Sermon on Luke 21:25-36 "Signs and Wonders"

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You can listen to this sermon here: Signs and Wonders

My notes are after the jump. 
Video is here: 


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SERMON NOTES (Does not entirely correspond to the spoken word, better to listen here

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The weather over the last week has been awfully wet, and more than a few times I've been sitting calmly, writing or web-browsing or just being quiet and get suddenly distracted by a torrent of rain on the roof or a strong gust of wind at the window and I have to really be wondering what's going on outside. It can give me a real fright at times. Now, to be honest here, I spent 18 years in Florida, and when it rains there during the summer, it comes like sheets, dumping inches in the matter of seconds and moving on. Here, now, it rains it lasts and lasts and lasts and everything gets damp and wet.

But, I've been hearing from people that they've never seen weather like what we've seen in the last few years. That some patterns are starting earlier and getting worse and more fierce, and that others are starting much later and much less, and that overall there doesn't seem to be as much rain or as much snow in the higher elevations. And there are pockets of new low temperatures and there are all-time highs every day all over the world. There's no question that global temperatures are on a slow rise, and it may already be too late to do anything about it to reverse it. Our seas are already beginning to rise as well. We saw on the news massive amounts of flooding that took place on the streets of New York when Hurricane Sandy, what the media dubbed "Frankenstorm" barreled into the shore. It's an indication of how tenuous a grasp our coastal populations have on claiming land.

So sea levels slowly rise and then barriers are built, people are displaced, and whole islands sink into the ocean. The world changes in front of our eyes, and many people are lulled into a sense that there's nothing wrong. That the freak weather patterns are something other than climate change.

Admittedly, there are some moments when the weather itself seems to be turning against the people of earth. Opportunistic television prophets decry God's vengeance on America for making laws and keeping in power people that would erode the fabric of their own moral code. But the weather doesn't pick and choose what color state it runs over. Hurricane Sandy might have created the most damage in blue states but caused damage in red areas and impacted red states. Floods and tornadoes seem to prefer the opposite. And we know who earthquakes love.

And I even get compelled to fall into that trap: Look, humanity, at what our careless stewardship of the Earth has wrought! God himself is calling down the forces of nature in vengeance upon us! Wake up before we are all of us destroyed! Just talking about it and comparing my interpretation with those of these television prophets makes it pretty easy for me to take personally to heart what Jesus says with those being "confused by the roaring of the seas and the waves."

And yet, isn't God more powerful than that? Why would God send such conflicting messages to humanity? God is all-powerful. We who have faith expect to see something like what Jesus Christ spoke about; that we will "see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory."

But even so, God is at work all the time. We are living in an amazing and fantastic time. And it isn't hard to see the wonder of his glory all around us, signs telling us that he is near.

But are the end of days near? Anyone who pays any attention to pop culture cannot have missed the references to December 21, 2012. To over-simply things a bit; we have been told, be those people who know these kinds of things that the current Mayan calendar, that being the same the one the Mayans used when they were a sprawling Mesoamerican culture, between 1700 and 1100 years ago; foretold the end of the current era, known as the "Fourth Age" on the day of the Winter Solstice in this year, 2012; and they say it will end with global catastrophe, earthquakes, fire from the skies and the like. And while there are no particular predictions from the Mayans to this effect, apparently the First, Second and Third ages ended in much the same way, having been destroyed by disappointed Mayan gods, so it would stand to reason that the current age would be the same. It appears, at a rudimentary glance, that there is very limited basis for this prediction, and its proponents have had to resort to some rather precarious and creative means that include astrology and as-yet undiscovered heavenly objects to justify their prediction. But, I'm not really in a position to criticize another's belief, because we ourselves often believe some pretty amazing things; and given the incredible outbreaks of weather, disasters and elections of late, it becomes really easy to believe that such a nice clean date might be worth considering. So if you feel like just being a little more careful on starting the night of December 20th, be my guest. You'll be joining 1 in 8 Americans who believe that the world will end that day. And, after all, Jesus is telling us to be on our guard. But I do strongly suggest, you don't cancel your plans for the December 22 and beyond, though. Just in case the world is still here and your friends and family are expecting to see you on Christmas Day.

But what an wondrous, scary, marvelous, terrible, awesome world we live in.

I cannot help thinking, that, if I were Martin Luther, 500 years ago, while he was still a youth, what I would think of the world today. Would I be struck by the massive amounts of people that encompass the planet? Would I be appalled at the style of dress that people wear and the lack of clothing, would pants that hang down past someone's briefs shock me any more than short skirts or bodies covered with tattoos? Or maybe I would be amazed at airplanes, buses and trains? Conversations that take place on radio waves vast distances, people looking into little devices at faces that are halfway around the world? Medicines and treatments that cure what we think of as the most simple of maladies today.

Would Brother Martin not wonder that the Kingdom was far closer to our times than to his? Would he see the wonders and look at the as signs?

There are little messages that come across that I hear on a regular basis. I read a commentary on today's scripture that said, "God invades the normal with someone that is extraordinary" and that little phrase touched me deeply. I have seen people giving up old modes of behavior, taking the time to support their fellow mankind, not only friends but people they don't even know. I hear about folks accepting their differences admitting to one another that they don't have the energy for war and strife and deciding to find common ground and get along. I read about advances in medicine that were unthinkable 20 or even 10 years ago; forms of cancer that were once a death sentence that are now manageable. When Jesus was talking about the fig tree and all the trees sprouting leaves and summer coming near, does it not make you realize with there are these little objects of beauty that you find spread out all over an often bleak and dismal world, Jesus Christ, is truly always near and at hand.

And I will guarantee you that there will be things that happen over the next few years, over the next decade that we have never experienced before in this world. There will be tragedies of a type that we cannot even try to imagine. There will be patterns of weather once thought impossible, affecting the planet. Each and every one of us will be impacted in some way or another by these events and they will happen suddenly, without warning.

Our savior is near at hand, and, having faith in that, my sisters and brothers, we can be assured that no matter what befalls us, God gives us the strength and endurance, and we can be patient for the moment in history when we can be truly and completely in his hands. Until then, see the signs, the tumult that is the groaning of creation, as well as the wonders all around us and what science has in store. Know that God is near and his kingdom is already here on earth. And that we can more fully live into that kingdom by taking the words from the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians at heart: "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we abound in love for you.'

Love each other, love those around us, live without fear of what God has in store, because it is glorious; and celebrate that he is in this world already, this crazy, incredible, amazing, wondrous world that we live in, here and now.

Amen. 

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on December 2, 2012 7:10 PM.

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