Pentecost 26

Well, it appears the republic still stands.  If this group represents a microcosm of the American people, then half of you are happy and half of you are really, really not.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I did not make my preference known, nor will I ever, as it is my duty to minister to all people, not just those who agree with me politically.  I will, however, say that I am eternally grateful that this election season is over, and that I remain terribly worried about how that season made our fellow citizens feel and react, how it drove so many of us to new lows.  To torture a Bible verse, I would say that “Lincoln wept”.  I will also say that in my effort to stay out of the crossfire, I failed in my main duty.  I failed to take a terrible time in history and use it, as Jesus told us to, as an opportunity for testimony.

“Jesus himself, in Luke’s Gospel, saw terrible times ahead, a day coming when not one stone of our human temple will rest on another.  He warned of the signs.  There will be wars and insurrections. Nations will fight to the death against nations.  Tribes, peoples, and clans will clash.  The earth will protest with mighty quakes, the biosystem will spawn plague and famine.  The sky will blossom with omens. Finally, there will be rejection and even persecution for those who believe in Christ.”[1]

That all sounds pretty terrible, and it was.  This was a prophesy, of course, not a prediction, and the prophecy of course came true.  Many of those who heard those words or heard tell of them saw for themselves the fall of the Temple, were driven from their homes by war, or left in ruin when their crops were destroyed by pests.

But there’s part of me that wants to ask Jesus, if I could be so bold, “What’s new, Lord?”  At what time in human history were things different?  When have we been free of war or of plague?  When were God’s people not persecuted?  When, O Lord, did we not have to suffer through 45 political ads during NCIS?

But I think that’s really the point – not watching NCIS unmolested, but that life was always thus and will be until the end of time.  On some level this is Jesus telling Nicholas Cage not to make those Left Behind rapture movies – or maybe not that specific – but certainly telling all of us not to worry so much about the end of the world.  This is Jesus telling us that there’s really not much we can do about the last day, but that’s there’s plenty we can do about and with the days we have.

That’s because, on some level, each day is our last day.  As St. James wrote, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

So this is a fun sermon so far, right?  One time a man who comes to church about once a year told me that a sermon of mine he heard was not very soothing, and I told him that it wasn’t my job to make him feel better.  It is my job to give you all hope, however, and in the admonition of Philander Chase, to show you all Jesus.

Thankfully that’s pretty easy today; given our times and this Gospel lesson, it’s pretty obvious that our only hope is in Jesus – Jesus is our hope.  And for those who hope, we know that stones can fall and the waters rise, but that in the end, in Christ, not a hair on our head will perish.

Jesus councils us today to not be alarmed, to not lose hope; He tells us that amidst the rancor and the anger and the vitriol, we need not feel and act as if all has been lost.  He tells us in the words of St. Paul, to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” and most of all, clothe ourselves in love.

This is not an easy time, but it is a time in which those who hope in Jesus will give testimony to the world.  What will your testimony be?

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