Sunday after Pentecost, year B, 2015 (preached 11/15/15)
first reading: Daniel 12:1-3
second reading: Hebrews 10:11-25
gospel reading: Mark 13:1-8
At the end of each Church year we’re always given some pretty graphic readings in the lectionary.
Today – a time of great anguish says Daniel. Wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines says Jesus.
I’m not sure why, because we are told repeatedly that it’s NOT for us to know. Even in this morning’s gospel reading the disciples want to know when, but Jesus won’t give them the answer they want.
They ask point blank, “When will this be?” But Jesus doesn’t answer, “in 5, 25 or 2,015 years.” Jesus says don’t worry about the date. What you need to worry about is your own self. Do not be alarmed at the wars and earthquakes and all that other stuff – they may affect your bodies but not your souls.
“BEWARE that no one leads you astray.”
Jesus tells us our anxieties shouldn’t be placed with the external events, but with what’s going on INTERNALLY, in ourselves and in the community of faith.
Jesus says do not be alarmed at all the stuff on the outside, but beware of the many who will come in his name and lead many astray. In the Old Testament, those who “lead astray” are called false prophets. How do we tell the false prophets from those who speak the gospel? This, Jesus tells us, needs to be a primary focus for us as all this other stuff is happening.
And it makes sense to me, because chaos, in our personal lives and community and country can lead people to do frightful things. It’s important to know our CENTER.
Jesus broke into human history as a human person out of love for you and me. Jesus died, so that you and I can live. He lived, died and rose again so that we no longer fear death, and have a place reserved for us in heaven forever. Jesus wasn’t just some nice guy or prophetic leader. Jesus is GOD in the flesh, God incarnate – Emmanuel – come to us in love. THIS IS THE GOSPEL. THIS IS OUR CENTER.
We learn this through Scripture. Scripture is the norm and guide for our lives as Christians. Through the Bible we come to know Jesus. Through Jesus we are saved. But even false prophets can quote Scripture. SATAN quoted Scripture to Jesus in the wilderness.
The Bible has been used to defend and denounce – slavery, polygamy, strangers/aliens/immigrants, rape, divorce, to begin and to end wars – you name it, the Bible can be used and abused.
This is why it’s important we know the Bible – to read the thing and not just have it gathering dust on our bookshelves. This is why it’s important not just to read it, but to study it – to find out the context in which its books were written. Because verses taken out of context can be dangerous.
We have a sad history in our country of cults – with their charismatic leaders – and so many have ended tragically.
We’ve been hearing a lot about those who pervert Islam, but there have been and will be plenty who try to pervert Christianity as well.
If anyone tells you that
- they have ALL the answers, or that
- they have a “special” relationship with God,
- that you need to listen to EVERYTHING they say or suffer consequences, or that
- theirs is the ONLY way to follow Jesus, that
- you have to be good enough to deserve God’s love, or that
- there are those out of God’s reach,
- if there are a whole lot of rules to worry about and not a lot of grace to celebrate,
- if the preachers sleep in mansions while they beg for your money – then
Some of these false prophets may even start out with faithful intentions but end up getting full of themselves, and their ministries end up being just that – THEIR ministries – not Christ’s.
Many have come, and many will come, and try to lead us astray.
That’s why I’m so thankful to have a boss, my bishop, who watches over me. And our bishop is accountable too, to us as a synod.
We see things going on in the world. We can look at almost any moment in human history and see wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and times of great anguish.
We see it certainly in our time. The world is in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Wars are raging. We’ve been trying to figure out since BEFORE 9/11 how to combat a movement with no country – whose latest victims in Beirut and Paris we mourn deeply. And on Friday there was an earthquake off the coast of Japan.
While many people see these things and cry, “The End is near!” Jesus tells us to look within – within ourselves and within our community the Church.
He warns us not to so over-analyze events so that we fail to respond to the needs of those who suffer – being SO concerned about “The End” that we fail to live here and now.
Jesus warns us to not be so concerned about “The End” that we fall prey to those who give us easy answers, or the ones that make us feel better or circle the wagons.
All this stuff going on around us may or may not be “The End” – if it is or isn’t, OUR job is to stay close to Jesus, and act as Jesus would act.
Because in “The End” THAT is what really matters.