the one where we gather in...
November 19, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from November 18, 2018

Text: Mark 13:1-8

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the 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, whenever we get to these apocalyptic texts, they are usually the moments where I as a pastor, really wish I wasn’t a pastor. Why? Because more often than I care to admit, people want to know what this means, what does this text point to, is this the end of the world as we know? And should we feel fine?

The truth is – I don’t know. In seminary I wasn’t given a great big instruction book filled with all the answers. And, just so you know no one else has been given a book like that either. I’m always pretty skeptical of anyone, anyone, who proclaims that they have all the answers or they themselves are the answer to all the questions and problems facing our world today. Jesus even warns against those individuals in our reading today as well, we should probably keep that in mind.

As I read this text, I know many want to focus on the terribleness that Jesus describes. Many want to know how Jesus’ words are being lived out in our world today. With his talk of nation rising against nation (where the more accurate translation is probably people rising against people). Earthquakes, famines, and more. He goes on to talk to his disciples that they will be rounded up and brought before tribunals and councils, they’ll be treated harshly in places of worship all because of their proclamation and testimony to who Jesus is for the world. Where fathers will turn over sons, families will rise against one another, where there will be such awfulness in the world all because of Jesus and what calls his followers to proclaim and live into.

I think one of the dominant and prevailing thoughts in regard to this ‘potential’ atrocity is that the faithful Christian is called to sit back, relax (as much as you can), and watch it all unfold. To be safe in the knowledge that as a faithful person of God, you are going to be OK. Let the rest lose it and sort themselves out accordingly. Where there are those who would proclaim that as faithful people following the ways of Christ, we are to remove ourselves from this terrible world and just wait.

But, the more I think about it; the more I look at what Jesus proclaims to us throughout all the gospels; the more I read into the words of Paul and the prophets; the more I cannot help but think that Jesus has no intention of us removing ourselves from the world. Putting blinders on while the world screams in chaos around us. Jesus throughout his ministry and the ministry he calls us into today, wasn’t and hasn’t been about not noticing, ignoring, or turning away from ‘terribleness’ around us. Turning away from people in need.

In fact, as I read of these awful things, I look to what is sandwiched right in the middle, Jesus briefly states that these awful things are but, the beginnings of the birth pangs.

And that got me thinking. Birth, for the most part, has wonderful news at the end. New life awaits. New opportunities. Changed life. Changed views. Welcoming one into the world that needs to be cared for in order to survive.

But, even before we get to the outcome, labor still needs to be endured. There really isn’t any way around it.

There is preparation. There is a call to be calm. There is help to be had.

My colleagues and I talked about what would happen if we were out and about and someone yelled out, “I’M GOING INTO LABOR!” What would we do? Jokingly, some mentioned that they’d high-tail it and run. It’s stereotypically the thought that most men probably have. We’re confused, we don’t know what’s going on, it is so absolutely foreign to us, and it can be a bit messy (he said in the understatement of the year).

But, when pressed a bit, what would you really do?

The answer is simple – we’d probably help. Perhaps not getting down there and catching the baby, but providing space, calling for help, being present. Someone is giving labor. We’re going to help that one in need. We’re going to be there.

I like to believe that most people would be there for someone going through labor. I’d like to think that even if what comes may not be pleasant, happy, expected, or it doesn’t end up in the celebration of new life (which unfortunately many pregnancies do), that people will still gather to help. To care, to provide for the need that is around them.

Why? Because it is a vital, intimate, and incredible event. Yet, we are drawn to help and care for the one in need. It is one of the things that no matter who you are, where you come from, how you speak, we all share in common. We all come into the world the same way, and all our mothers endure that labor.

We gather around to care for the one in need.

We as faithful people of God are called to gather around when tragedy strikes. When turmoil and pain are experienced.

We see it as we hear of news of more mass shootings in our country. We see it in the devastation of natural disasters of wind, water, and fire upon our tv screens, phones, and monitors. When tragedy strikes, when there is a need to help, we don’t shirk and slink away. We dive in and help in the ways that we can. And I believe that God is calling us to continue to help, to invest in the lives of others, to be with those in their time of need.

This morning we hear Jesus speak in ways that can terrify us – it sure terrified the disciples as they heard this news and then pulled him aside to explain what he means a little more. What they heard probably didn’t comfort them all that much.

We have been in the midst of birth pangs since Jesus boldly marched to the cross and those around him continued to spread the Word and Truth of who he is – the Son of God, the messiah come down, the flesh incarnate, the love poured freely into all creation. What Jesus speaks to has already begun and has been a part of our very lives and the history of creation for over 2000 years.

Yet, when I hear these words proclaimed by our Lord, I don’t view it as a sign and a call to pull back, to turn away, to let ‘God be God’ as it were. Instead, I feel drawn to care, to proclaim, to continue to live into the love that God has brought into the world and that the Holy Spirit continues to guide me and all of creation through.

I call upon each of you – those gathered with us today, and those listening in on the radio now – to come and join into this radical movement of love, grace, and forgiveness that challenges so many cultural norms. The love that causes people to rise up, that can and at times does drive families and friends a part because it is so radical in its welcome and hospitality to those on the fringe, to those whom the world casts out and puts aside.

When you see someone going through the labor of birth pangs, we don’t run away scared, but we gather in and offer help. The church, the body of Christ, the world, all of creation has been experiencing birth pangs since God tore the heavens apart and became flesh into the world.

Let us all gather in, provide care, encouragement, guidance, love, and grace to a world in desperate need to hear of the good news that waits at the end, the good news of new life. The good news of forgiveness and welcome and love.

Gather in. Live out this love. Amen.

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