The 26th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28C (11/13/16)

Lessons:Malachi 4:1-2a Psalm 98 (9) 2nd 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, “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.” 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.

That Which Is Eternal

Today is election day in the United States. Unless you’ve been hibernating for 18 months, this certainly doesn’t come as news to you. But it is a powerful reality which shapes the way we read this week’s lesson from the 21st chapter of St. Luke.

We have been focused for many months on who will hold office in the coming years, and how their service will shape the future of our country. The claim has been made that if one party or the other gains too much power, it will lead (depending on your personal political preferences) to disaster or renewal for our nation. The truth is: this 240-year-old country is far more powerful than that. No one politician, or one group of politicians, will single-handedly lead to the destruction or the survival of the United States. This grand experiment, including its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power, is designed to survive the best and worst of those elected to lead it. No matter how capable or incapable the present elected leadership corps, the next election cycle brings with it the possibility of new direction and new life. The United States of America will survive, whatever happens today.

This, of course, is what is on the minds of Jesus’ listeners in Sunday’s Gospel lesson. Not the strength and endurance of the United States, of course, but the strength and endurance of the Temple in Jerusalem. What great stones! What beautiful decorations! What a show of power and might! As they stand below the massive building blocks (some of them as much as 30 feet long and 25 feet thick), the disciples are in awe. Perhaps the massive scale of this holy place inspires them to think it will be there forever.

Not so, says Jesus. The days will come when not one stone will be left standing on another. It will all be torn down. And in fact it was, by the Roman army, in a.d. 70. Yet Rome itself, a great and powerful nation with influence that spread far and wide, will also be thrown down one day. The truth is, nothing lasts: not religious architecture, not political dynasties, not even nation states.

Except for the power and presence and promise of God. Temples may come and go. Rulers may come and go. Nations may come and go, but God remains. And it is this God who calls us to be ready — ready to stand as witnesses to the truth and power at the heart of the Gospel message. In fact, the God who has made temples and rulers and nations possible, is the God who will make our witness possible, and will give us the words and the wisdom that we’ll need to share our faith with others.

We can “go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that God’s hand is leading us and God’s love is supporting us.“ And as we do so, we’ll find that this promise is enough. Enough to give us hope. Enough to give us joy. Enough to empower us, so that we might live into our call as witnesses to the resurrection.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What impact does the Temple have on the faith and beliefs of Jesus’ followers?
  2. Why does Jesus speak about the day when the Temple will be destroyed?
  3. What promise is given in these words from Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How will I share my faith, in hope and confidence, with someone this week?
  2. How will the promise of God stretch me, as I commit myself to support my church and its ministry in the coming year?
  3. Who do I pray will see the reality of God’s impact on my life?