the one about not waiting around...
November 18, 2019, 9:00 AM

Sermon from November 17, 2019

Text: Luke 21: 5-19

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Risen Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this is the time of year that the secular, capitalistic, and commercialized part of the world revs up its mighty engine in its push towards Christmas. We’ve got the Hallmark Channel beginning their (cheesy) holiday movies schedules, radio stations are airing the slightest ding-a-ling of Jingle Bells, store displays are cheery and bright, and everyone is in the full swing of getting those gifts for their loved ones.

However, the secular ramp up to Christmas is very, very different from what we will hear these next few weeks and in the beginning of Advent as we as a church body move towards that joyous time. We will hear stories about the rumors of wars, hardships, and more. In a very real sense, the lectionary lead-up to Christmas is akin to the Starks of Winterfell from Game of Thrones fame. The secular world is cheery and bright in its portrayal of all of this, while the lectionary seems to be saying, “Winter is coming.”

Our Gospel text this morning begins that sounding of the drum. That distant and far off beat that gets louder and louder. For we hear Jesus in our text this morning as he gives heed and warning to those around him. The foretelling of the destruction of the temple, the rending of family relationships and friendships, and more. This doesn’t seem like the bright and cheery message the rest of the world is trying to tell and sell us.

And of course, there will be attempts to try to shoehorn Jesus’ words to fit any and all real-world scenarios that are going on right now. Many have sounded that particular drum beat for generations. Whenever the worldview of anything and the culture expands its love and acceptance, people will claim that Jesus is speaking for them and their particular views – no matter how vastly different those views might actually be from Jesus’ life, call, and ministry.

But, I believe there is something that happens to humanity when we read of things like this – whether it be from Jesus’ lips or any other dire scenario spoken by someone throughout history – when people hear it, they have a tendency to sit back and wait.

Take for example if they are on the opposing side of the teller’s point of view; they won’t pay attention to it and just laugh it off. Seeking instead to listen to those whom they agree with instead. They’ll tell that person that they are speaking fake news or talking about hoaxes. Though, if a person is ON the side of that teller’s views, they may just sit back and wait for it all to happen – it’s going to happen anyways, what can I do to stop it? Why even bother?

And the most frustrating thing about all of this is when Christians get into the mix, for many sit back and say, “Well, God’s going to mix it all up and clear it all out anyways, why stop that from happening?” Some may even pour more gasoline on the apparent fire in HOPES that it’ll bring Jesus’ return that much more swiftly and quickly.

Yet, if you read this text (and listen to Jesus’ words throughout the Gospels), Jesus doesn’t advocate for that at all. He doesn’t. Far from it.

Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for a ‘sit and wait’ approach. Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for a ‘remove yourself from all this and hunker down’ attitude. Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for – if you want to make me arrive sooner –just start contributing to the destruction.

Jesus never advocates for any of that. If you hear someone promoting those sorts of words and actions on behalf of God – those are the very people that Jesus warns us about in our text this morning. Do not go after them.

So, what does Jesus tell us in this doom and gloom portrayal of a future?

He tells his friends and those gathered around him – he tells us – that we will be given an opportunity to testify; an opportunity to witness to the world.

Jesus doesn’t advocate for us to sit back and watch the world burn. Jesus doesn’t send us out to contribute to the fire in hopes that’ll all be over more quickly.

No, Jesus calls us to be witnesses to the world.

To testify what we know and giving us the hope and promise that it won’t just be us at work, but it will be God working through us and giving us ‘the words’ to speak.

So, what might that sort of ‘defense’ look like? I’m under the assumption that it won’t be in a court room or any place similar to that. There won’t be a 12 person jury that will hear our case and make a judgement upon what we speak is true or not. We won’t be going before a jury trying to prove that all our deeds were good – it won’t be some weird episode of The Good Place.

No, I don’t think that is what Jesus means by being a witness. That isn’t what Jesus means by testifying to the truth of what God proclaims.

I’m a firm believer that our testimony – our witness – is how we live into the faith in which we have been called and baptized.

Where we live out those promises that our family and communities of faith faithfully vowed to teach us on the day of our baptism – and which many of us have and will say ‘yes’ to in the affirmation of our baptisms. Those promises like – living among God’s faithful people, hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through our words and deeds, serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth. Those promises.

How have we – how do we – how will we – live out those promises as we live into the radical love, welcome, and hope that our Lord proclaims to all. As we serve, help, listen, and lift up those whom the world has cast aside. As we advocate for those who are underrepresented, uncared for, and overlooked by the machinations of this world we live in.

Because, truth be told – there is a lot that is pretty bad out in the world right now. Terrible stuff that is allowed to go on that God, I imagine, is deeply concerned about. So, what sort of stuff might that be?

How about how children are hungry in this world, in this country, in this state, in this very community, and we look past that need because we don’t ‘know them’. How people are abused, harassed, and even killed just because of who they are. Where the creation that God has gifted to us is ransacked for our own wanton desires. Where we value a cheap discount more than we do with our neighbor earning enough to live. Where we will sit back and watch a person suffer because they ‘should’ be stronger mentally or they adhere to a different ideology than we do. Where we are more interested in ‘stuff’ than we are with those around us. Where we will stick to our ‘pride’ and ‘ways’ instead of doing something to prevent the violence that continues in the places it never should be in.

And you know what? We all fall short in that way. All of us are guilty of living not living into the promises we made.

And yet, Jesus will give us the words. Jesus has provided us the means. Jesus sends us out to feed, care for, clothe, sit with, advocate for, and lift up those who are hurting.

God is still there with us, never leaving us. God has come into the muck and mire of creation to show us and guide us in this life of faith and baptism.

And when you begin to do that – living fully into the promises of your baptism? That tears families and friendships apart. That makes the powers of the world rage and foam. Lifting up others in love and care strikes fear into the world of the powerful and comforted. It sets the world on its edge, it makes uncomfortable normal.

And yet, Jesus will still give us the words. The Holy Spirit will still guide us in that faith and life. God is still ever present with us.

As followers of the One who has come down to be with us – We care. We love. We provide. We speak up. We stand firm.

We are not afraid.

God calls us into this life. God calls us into the shadows of this world to bring light and life. Jesus has given us the hope to share and to receive that brings light and life to a world in need to hear it.

Yes, the ramp up of the holiday season is lived out very differently between the secular and religious of our world today. It isn’t always easy to follow Jesus into that life and faith of sweeping love and care for all in the world. It isn’t particularly easy to live into the promises made in our baptism. Yet, by enduring through that life of faith – we gain something so much more grand.

Jesus will give us the words. The Holy Spirit will guide our actions. God will grant us a wisdom that none can withstand or contradict.

We don’t sit back and wait, Jesus calls and sends us into this world to witness and testify through our life of faith and the promises of our baptism. Now.

The light of hope pushes out of the shadow of despair. Always. Amen.

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