in a time of upheaval and conflict, accusations and discord. A meme I’ve seen a lot recently was as true back then as it is now. I’ve been seeing a supposed sign in a bookstore or library saying Notice: Post-apocalyptic fiction has now been moved to the current events section.
We have heated arguments about who deserves health care and at what cost, do we welcome the stranger or shut the door, does honoring our veterans include deporting them, do we need to pass laws controlling the environment or should we work hard to get out all our natural resources to help the economy. How do we relate to our traditional allies and our agreements with them? Who are allies and who are not?
Friend against friend, family members against each other. So today may not be as much different from those times as we think in terms of discord and upheaval.
What about the false prophets who claimed to be the Christ. I see some people giving us their version of what Christians are called to do. Along with the prosperity Gospel we have what sounds to me like a Gospel of hate; pitting races and genders against each other. Declaring that some of God’s children don’t deserve equal treatment, don’t deserve a place at the table.
In Animal Farm by George Orwell there was the chant “All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others”. We have a government adviser, who claims that whatever ground she walks on instantly becomes Holy and that if you send her $279 you will be free of all you enemies.
I know you’ve seen the meme: “Two people you should never trust, a minister who tells you how to vote and a politician who tells you how to pray.”
I once lamented many years ago the number of things that people who claimed to Christian were doing and I had lost faith in Christianity. She said, “Lisa, look at Christ, not Christians”.
Is our world view shaped by what so called Christians are doing and saying, or is it shaped by what Christ said?
What does Jesus say will occur when all these horrible things he has talked about happen. “Not a hair on your head will perish” and you will be given the opportunity to testify and I will give you the words. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Jesus was a man of action and I suspect his use of the word “testify” is not so much related to words as to a way of life. We are called to testify by our actions---by what we stand up for, what we put up with and by what we ignore; by our inaction.
It’s not “are ya saved, brother”. It’s my brother are you hungry, my sister are you cold and it’s doing something about it. ‘My sister, come with me’. It’s seeing to it that in New Bern, NC that, if we can’t individually feed, house, clothe, we can know where people can get help. We can support local ministries with our time and, if we can, our purses.
I’ve often said, “if I were the only copy of the New Testament someone saw, what would they think Jesus taught and did” Would they see me loving as Jesus did. What would they think, instead by listening to some of the electronic pastors with their jets and mansions telling us who God has chosen to serve as our government officials? Telling us Jesus wouldn’t want us to invite those brown folks, those gay folks, to sit at the table.
I get angry, I get depressed, I get discouraged and I must turn back to Jesus words. He said “I will give you the words, when you have none, not a hair on your head will perish.” In the end, despite all the fears and disasters, Jesus will bring us home with him.
And I must carry on in that promise no matter what, singing in my head, as I sometimes do, words penned by a hymn writer, Thomas Dorsey,at receiving news that his wife had died, his son a day later. “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home.”
We must never give up doing what is right.
Jesus will be with us to sustain us in all we do to further His kingdom, to follow His words alone, words he will give us and by our endurance we will gain our souls. Thanks be to God