The 26th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28C 11/17/2013)
Lessons:Malachi 4:1-2a Psalm 98 (9) 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 St. Luke 21:5-19
Semicontinuous Series: Isaiah 65:17-25 Isaiah 12:2-6 (6)
Prayer of the Day: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
21.5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “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.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 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.
9 “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.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12 “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. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.
St. Luke 21:5-19. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
An Opportunity to Testify
Why is there such suffering in the world? We have been overwhelmed in recent days by images of pain and suffering from the Philippines. Buildings fallen in on themselves. Cars thrown about like toys. Ocean-going ships sitting in the middle of destroyed neighborhoods. And people. People hungry. People thirsty. People injured. People dying. People dead. Images of unimaginable pain and suffering.
From the earliest of time, humans have asked, “Why?” Why is there such suffering in the world? To date, no conclusive answer has been offered. Many have tried. Some have suggested answers (none of which fully satisfy). Most eventually admit that the presence of suffering in this world is a deep and troubling mystery.
Jesus doesn’t provide any answers for his followers. Those who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them. Those who died when their blood was mixed with their offerings in the temple. Those who suffered and died because of their faith in him. He doesn’t hide from this suffering, as if to pretend it doesn’t exist; but at the same time he doesn’t offer any explanations why.
This is what he does: he assures his followers that in the midst of the worst this world has to offer, they will find “an opportunity to testify.” Hear what he says: not that these horrors are authored or approved by God to orchestrate this opportunity. But in the midst of it all, and in response to it all, and despite the fact that it is as abhorrent to God as it is to humans, people of faith have an opportunity to testify.
As Saint Luke is writing his Gospel there are wars and earthquakes and famines and plagues. Believers are handed over to be persecuted. Christians are betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives and friends. Some are killed brutally. There isn’t an easy way out for these early Christians, but there is a faithful way through. They testify that in the midst of the pain there is strength and comfort and peace and purpose for those whose hopes rest in God.
“This will give you an opportunity to testify.” In the midst of the horrors that have engulfed the people of the Philippines, we too have an opportunity to testify. One of the most effective and efficient disaster relief organizations in the world is our own Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). Working with people who have been on the ground since day one, ELCA Lutherans are already making a difference. Through partnerships, and as a member of ACT Alliance,
LDR is responding to the most urgent needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, sleeping material and medicine. By offering our strong and enduring support to LDR, we can meet the opportunity to testify to brothers and sisters of ours across the oceans that we love them and care about them. That God loves them and cares about them.
To support the work that the Lutheran Disaster Response is already doing in the Philippines, I want to personally encourage you to make a donation. You can log on to www.elca.org and search for Pacific Typhoon Response. You can have your credit card in hand and call (800) 638-3522. 100% of your gift will be used to meet current and long-term needs on the ground in the Philippines and surrounding countries.
This is an opportunity to testify. Will you join us in sharing this gesture of love and compassion?
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What difficulties must Jesus’ listeners have had in mind as he spoke to them?
- What difficulties must Saint Luke’s readers have had in mind as they read his Gospel?
- What was the content of their testimony, in the midst of these difficulties?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When has my faith been a source of comfort and hope for me?
- How has God gifted me to join in the response to the typhoon damage in the Philippines?
- What do I hope the people who receive this support will experience?