When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “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.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 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. “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.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “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. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Sing Joy to the World verse one before Gospel
You may be wondering why I had you sing Joy to the World in November, before thanksgiving even! We sing Joy to the world as an advent and Christmas song, but it was actually written by Isaac Watts based on Psalm 98 -not about the birth of Christ, but to celebrate Christ 2nd coming, so to lift up the joy of God’s love for the world, the whole world now and in the future that we do not know yet. and so before reading the words from Luke, which are apocalyptic in nature and may spark our imaginations to send us into despair, I thought it best to remind ourselves of this promise that God is incarnate—here and now, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
When Pr. Michael and I read the text together for this Sunday, post election, he said, “it’s perfect!” at the same time that I said “it’s horrifying”! Another blessing of partnership ministry.
I said it’s horrifying because I know that whether you are satisfied with the results of the this election or whether you are deeply concerned, you are probably exhausted from this week and from the election cycle this year. I know this because of the heartfelt conversations I have had, the tears I have seen on both sides of the politics, and because all this paying attention to the thoughts, emotions, Facebook feeds, news, and media makes me know that this scripture has the potential and ability to heighten anxiety, stir up worries and paranoid seeking of signs about the end times; all the while reflecting the feeling of and reality of division in our nation and possibly in our friendships, communities, and families.
And this is not where I want you to sit and dwell, at least not today in this moment. One woman who came to church for Bible study on Thursday shared with me that after a political conversation with her friend she said, ‘well now I am going to church-because I just need some time of peace.’ I hear this echoed in other ways and so this is what I want to offer-peace. I would much rather have read the scripture that was posted in our Bible in a Year group on election day from Romans 12—reminding us how to live together— 9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Paul’s letters to the Romans and other communities are full of reminding us that even from places of division, disagreement and uncertainty, we are community through Jesus Christ. That we do not find our common place in our gender or race or political party or sexuality or any of the things in this temporal world but we find our common place in our faith centered on Jesus Christ.
Which is also why the reading from Luke today is perfect. The people whom Luke was writing to had experienced the destruction of the temple — they had seen it go to a pile of rubble. They were living in a time where there was real persecution for faith and they were experiencing real life division in their families, friendships, communities and government. And while we may hear this scripture and think it is about predicting the future in our time, it is actually about looking at a mess of rubble and figuring out which piece to pick up and put back together first.
Apocalyptic passages like this one were about helping believers put things in perspective, to see them in a bigger picture of how God enters and interacts with the world. These passages brought comfort because they said that no matter how difficult life was or would become, God would not leave and God would prevail. This is encouragement to live in the meantime, to witness to faith even when persecuted and to continue to look to Jesus as the one who revealed God present in all things. Luke uses this memory of Jesus’ preaching to remind us to see ourselves in and a part of our community and to renew our vision of the promise that Jesus will stand with us and among us so that we can stand as witnesses to this promise in our world today.
This election did not create division, it revealed it and even heightened it. The fears on all sides are real and the call to witness to Christ is one that we as people of faith embrace together. Jesus stands in any and all of our rubble and points us towards one another, towards love, towards looking at all our neighbors—the ones who are next to us now, the ones who are immigrants or refugees or from a different religion or are people of color, or in LBGTQ community, the ones with overwhelming economic challenges and the ones who govern our economics, the ones who are powerless and the one who are powerful—ALL neighbors, All children of God. Jesus calls us to pick up rubble together and put it back- together- in the name of mercy, love and grace. Jesus doesn’t just stand with us, but sits in and amongst us, just as he taught his followers. In his time sitting with the poor, the leper, the samaritan, the woman, the suffering we sit together for peace, for justice, for embracing those who are persecuted, marginalized, and afraid; wrapping them up in the big promises and big love of God. As we do this together, we come to the table that offers us the bread and wine of life and the promise of forgiveness and salvation. We witness together because even as we are imperfect, we are called, even as we are broken, we are loved even as we will not get it right all the time, we are forgiven and held in God’s grace.
We move forward by knowing that we truly are better together—that we can do small and big things that make a difference in our neighborhoods, communities, friendships, families and nation. In the words of Bishop Gonia,
it is also important to remember that we in the church are people of hope. Hope is ours because of a living Word of unfailing love that breaks into our lives. Hope is ours because of baptismal waters that renew us each day, drawing us from death to life. Hope is ours because of a Meal that fills us with the very life of Jesus, making us his Body for the sake of the world. Hope is ours, and in that hope we proclaim and embody God’s love for all.
Jesus words today are one of hope and promise; assurance that God is yesterday today and tomorrow, beginning and end. So perhaps the first steps in our response to the exhaustion of this year’s political season, the uncertainty of a sluggish economy, the concerns we carry in our families, friendships and communities, and all other things afflicting us in this moment is to sing words of joy, thanksgiving, and praise. So that we remind ourselves and we remind our neighbors and we remind our world that God is still at work – both in us and through us for the health of this world that God loves so very much.This is a cause for singing, for praising our God who brings us together, who grants us forgiveness and love and who walks with us yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Let’s sing verse four of Joy to the world together now.