Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 21st chapter of Luke, beginning with the 5th verse.
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.
All mighty God, we thank you for your Word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you’ve done for us in Christ. Now, as we open that Word, we pray that your Spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your Spirit through the reading and proclamation of your Word this day. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Are You Ready?”
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen
Our Gospel Lesson this morning deals with a subject that can frighten many, make many try to predict its coming, and can catch many off guard. The subject is the second coming of Christ. Even Christ says in Mark 13:32-33, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”
Be on guard, be alert! That is the warning cry!
But many don’t care about meeting Christ, as seen in the following story:
“The devil was planning to destroy the world. He called in his chief assistants. Anger stepped in and said that he would set brother against brother. Lust said that he would replace love and turn people into beasts. Greed advocated his passion for turning loose all the covetous cravings of the soul. Gluttony, Envy, and Jealousy each had their audience with the devil as they presented their plans for destroying the world.
The devil was not satisfied. Finally, the last one came in and said, “I shall talk to people about what God wants them to be. I shall encourage them to follow the plans and purposes of God.” The devil was shocked at such talk. But the little devil went on, “However, I shall tell them there is no hurry. Wait until tomorrow. Don’t start until things are more favorable.”
The devil laughed and said, “You are the one who shall go to earth and destroy it. You shall be called Procrastination.”
—Ted Williams’s story… Good day at the plate, walk on water!
We chuckle, laugh, and smile at our procrastination, but the stories have elements of truth.
Jesus saw that kind of attitude in his day. As He and the disciples were in the temple, the disciples couldn’t help themselves from being in awe of the temple’s splendor; the accomplishments of those who built it were thought to be powerful enough to save them.
The temple was, to many Jews, the Messiah, and in Jesus’ eyes, it was a false messiah, so he says in verse 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.”
Then Jesus warns them of other false messiahs, advises them to be prepared, to be ready for the coming of the real Messiah, and assures them he will always be with them.
Those same warnings apply to us, also.
In the next moments, I would like to look closely at each warning as it applies to our lives.
First, false messiahs. One false messiah we have already seen in the story of Ted Williams is a false sense of pride in one’s own accomplishments.
Our technologies, our wonder drugs, our star wars defense systems, and our own egos can be false messiahs. Jesus warns the disciples about them in verse 8 as he says, “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.”
But we do, don’t we? We are a people who are easily led astray by the latest fads, the comforts of our abundance, the power of our business community, and the false sense that somehow through the Lotto or reality shows, we can become rich, and then life will be secure. False messiah, yes!
The following warning takes place in verse 9 when Jesus speaks of God’s time coming as He says, “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.”
Jesus is saying that God’s time is beginning but not in an expected way, maybe through a way of suffering and upheaval. God is in control. God is breaking in, perhaps not the way we expect it.
Or maybe God might be saying, “Look my people I have tried it your way, now it is my turn.”
I read somewhere that being a Christian is like being in a holding pattern in an airplane above a busy airport. You circle and circle. You know, eventually, you will land, but when you don’t know. You wait and wait. Then all at once, the announcement comes to fasten seat belts, and you land.
As Christians, we are in a holding pattern for meeting Christ. When? We don’t know. Are you ready? Only you and God know that. But have you thought about it seriously, or do you take your relationship with Christ in a causal way, a take-it-for-granted way? No seriousness thought of how your faith life is growing and maturing with the help of the Holy Spirit. Are you in a constant state of preparedness?
And the final warning, no, not a warning but assurance! Assurance Christ gives the disciples is found in verses l8-l9 as He says, “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”
Jesus assures the disciples and us that while we are in this holding pattern, He will be with us, giving us the courage, strength, and confidence to remain faithful to Him despite all the hardship or suffering.
Maybe the following story will sum up the kind of relationship we have with Christ in the holding pattern:
A father and his boy of 8 and girl of 10, all good swimmers, went for a swim on a summer day off the New Jersey seashore. When some distance from shore, they became separated, and the father realized that they were being carried out to sea by the tide. He called to the girl, “Mary, your brother and I are going to shore for help. If you get tired, turn on your back. You can float all day on your back. I’ll come back for you.”
Before long, many boats were on the ocean searching for the little girl. Four hours later, they found her far from shore. She was calmly swimming on her back and was not frightened at all. She simply stated, “Daddy said he would come for me and that I could float all day, so I swam and floated because I knew he would come.”
What God says is true, also! He will keep you, as Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In our holding pattern, in our state of preparedness, Christ is there walking with us, easing our burdens, giving us the courage and the Spirit to be His witnesses in this world. Because of His presence with us through the means of grace, the Word and sacraments, through the church, and His body, we can remain faithful and at ease, with the sure confidence if Christ came today, this minute, we would be prepared, we would be ready.
Are You Ready?
Lord Jesus Christ, we wish to be ready for You when You come on the last day to take us to Heaven for the everlasting wedding feast.
Lord, you said that no one knows the day or the hour when that will be. Therefore, be with us always so that You may guide our actions, thoughts, utterances, and wishes, that they may be good and according to Your Holy Will.
Guide us, guard us, protect us, and govern us so that on the last day, we will still be in communion with You, and we will join the choir of the Angels and Saints in Heaven to forever sing of Your praise and glory.
Give us the courage, strength, and grace to build a world of justice and peace, ready for the coming of that kingdom where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)® Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Rev. Tim Zingale.
Helping people understand the end times. What Christ’s return really means!