Passage: Mark 4:26-34
Date: November 29, 2009
Preacher: Rev Laurie M. Vischer
Having trouble playing the audio? download the mp3
1 Thess. 3:11-13; Luke 21:25-36
Rev. David Hutchinson
November 29, 2009
The following years all have something in common:
1951, 1964, 1980, 1998, 2006, 2009
Any guesses as to what these years share?
They are all years in which a movie was made – about the end of the world.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951…
Followed by “Dr. Strangelove”, “The Terminator”, “Children of men”, “Armegeddon” and now the most recent: “20-12”.
The movie “2012” – which was made in 2009 – uses ancient Mayan prophecy about the end of the world - as the basis for a tale of world destruction. The Mayan Calendar ends in 2010 and so some think does the world…
But the thing is, early in November, just a few weeks ago, NASA released a statement saying that the world was NOT going to end. At least not any time soon…
Which is great.
Unless you’ve maxed out your credit cards –
- in response to the Mayan prophecy.
My point is that I find it difficult to know how to respond to all this.
How do you FEEL - - hearing the reading from the Gospel - - about the SIGNS - - of the coming of the Kingdom of God?
Luke says there will be signs – in the sun, moon and stars.
But signs of what?
Luke says signs of the kingdom.
Luke says signs of redemption.
Luke says it will cause people to faint in fear.
Luke wrote about armies surrounding Jerusalem…
Well - - I can imagine SEVERAL - different responses.
One might be - - “yea, we’ve - heard that one - before.”
Y2k - - sort of ruined it in 2000. Anyone even remember Y2K?
This first sort of response, ‘Yea we’ve heard that one before” is typified by a cartoon:
A cartoon was published - after the world did NOT END in 1988 - showing a bookstore owner - replacing a sign in the window that said, “The book that proves Christ will return in Sept. 1988” - and REPLACING it WITH a NEW sign reading, “The book that proves Christ will return RETROACTIVE TO September 1988”.
“Yea - heard that one before”. / It’s like - there’s a warning label on the Batman - halloween costume - which says - “warning - cape does NOT enable user to FLY.” / Like - I’m going to really try to fly off my roof!
So - - enough crying “wolf” - - right ?
That’s what we might say.
And of course - when the Gospel of MARK - - reports this SAME conversation with Jesus – that we just read in Luke - Jesus says, “. . . of the day or the hour no one knows. . . “
And in the first chapter of ACTS, Luke says, “It is not for you to KNOW the times or the seasons”.
And right here in chapter 21, in Luke, when the disciples ask, “WHEN?”
Jesus says - - “just watch”
“Take heed that you are not led astray”
And so there IS the sense - that - “Yea, I’ve heard that one before”
And we DON’T know WHEN - - because - -
it even says THAT in the Bible.
BUT - - I would RESPOND - - that the Bible ALSO says - - -
In Luke - Jesus says - - you CAN be caught off guard.
IF you believe the coming of the Kingdom of God will bring destruction and judgement - - - - BUT you don’t worry - because - - “yea, we’ve heard that before” - - well - - keep watch -
- - OR - - if - you think the coming of the Kingdom of God - -
- - is NOT about destruction - -
- - but will bring peace - - - and hope - - and love - -
- - and an END to crime - and violence - and EVIL - -
- - BUT you don’t think this old world will ever make it - -
- - and you don’t really believe it - -
- - you don’t believe in that time
of the wolf - lying with the lamb - -
- - then - - HEAR these words - - “Keep watch”.
Lift UP your heads.
Redemption is - - drawing near. / /
ANOTHER response is - - we’ll let it COME - - it’s HIGH TIME !
This SECOND response - - instead of DISbelieving - - in the end - - really DOES believe. / And SEES the SIGNS - - - - all around. / Every time there is a report of an earthquake - - or an UNusual storm. / Violence in the Middle-East. / Global warming. / Rampant consumerism. / Godless society. / Rising violence.
This second response looks around the Shopping Mall - - glitzy decorations - - and says - - like the 17th century Puritan minister - Cotton Mather, “Look at this - - at the very time - of the birth of our Savior - we take time - - to do actions - - that have much more of Hell in them - - than of Heaven !” That’s what Cotton mather said.
This second response says - - let the judgement come.
But the Gospel says - - right there in Luke - - as Jesus words are reported: “your REDEMPTION is drawing near” / Redemption.
The Gospel warns in this very chapter - AGAINST “days of vengence”
These signs - - are not to bring destruction to - EVERYTHING.
It’s REDEMPTION - - that’s drawing near.
That means - being made NEW - - redeemed.
The Kingdom of God. / It says in verse 31.
Bringing LIFE - - like the FIG tree - - sprouting. / /
And our job - - simply - - is to watch for it.
Our job is to STAND.
It says it in the last verse of our reading for today.
Just - - - stand there. / But DO - - - - - stand.
Because God IS - - - - coming into the world.
God HAS - - - God IS - - - and God WILL.
And so a THIRD response might be - - ok - ok- - but how does that help me.
And what am I to do?
And what exactly is coming?
A third response might be - - NOT so much to be ANXIOUS about SIGNS in the STARS - - not to be anxious about the distress of NATIONS - - not to be anxious about MOONS falling - - or about COSMIC chaos - -
- - but STILL - - nevertheless - to be anxious. / /
Anxious - - about the chaos in our OWN hearts.
Anxious about the chaos in our - lives.
Our unfinished business - - unresolved - - life issues - -
- - the future of OUR lives - - and our children.
And I’m not going to stand here - and tell you - - - don’t be.
But I will say – as a sometimes - - fairly anxious person –
- that anxiety might not be the BEST response.
Peter Gomes - wrote a book called “The Good Book” - - which tells the story of a SPEECH he gave at a college graduation in which he quoted Jesus’ words, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow - tomorrow will be anxious for itself”.
Afterward - a father came up to him and told him it was BUNK.
And this father was NOT put off his opinion - - when Gomez told him - - “they‘re not MY words – they’re Jesus’ words”.
The father went on anyway, “anxiety got my daughter INTO this school - - anxiety has kept her here - - and anxiety will get her a good job. / You’re selling nonsense.” / /
Jesus does NOT say - - ignore the anxiousness.
Jesus does not say - - ignore the - - warning signs.
But Jesus says - - with God - - we WILL stand.
Lift up your heads. / Redemption is offered.
Jesus says - - that there ARE signs.
And they might make us anxious.
But the Kingdom - brings redemption.
And life: An antidote to the anxiousness. If we will accept it…
The Table - - - symbolizes that.
In the midst of anxiousness - - and chaos - - just before Jesus was to be executed - - he broke bread. / And proclaimed forgiveness.
And the call to that Table - - is both HOPE - and WARNING.
Because we WILL stand - - tall - -
- - in the Kingdom of God. /
Raised by Jesus Christ.
And there ARE some things - - that will NOT stand. / /
Some - - things - - that CAN NOT - GO - to that table.
That table - - represents God’s LOVE - for every - one of US.
Even - - - in a - - chaotic time - - like the Christmas season.
And so I wonder about a fourth kind of response to all this talk about signs.
This response is found the words of 1 Thessalonians - that we read for this morning: a Christian community - is described - in which people grow more and more - - each day - - in love for each other – as they wait “for the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints”, as it says. / Even while that community to which Paul wrote was persecuted - - he urged them - - out of the JOY they feel before God - - to abound in love - for each other - and for everyone.
And maybe OUR response of abounding love - - - is a mirror of GOD’s response to all this. / God offers redemption. Abounding love to us.
The bountiful offering - - of God’s GENEROUS grace.
In contrast - - in CONTRAST - - to the world around us.
The table - - as the opposite - - of worldly chaos.
One thing that I think this fourth response does is refocus us on the present. It is – by the way – the response that I commend to you. Instead of spending a lot of time anxious about 20-12, how about focusing on 2009?
A loving Christian community – now.
In 2009. What would that look like….?
As a response to – both our hope and anxiety about 2012 and beyond.
Which is to say – that we aren’t ignoring the future.
This is NOT - - to advise - - avoiding the tough questions about the future.
It is to ask – what can we do NOW - about it?
The kingdom of God - -
- - redemption drawing near - - God coming into the world - -
- - IS - - HAS - - and WILL - - - even in times like these.