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2nd Last Sunday in the Church Year PDF Print E-mail

Vicar Christopher Stout

 “Jesus, with so much evil in this world – with so much persecution and hatred for your Church – how can you expect us not to panic and fear?”  As we celebrated Reformation Day 2 weeks ago, a group of 44 Christians, including two priests, were killed in Baghdad as a Cathedral was attacked by an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.  The group falsely claimed the cathedral was holding Muslims and forcing them to convert.  They later said that Christians everywhere were “legitimate targets.”  “Jesus, with so many false prophets – with so many people and events that terrify us – with so much famine and natural disasters – with so much distress, how can you expect us to straighten up and raise our heads when there is so much in ourselves and in this world that bring us to our knees and make us shamefully place our heads down?” 

These may be questions asked by the Church of Christ throughout the world as it suffers.  They maybe questions that we ask ourselves as we heard our Gospel reading this morning. 

Nearly all of these words were warnings and descriptions of what will take place for these disciples.  Jesus describes, in the first 2/3 of our text what the destruction of Jerusalem, with her monumental sized city walls and beautifully structured temple would look like, after an attack by Roman soldiers.  This attack on the city would take place about 40 years after Jesus spoke this prophecy.  Nearly 1,000,000 men, women, and children died in this attack, more than twice the number of American causalities in WW II.  They were terrifying days for the disciples.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences.  And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 

 Jesus gives even more warnings for His followers.  “Here’s what’s in store for you dear disciples” says Jesus.  Before all this they will lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and will be brought before kings and governors for my names.  This will be your opportunity to bear witness.  You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you, they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 

How could Jesus expect them to witness to him – to not be afraid during this – to endure – to not let their hearts be weighed down through all this?  Jesus gives them perspective.  By warning them that this will come, He assures them that everything that takes place is in His hands.

But he doesn’t only do this; he comforts them with the promise of His very own, very personal, very real presence.  Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.  As all this takes place, and you see so many and so much perishing, know that though heaven and earth pass away, my words will not pass away.  He promises them that, no matter what happens to them, they are under His wings of protection.  “Not a hair on your head will perish.  You may be killed, in fact, some of you will be, I promise, but not a hair on your head will perish.  I will always be with you, I will not lose you.” 

So, how does God expect us to endure through all that happens to us?  With the death of loved ones – with the evil and chaos across the world – with our sickness, depression, and anxiety – through persecutions – through job loss and family struggles – how can Jesus expect us to be patient?  What does he do for us?  I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord.  “Everything is under my control and guided by my hand.  You are mine.  This world, with its suffering will last but a moment, my child, compared the heavenly reality that awaits you.” 

His help, His comfort, His promises are now, too.  In Jesus, the sun of righteousness has risen with healing in His wings.  Through the death of your loved ones – through the evil and chaos across the world -through your sickness and depression and anxiety – through all our struggles, He comforts you by His very own, very personal, very real presence among you today.  Through all this, “My Word will not pass away.  As creation decays and passes away, as we decay and pass away, though heaven and earth pass away, My Words will not pass away.  My words are with you, strengthening you, giving you endurance, bringing you comfort the midst of your suffering in this world.  I am truly present in my Words.” 

He delivers his comfort, His healing through His presence for you today and He feeds you with His own body and His own blood that gives to you Jesus’ redemption for You.  In the midst of so much evil, His presence establishes you and guards you against the evil one through Your baptism that buried you with the death of Jesus that defeated the evil one.  Through His very real, very personal presence, He sustains you and gives us endurance in this exhausting world.

The Lord sustains and comforts us now in the Last Days, and He will sustain and comfort us as the very Last Day draws near.   We are waiting for that great and awesome day of the Lord to come.  It will surely be terrifying.  There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming in the world.  We fear so many other things than God.  We fear the hatred of others, fear our sickness, fear we can’t live without loved ones, fear fear, itself.  Our hearts get weighed down with fear and worry.  There is so much in ourselves that bring us to our knees and make us shamefully place our heads down before the God of glory and power.  

 Straighten up and raise your heads, for your hope when the Day comes is not in yourselves.  It is in the Son of Man whose predictions for the disciples rang true for Himself, first.  He was handed over by God the Father through Judas Iscariot, had hands laid on him by soldiers, was persecuted by the violent crowd, was delivered over to synagogues to give a defense to your crimes and my crimes, placed before the governors of Pilate and Herod, and betrayed by His own disciples for your redemption.  Now, when we see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, we face it with confidence that our redemption is drawing near.   

How can we live this broken world?  How can we bear the end of this world?  How can God expect us not to panic and fear?  “Though heaven and earth will pass away, my Word will not pass away.  My Word that sustains you – My Word that forgives you – My Word that prepares you for that final Day.” With that, He gives us confidence in His redemption for us to face this broken world, against our sinful flesh and guilty conscience today, tomorrow, and all days until the very Last Day. 


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