Sermon for November 14

Let the words my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen

We all like or want to know what the future will bring. What will the stock market do? What will the doctor say? Will I get that promotion? Should I retire now or wait a while? Will it rain tomorrow when I want to go fishing? We have all kinds of questions about our future — some important; some not so much.

The gospel reading today is one that is called apocalyptic. There’s a lot of movies out there that are called apocalyptic. Generally, they are all disaster movies that depict the end of the world. And there are books and video games that deal with the same subject matter. The modern meaning of apocalyptic is a description of bad things that will happen — a prediction — bad things happening to good people.

In our reading today, the disciples come out of the temple and one told Jesus to look at the large stones and the large buildings. And Jesus is responded, yes, look at those buildings. Not one stone of them will be left here on another. The front of your worship folder shows just what happened in 70 A.D. when the Romans leveled Jerusalem to quash a rebellion. The Jews believed God lived in that temple there in Jerusalem, in the holy of holies. Therefore, it was protected and the people could depend on that building for protection. Because of its massiveness and being built with huge 6’ X 6’ X up to 12’ long stones it was deemed indestructible. But look at the picture. What looks permanent isn’t and the things we think will protect us won’t.

Jesus and his disciples went on and crossed the valley to the Mount of Olives. It was there that Peter, James, John, and Andrew who asked him privately, “When will all this destruction take place and what signs are we to look for?”

People have been looking for signs ever since. Prognosticators of doom and gloom are quick to start their ranting and raving every time a major tragedy happens. It was the Trade Center attacks of 9/11/2001. Then it was Hurricane Katrina in 2006; then it was Superstorm Sandy in 2012; and now it’s the COVID-19 pandemic. We see wars in the Middle East and threats of war in the Far East. We see drought, famine, starvation, and sickness; and we ask, at least to ourselves, “Is this the end of the world?” It’s enough to make us wonder just like the disciples did.

But don’t you like the response Jesus had to their questions? “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and will say, ‘Only I can fix it! blah, blah, blah…’” The next time we hear the doomsayers, we can remember that — that they will lead you astray. They want you to do whatever profits them, not what profits God and his Word. They don’t know any more than what you and I do.
Jesus never denied that doom and gloom would happen. In fact, he told the four that they should not be alarmed when they heard of wars or even rumors of war. All this must take place. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Birth pangs. Birth. Expectant parents all learn the same thing. The baby will come when the baby is ready to come. Birth is messy, painful, and scary. But the result is something new and beautiful. And it is in birth, whether believer or not, we realize there is something bigger in life than what we see every day.

We have to ask ourselves, “Where is God in all of this apocalyptic stuff?” We don’t like reading scripture such as the ones we have today. We don’t like thinking about earthquakes and war and destruction. But this is one of those times when the message of hope is a still, small, voice straining to be heard in the midst of a lot of racket and ear-splitting noise. We have to be quiet and listen. The real message here is that, as inevitable as those destructive things are, God is in the midst of them and us, with another message and another work going on. God’s hand, God’s word, is working “in, with, and under,” the harsh realities of the world to bring us the message and the reality of our deliverance.

The message is one of hope and promise in the middle of doom and gloom. We know about God’s love in Christ. We have felt that love both in the world and in the church. But at the same time, we have experienced confusing difficulty and despair both in the world and in the church. These scriptures are calling us to trust in and to rely on God — God as the cornerstone of our life and our life together.

In the midst of trials and tribulations, distress and destruction, God still cares for us. When we have failed to be the people God wants us to be, failed to be people we know we should be, God will still love us and forgive us. When we come to the end or our days, when we close our eyes in death, God will be there when we open them again in rebirth — a rebirth where there will be only peace and joy at the feast prepared by Christ. We go to sleep in death and wake up alive in Christ. This is the promise of God! Trust him! Have faith in him. Be not led astray!