25th Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2015
Mark 13: 1-8 You can click on this link to read the text in Oremus Bible Browser.
We don’t have to look very far for a good sermon illustration of the world falling apart this week, do we? Imagine if you will that the disciples are sitting in the square in front of the Eiffel Tower with Jesus, admiring it and chatting about what an astonishing feat of engineering it is. “Wow! Can you imagine what it took to build that! They had to invent the technology to make it happen! Look, Jesus, at how cool that is.” And Jesus answer is that in a few days it will be splashed across the world as a symbol of the atrocious destructive acts of a few terrorists trying to frighten the white Christian world.
“Don’t get so hooked into the spectacular things that you see in the world, Jesus says. They can be gone in a minute. More important is to pay attention to people. Who is hungry, who is pushed to the margins, who is abused and neglected, who is being tortured for political reasons? Those are the people who can create chaos when they do not receive justice. Those are the people you are sent to serve now.”
The terrorism in Paris is all over my Facebook feed, including most of my friends taking advantage of the opportunity to place the French Tri-Color Flag over their profile pictures. My Palestinian friend Ibrahim was quick to remind us that the terrorist attacks in Paris feel personal to us, but in the last few months, there has been equal chaos in Libya, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. His post embarrassed me because we white Americans are so sheltered from the brutality of war, terrorism, famine, so prevalent in other countries. But even we have shooters of school children, homelessness that seems beyond our capability to fix, hungry children from hungry families, suicidal young people, wounded warriors.
There will be wars and rumors of wars, nations will rise against nation, there will be earthquakes, there will be famines. So what then? Some of our more fundamentalist friends think that this is the beginning of the end of the world. It has always been true.
But Jesus’ message today is that the world will not end in violence. These are the birth pangs, he says. What does that mean? All I remember about childbirth is that it was the hardest work I have ever done. When the doctor said “Push,” it felt as if the whole universe was pushing that baby into the world. Perhaps the pain and suffering that we see around us is the same, the whole universe convulsing for a single purpose. To bring in God’s Kingdom – the days when there will be no more crying or grief. No child will ever die from hunger or barrel bombs, no family will lose a child to disease or suicide. No soldiers, no war. No one will ever die of cancer or heart disease, and no one will sell her soul to alcohol or meth. How we long for the promised peace of that day; especially now when we see such pain around us so often.
And in the meantime, how shall we live? How can our being centered deeply in the love of God offered to us in the life of Jesus, our Savior change anything for us or for the world? If God is our mid-wife, what is being brought to birth among us now? Two things I know for sure:
First: Only love can drive out hate. Only light can end darkness. The light of God’s love is the source for us. It can protect us from revenge as an answer to evil, it can offer forgiveness for our own violence, it can offer a place of peace in the face of craziness. It can drive us to pray for our world and our own hopes for it.
Second: In his resurrection, Jesus has already brought in the kingdom in which God’s love reigns, and we are the bearers of that message. We can offer the care for people that Jesus himself would give, because he’s left that as our ministry. We are the people who need Jesus’ care from each other, and we are the people who see the world with God’s eyes to notice who needs love, hope, comfort, and life’s necessities.
I saw a cartoon last week of Jesus taking a selfie with his smartphone. When the next frame showed you the picture on the phone, it was crowd of people looking sad. Jesus is here for us, in each other. Hold on tight! Jesus is here for the rest of the world in us. Grab those who need it most and let the Spirit lead you to the right words and the right things to do.
We are not alone. We walk as people of promise in a world of despair. We walk as people of hope in a world of confusion. Maybe that’s our halo, our ‘holy priesthood.’ Let the love of God fill you with the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and let that lead you to live the light of love the world needs now more than ever.
Pray with me: Jesus, sometimes it feels as if you are far away, leaving us on our own to face the hatred and evil of twisted people and treacherous times. Give us the light of your love to guide us, to release our fear, and to turn us toward the peace that only you can give. Amen.