Luke 21 5 thru 38
1. HOPE IS !
2. HOPE ____________ ____ !
3. SO WE ACT TO OUR HOPE!
4. WE STAND FIRM IN ________ !
The End of Time?? Fear? Hopefulness!!
5* ¶ And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,
6* “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
7* And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?”
8* And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ’I am he!’ and, ’The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.
9* And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
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 pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.
13* This will be a time for you to bear testimony.
14* Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer;
15* for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
16* You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death;
17 you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
18 But not a hair of your head will perish.
19* By your endurance you will gain your lives. RSV
Grace mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This text from Luke’s gospel can either garner in us fear, or gladness and hope. Fear about the end of time, or gladness that we who believe will be with Christ at the end of time.
An example of fear:
“ A number of years ago in a previous church, leaders in a church decided to track down the congregation’s dropouts. They combed through the membership list, put together a list of names, and sent out volunteers two-by-two to knock on doors and invite the absent members back to church.
As is often the case, the volunteer visitors discovered that most of the people visited had found other things to do on Sunday morning. One person said, “I would come back to church if it didn’t conflict with my tennis time.” Another said, “We came to church when our kids were involved. When they outgrew Sunday School, we stopped going.” Another said, “I enjoy going to church on the really big days, like Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July. Compared to those days, other services are a little bit dull.”
One response was different. Two volunteers named Jack and Esther went to see a man whom nobody knew. He lived on the end of the street, in a big house behind three overgrown pine trees. It took the volunteers a few minutes to find the front door. All the curtains were drawn. It looked like nobody was home. Suddenly the door swung open, and a thin man with a shock of white hair said, “My name’s Tarnower.
What do you want?” They said, “We’re from the church. We stopped by to see you.” He invited them in. They explained why they had come.
In a few minutes, he was shaking a bony finger at them. “I’ll tell you why I don’t go to church anymore. It’s because I got in the habit of reading the Sunday Times before I went to the worship service.”
Esther leaned forward. “Tell us,” she said warmly, “how did the newspaper keep you from coming to church? Did you get caught up in the sports section and lose track of time? Or the comics?”
Mr. Tarnower looked at her with wild eyes. “No,” he said, “I read the news. It’s an awful world out there. There are a lot of diseases I don’t understand. Wars break out. Families fall apart. Children run through the streets with handguns. People die prematurely. Listen, the world is falling apart, and the church can’t do a thing about it.”
“Well,” Jack said, “you ought to come back. We have a nice minister, a fairly good choir, and a Bible study on Wednesday nights. You might enjoy our program.”
“No,” Mr. Tarnower said, “I don’t think so. I get out for groceries, but that’s all I want to face. I went to church for a while, but the world got worse. When my wife died, I decided to sit in here, watch everything fall apart, and wait my turn. I don’t go to church anymore. The church has nothing to say.”
In this day and age of terrorist attacks, of planes falling out of the sky, of not knowing what the future may be, we might fear, we might just sit back and wait. Wait for our time as folks say. Wait for the end of the world, wait for the end of our lives, wait! wait!
An example of hope:
One of my favorite movies was The Poseidon Adventure (1972). You remember a cruise ship was turned upside down by a big wave. Everything was turned upside down. Reality was turned “upside down”. The way out is up to the bottom/back to the front. The survivors had to go to the bottom of the boat which was now the top to get out. A whole bunch were not willing to follow the lead of the pastor to crawl up that Christmas tree out of the ballroom, to safety. He said: “Everybody is dead who was above us when the ship turned over. Now they’re underneath us. It’s up to us to get out of here.”
The people who waited for help drown, but those who were willing to risk, to have faith eventually were saved. Not all, but most. The pastor was indeed the Christ figure for those people. They eventually trusted in him and were saved.
So for us in this end of time. Jesus says:
“18 But not a hair of your head will perish.
19* By your endurance you will gain your lives. “
By your endurance you will gain your lives. By your faith in me you will be free. The world may be falling apart around you, but having faith in me will save you.
We live in a broken world. We live in a world where there is suffering, pain and sorrow. And when this comes to an end, there will be Christ.
There is no need for us to be afraid! Christian people have nothing to fear about the end of time. Christian people have nothing to fear about death or the end of the world. In our suffering and pain, we have nothing to fear. We will not be immune to the pain of this world. Christians are not set apart from the world, but experience all the harsh realities of this world.
Someone said: Whatever the future may hold, God can be trusted to see you through. In the meantime, demonstrate your faith and faithfulness by doing whatever it is God is calling you to do.”
Live for today, hope for tomorrow and rest on the promise that Christ is coming in His due time.
“I have with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering. “
Henry David Thoreau wrote these words because he was concerned, more than a century ago, that American were so busy making a living that they didn’t know how to enjoy life.
As we live out our days and await eternity—whenever It may come— why not spend every day trying to experience in some way the joy of living, no matter how many days we may have to live? Let’s ask ourselves: How is it with sauntering—with the joy of living —in our time? In our place? Perhaps we need to slow down and keep moving.
Perhaps we can take time to really get In touch with God’s world, with our neighbors, with ourselves. Maybe that’ is worth working at.
Hope for the future, hope for today is worth living for. Making each day count even if it is just sauntering. For we cannot fear the furture because that is in God’s hands, we cannot fear today because that is in God’s hands, too. So live for the moment and wait. Wait for the coming not with fear, but with hope. We wait planning our lives, living our lives, hoping our lives will mean something to those around us.
The closing story sums up for me how we should live life.
The pickle jar as far back as I can remember sat on the floor beside the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. When he got ready for bed, Dad would empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar.
As a small boy I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled. I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate’s treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.
When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck.
Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully.
“Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill, son.
You’re going to do better than me. This old mill town’s not going to hold you back.”
Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly.
“These are for my son’s college fund. He’ll never work at the mill all his life like me.”
We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone. I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla. When the clerk at the ice cream parlour handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins nestled in his palm. “When we get home, we’ll start filling the jar again.” He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other.
“You’ll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters,” he said.
“But you’ll get there. I’ll see to that.”
The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town.
Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom, and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood. My dad was a man of few words, and never lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance, and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could have done.
When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar.
To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than ever to make away out for me. “When you finish college, Son,” he told me, his eyes glistening, “You’ll never have to eat beans again...unless you want to.”
The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper softly, and Susan took her from Dad’s arms. “She probably needs to be changed,” she said, carrying the baby into my parents’ bedroom to diaper her.
When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and leading me into the room.
“Look,” she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser.
To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with coins. I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins.
With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same emotions I felt.
Neither one of us could speak.
A pickle jar was and is a symbol of hope in their world.
Where is your pickle jar??
Today is one of those days. A day when you look at the gospel reading and wish that you weren’t preaching, or that you could roll over in bed and go back to sleep. The gospel for today is about the end times. It’s quite frightening stuff really with those images of nation against nation, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, fearful events, persecution.
There have always been prophets of doom. I well remember in the good old days when football was football, queuing at the Gallowgate end of St Jame’s Park in Newcastle to watch Newcastle United play, and laughing at the man who walked up and down wearing a sandwich board with phrases on it like ’prepare to meet your doom’ and ’the end is nigh.’ Sometimes I was never sure whether he meant that we were going to loose to Sunderland or that the end of the world was fast approaching.
There is nothing new in predictions of great catastrophe. From way before the time of Jesus right up to the present day predictions of the end of the world have come and gone and have often left people with egg on their faces. If I’m honest I have to say that these kind of predictions don’t get me excited at all – whether they are the prophecies of Isaiah about a new heaven and a new earth from our first reading; or the words of Jesus about the passing of the old earth in our gospel reading; or predicted dates of the end that come today.
To me perhaps what is more important to us today is not the end of the world as we know it, but endings in our own lives, times when our world collapses and seems to end, times when our world is shaken to its foundation and almost falls apart.
It may well be that your world has collapsed; it is you who is suffering and sees no hope for the future.
You may have lost a loved one – husband, wife, brother, sister, parent, child, friend. The well-loved voice is silent, the house empty, an aching heart and a hollowness within, your world seems to have ended.
You might be involved in the breakdown of a relationship, facing a divorce, going through a messy break up. What seemed like a great future suddenly disappeared as your world seems to fall apart.
Hardly a week goes by without news of job losses; it may be you that has been made redundant or unemployed, as some companies with long traditions and strong Welsh roots move their jobs elsewhere chasing after cheap labour but leaving behind broken lives and people with no job and seemingly little hope for the future. Your world seemingly collapsed.
You may have received bad news of an illness and be struggling to come to terms with it and to cope with what is happening and may happen in the future. The end it seems of your world.
Whenever these kind of things happen our world falls apart. Those people we have relied on; those things we have trusted; those events we have put faith in, have gone. These can be times of great testing – testing of our faith, testing of our belief in God, wondering whether there is a God. Times like this can shake our faith to its core.
In the reading from Luke’s gospel when Jesus was talking about the shaking and collapse that will take place at the end of the world he gave his listeners some hope. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. At the end of the passage Jesus told people to stand firm and not to give in. He said that not a hair on your head will perish. By standing firm you will receive life.
Stand firm, hold on. God has not deserted them. And the same is true for us. In the midst of the turmoil of our lives, when our world seems to have collapsed, God who has been with us is still there. God who has been faithful in the past remains faithful today. God who has lavished his love on us hasn’t deserted us now in the time of need.
The times when we feel our faith tested, the times when we feel we are crawling along the valley floor, crushed by life, are the very times when God is closest to us, even though we often don’t realise it. When our world seems to be collapsing around us God stands firmly in the midst of the rubble.
In Jesus God came into the world. He came to share in all the joys and sorrows of life, he came to know what life is like and to show us what God was like. And because he came, because he lived, because he died and rose again, he stands firmly and squarely with us in this life and reaches out to us, to you and to me when our world seems to be collapsing and falling apart. His love comes close where stands an open door, his peace comes to those caught in a storm; his joy comes where faith encounters fear; his grace comes to those whose grace is spent. Stand firm, don’t lose hope. God is with you. Amen