“Hope and Change”
Pentecost 26 (Proper 28), November 13, 2016
Faith for the Hopeless and Helpless
Text: Luke 21:5–28 (29–36)
Do you all remember Mother Teresa? The nun who worked in Calcutta all those years? I found out this week that after she died, people read her diaries and discovered some things that were really surprising. I think the most surprising thing that they found was that towards the end of her life she experienced what she called a “dark night of the soul.” Apparently she thought this was a time where God was absent in her life. That He abandoned her.
Our text today begins on a high note, with Jesus’ disciples marveling at the beauty of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple that King Herod built was a very impressive structure. But as Jesus says the words of our text, He knows that soon, and for much of the rest of their lives—His ambassadors were going to face dangers, catastrophes, and for most of them, a painful death. At that moment in Jerusalem, things were looking pretty good but they were going to get much, much worse. Then how would they feel? Then where would they find comfort? They were all going to go through some rough times, times when they were going to wonder if God had abandoned them. Where Is God to Be Found When Life Is Difficult and We Have Trouble Feeling and Finding His Presence in Our Lives? This is what we will be talking about today.
The first thing I want to remind you all of you today is that God is still to be found working in the world. He is here. Now there are many who say often that when you look at the world, God seems absent. Over the years I have heard this many times, where people ask, “Where is God?” One example is when we see so many natural and man-made disasters. You know what I mean by this: hurricanes like Katrina, tornados like we have in Moore (it seems like every other year). Not to mention the earthquakes we have around here that we are told are man-made. Last Sunday night the earthquake we had got Rufus’ attention, and the kids’. People ask “Where is God?” when the world is full of wars and violence. You know the recent list for this: Nice, Paris, Brussells, San Bernadino, Orlando. People ask, “Where is God?” when all around us we see the moral decay of society. You don’t have to look on TV or the internet very long to see this.
People think that God has turned His back on us. This is not a new phenomenon. This sort of thing has always been around, the perceived absence of God. Consider this quote, “We have fallen on evil times and the world has grown very wicked. Governments are corrupt, and even children are no longer respectful to their parents.” Does that sound like something your co-worker said yesterday? That was written on a clay tablet in Turkey 4000 years ago. This idea was discussed in Jesus’ time, as well. As the apostles were marveling at the grandeur of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus informed them that those big stones they were looking at would be busted up. (vv 5–6). Jesus warned that there would be terrors and signs that would occur on earth and from heaven (vv 10–11). The apostles thought that Jesus was going to go into Jerusalem, throw out the Romans, start a new “movement” and bring all the Jews “Hope and Change.” Instead, Jesus said things were going to get very bad. And they did. Jerusalem was leveled in the year 70 A.D.
But here is the thing: God is present in the world even when all these things make us feel like He is absent. He is still here. He has not run away. He has not abandoned us. Jesus’ whole reason for coming into the world was to reconcile it/bring it back to God. Sin had driven a wedge between God and His world, but Jesus’ death on a cross and His rising again has removed that separation. Now God gives His Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and strength things go bad (vv 13–15). God will rein in the evil; evil’s time will come to an end (v 24b). And on the Last Day, Jesus will return to bring final redemption to the world (vv 27–28).
Now there is something else I want to talk to you about today, that goes along with this subject. Something happened Tuesday. Well, and Wednesday morning. How late did you stay up? (2 a.m. for me). I do not know how you voted. That is none of my business, of course. I don’t know if you voted for a presidential candidate who lost. I don’t know if you voted for the guy who won. And I don’t you if you voted for the guy who won and now you are wondering if it’s a good thing he won.
But I do know this: There are millions of Americans, regardless of their party affiliation, who are scared, worried, and concerned for the future. Whether their candidate won or lost, there is fear and apprehension all across our country, a country that is divided 50/50, and has been divided for 20 to 50 years, really. People are hurting. Our country is hurting. And if anybody thinks politicians can fix that, well, when is the last time that politicians fixed anything?
These things will be fixed by the CHURCH. These things will be fixed by Christians. These things can only be fixed by the Love of Jesus Christ. And it is our job, and our brothers and sisters job across the country, to make that happen.
The Bible is very clear on this. We are told to love our neighbors, to be the light shining on the hill, to not cover our light with a bushel. You recognize these Bible references, right? We need to be the Love. We need to be the Light. This doesn’t happen by putting snarky things on Facebook or calling people names. I understand cynicism and I understand how there are many that mock us for what we think, and for some this is a time to get even. But that is not the way it is supposed to be for Christians.
We are to be Love. We are to be Light. We are to be Compassion. To those who agree with us. And to those who don’t. To those who are our friends. And to those who are our enemies.
Another thing we all need to do: We need to pray. We need to pray for our country. We need to pray for our leaders. Whoever they are. For the last eight years I have prayed for this country and her president every night. I have prayed for this country and her president every Sunday here from this altar. And I will continue to do so on January 20, 2017. You should, too. A pastor by the name of Erik Raymond pointed out that this is modeled by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy. Writing to Timothy he says that we as believers must pray for all people, “for kings and all who are in high positions…” (1 Tim. 2.2).
This seems pretty straight forward and simple until we consider the context. When Paul wrote this, Nero was the Roman Emperor, whose vanity, cruelty and hostility to the Christian faith were well known. The government then was far from sympathetic to Christianity. Nero was way worse than any U.S. president in the past , present, or president-elect. Yet Paul urges submission and honor to the government and prayer for the government, even an evil one like the one he had.
But notice what to pray for. Paul goes on: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim. 2:1–2)
Pray for the leaders. Pray for the good ones and the bad. Pray for the Republicans, and the Democrats. Why? Well, because THE BIBLE SAYS SO. And so that we Christians may lead a peaceful, quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
I wonder if we have forgotten this truth. It has become a custom of our day to take to social media to vent our concerns and attack politicians. How much quieter and nicer would Facebook and Twitter be if Christians were truly praying for, and personally pursuing, peaceable and quiet lives?
Another thing we need to do: We need to get to work and win more souls for Jesus. Let me put it to you this way: We spend so much time on our stuff, whatever that stuff is (following an election cycle, watching people kill zombies, rooting for a football team). But how much time do we spend doing what Jesus put us here to do! You know, “Go ye therefore, make disciples of all nations…” I know a result we are seeking in an election or a team’s victory can make us happy. Imagine our happiness if we are in heaven and someone walks up to us and says, “Thanks. I’m here because you did___.” And this is not hard. Invite someone here for the Thanksgiving dinner and church next week. Invite someone to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It is what we are supposed to be doing. Right?
God is still here. He is in His Word. He is on this altar. And God is still here, in us. God has not abandoned us. God still loves us, takes care of us, forgives us. Jesus is still on His throne, the Crucified and Risen One, and He is on that throne whether there is a Hillary, a Donald or a Christopher (my son) in the White House. We belong to Jesus. And He will be with us until The Day when we see Him face to face. Regardless of hanging chads, exit polls or hidden voters. Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And know it.
In Jesus’ name.
Outline for this sermon provided by Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 26, Part 4.