Posted on Sun, Nov 17, 2013
November 17, 2013
26th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 21:5-19 – “Count the Cost”
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
Signs and Persecutions
7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8 And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them. 9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.
This last week, as I was driving along Kalanianaole Highway, a truck passed me and it had this rather ominous bumper sticker with big letters that read, “Jesus is coming soon! Are you prepared?” Thinking that my schedule was just packed, I really wanted to pull him over and ask him if he had a specific date for me to program into my iPhone so that I can put it into my schedule and re-prioritize my “to do” list.
I am all for Jesus coming as soon as possible, it would really help me simplify my life! If I knew what I could cut out now because it wouldn't make any difference, it could save me a great deal of stress today. For example, if we knew it was within the month, we wouldn't have to make the house payment, and Yuriko and I could go to a nice restaurant, TONIGHT!
Well, I wasn't able to ask the guy if he knew the exact date he had for Jesus’ major entrance, so I hurried off to the hospital to visit a parishioner. I figure it is not important to really know when Jesus is going to return, Jesus knows the best time better than I do, it isn’t anything I really need to know anyway. The work that I have for today is enough for today, and besides, I really felt I was doing exactly what God put me on the earth to do. We had a hurting person who wanted to see her pastor, and if my prayers, touch or presence would help, then I was at peace in that I was living up to my vocation. The day wasn’t easy, when I arrived at my destination, essentially what I was doing was going to pray with someone whom many people love dearly to give her the permission to go and be with Lord.
When I arrived, I had my new ELW Cranberry colored handy-dandy “Occasional Services” book, but I left it in the car. This is the book that has all the important prayers and occasional services like, last rites and mortgage burning services. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of situation I would encounter, but I trusted that Jesus would guide my words… The Holy Spirit has been faithful all through history, so it was time to just trust God, and love this Child of God and her family in their time of need. The visit went well, and as usual, God had some real surprises the family and me the short time I was there.
In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is teaching again in the portico of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, and he seems to put out a “troll” or a remark just demanding a question or comment from a person with an inquisitive mind, ”As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Why did He make this comment? Was he ‘trolling’ for a response, or did he have a special lesson for His disciples then, AND for US today?
Needless to say, they bit on his comment and they desperately wanted to know more about the future than what Jesus was teaching about the poor widow in verses 1-4. You need to understand the content of and intention of his question, and the environment he is speaking to them.
First they are walking around the most magnificent building in the region. Even the writer Josephus spoke about the beautiful ornamentation and valuable stones that adorned this huge building. It was like a combination of a religious Disneyland and Fort Knox. The stones are HUGE and tightly fitted together; it would take an army to destroy this place.
He isn’t referring to his body and resurrection in this passage, that is another text; Jesus is preparing them for their very real and perilous future; And for us, Jesus is prophesying about events that we will be able to look back upon and realize that God truly is faithful and what Jesus promises is true, and therefore, when we are living in fearful times or times when we must speak up against injustice, cruelty or false teaching, we will have the faith and courage to speak and not cower in fear.
Let’s look at the text in looking back in the light of history. From Adolf Hitler to Jim Jones and countless others, including some present day pastors who think they have all the answers to our problems making the Bible into a ‘self-improvement book,’ the ones who claim to have the answer to solve the problems of the ills of the world, are countless and still alive and making false promises all over the globe even, if not especially, today.
When and where in history has there not been a time when there haven’t been wars, insurrections or bloody conflict? There’s nothing new in Jesus’ teaching here.
From Jesus’ time to the present, when has there been a time when nations and kingdoms have not risen up against each other? The pride and arrogance of humankind has not changed since Jesus day. From the Bronze Age to the Atomic Age with each new development of new technology, countries all over the world continue to teach, research and develop more deadly ways of waging war.
Regarding, the threat of being dragged before synagogues and thrown into prisons; we need to look at Saul and how he zealously dragged Christians, or “People of the Way” as they were called then, to the synagogues where many were beaten, imprisoned or killed until Jesus confronted Saul, forgave him and Saul became Paul, the writer of many books of our Bible. This doesn’t mean that the persecution of Christians did not stop. The Christian “Holocaust” occurred in Japan, and many Christians are still ostracized, imprisoned or killed for their faith all over the world. (Bethel)
Jesus is faithful, even to the extent of giving his life for us while we were yet sinners; but the decision for human beings to really follow Jesus in faith, this can be a real threat to communities, cultures, customs and even families all over the world. We really witnessed this first hand last week down at the capital. So many so-called Christians spat out total vitriol at those who did not follow their ‘religion’ in the way that they did. There were passionate stories about how the GBLT community and their right to marry would tear apart our community. There were even threats against some of my colleagues and law makers. These words are powerful and hurt many people, and I am afraid many relationships were torn apart because of their Biblical ignorance, lemming like following, and fear.
Last week I spoke about the prayer of Lamentation that kept creeping into my mind and soul. My heart really went out to the roughly 10% of the children, of those parents who hold so much hate for the GBLT community. One day 10% of these young people as they grow up will discover they are wired as gay or lesbian… they are not in the alleys, they are kids in our community! Can you imagine growing up in a church that condones hate towards homosexuality, and then you discover for yourself that God has wonderfully and beautifully created you as a person with a sexual orientation that is labeled as a threat to the very fabric of your very own society? I wonder what the suicide rate is for these kids growing up non-welcoming communities…
One report I read stated that gay teens are 30% more likely to commit suicide in white ‘evangelical’ churches than straight teens. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/09/the-christian-condemnation-of-gays-and-the-teen-gay-suicide-rate/) (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/21/churches-contribute-to-gay-suicides-most-americans-believe/)
Jesus finishes his cheerful prophesy/promise with: 16 “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
The message of compassion and the Gospel Truth that all people, no matter how lost we think we are or will ever become, is a real threat to a world or culture that thinks in black and white and that they have all the answers. It is at that time, we run to the Truth of Jesus and hold onto the Promise of the Gospel with all our heart, mind and soul. As Luther said in the face of certain death, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."
If the according to the authority of the Gospel and the faith that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit, God has declared each one of us forgiven, loved and strengthened, even when we were dead to sin. Isn’t that truth valid for all people and all of God’s Creation? Amen
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