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The World Goes On - Sermon on Mark 13:1-8

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The chaos of the world around us makes it feel as if we are living in the end times. But are things worse than ever or are we just hearing about them more? Christ is nevertheless still with us. 

 Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The text is included for your convenience, but it is not entirely like the delivered version, which includes nuances that can't be read.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

November 15, 2015  -  25th Sunday after Pentecost

"The World Goes On".  Text is from Mark 13:1-8

Good rainy morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.  

Here we are in Mark at the end of Jesus' ministry and the very beginning of the passion narrative, and the gospel takes a very difficult turn. It is the first time in Mark that we hear about something that sounds like something resembling the end times. The disciples staring in awe at the big rocks that came together to make the temple, country bumpkins at their first trip to the big city.  But Jesus tells them the buildings are only temporary. They will be cast down on the ground. 


And as Jesus describes the destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, of wars and what must take place; and he makes allusions to the wars and his flock being led astray. He talks about kingdoms fighting, and the earth shaking.  But he also is also careful to caution his disciples not to be surprised, because this is what is supposed to take place. He wants to be sure that they can see the danger around them, because there is a place where they can be safe from harm. 

Finally our disciples are getting something of a message. Even though their lives were all singularly transformed the moment they dropped everything and followed Jesus, here is a realization of the coming times, this messiah, who will not be physically there to prevent the faithful from being led astray.  But the "destruction" that is about to take place... it is nothing to be feared. It is the birth of a new era, the new kingdom where he is in his reign. They may see chaos and turmoil around them, but being prepared for it, they will meet it without too much fear and anxiety, knowing it will herald the coming glory on the other end.

But I cannot help wondering about what the disciples must be thinking. Having no idea of what is about to take place, this thought of Jesus not being with them, leading them, must be remote to them. And this terrible destruction that must be about to take place, these great wars, famine and earthquakes, will indeed be frightening, and they must get through them to the other side? 

I remember my early childhood, growing up in the 1970s, and we lived in a time in the world known as the Cold War. The concept of mutually assured destruction between the great world powers, while on the outside, prevented the Third World War that everyone expected was going to take place in the very near future, still maintained a frightening presence in the media and the mind of a very imaginative seven year old.  I had nightmares of looking into the sky and seeing the missiles rise, knowing that the idea in my parents time of "stop drop and cover" during a nuclear attack was simply pointless. Even if we were to survive an attack the world outside would be unlivable. Several motion pictures made for television depicted the life after these kinds of cataclysm, and they usually ended with very little hope for mankind. 

france and lebanon.jpg

But we survived the Cold War. And while we fear even more nations getting nuclear capability, the idea of the nations with the great arsenals of warheads pointing at each other seems like an anachronism today.

But now we live with this different kind of slower mutually assured destruction, a climate change that despite the agreement of major science organizations is, in fact, the product of human activity and getting worse, year by year, the great nations of the world are impotent to do anything to combat it, to take measures to turn the tide, and seem to prefer to simply let us continue down that path. I don't need a child's imagination to become horrified by that very different future world that the destruction comes not from missiles but the very atmosphere we breathe and the rise of oceans to ridiculous levels. 

And as frightened as I am by the long term effects owing to that sort of destruction, I need only look at the news reports to see, only days ago, as terrorists under the auspice of the Islamic State make coordinated attacks against targets in Paris and Beirut, killing hundreds of people. And I feel the same kind of horror that I did on 9/11, and I shake my head and cry why must these things keep happening? What on earth, God, are humans doing wrong that drives evil to take place and turn the world upside-down? 

I think that going on Facebook and painting my profile picture with the flag of France seems a weak response to a truly devastating event, and one that ignores the Beirut bombing that killed over 40 and injured over 200 more on the same day. And it also fails to adequately convey my feelings of sadness and frustration at yet more events that has taken place on the international stage, creating an environment of increased hostility and one which politicians will use to forward agendas of fear-driven outrage to further marginalized individuals who have nothing to do with terror attacks.

But Jesus has given us some hope at the end. Because even through the stress, the toil and strife, Jesus leaves tells them that these are the beginnings of the birth pangs. That something better is coming. And we need to be reminded that this is not the first time we've dealt with horrible terror attacks; and all of those Facebook pictures overlain with French flags are, in fact done by friends from all over the political spectrum, united in the horrors committed by people with evil intent. And even though we'll hear a lot of different ideas about what constitutes how to solve the problem, for once, the more egregious ideas like, "Seal off the borders" and "put them all into internment camps" are getting shot down in miracle speed. 

And while the sole object of the terror attacks is that we may live in fear and anxiety that the next attack could be in our own backyard, each and every one of us still has way less chance of being injured or killed in a terror attack than we do being killed any non-terrorist gun violence in the United States, be it in the commission of a crime, by a stray from a well-intentioned neighbor, or by an overzealous cop. 

And so, the world continues. As long as people are out there who are willing to do anything to promote warped ideologies, we will have terror. And the more that we become connected to one another, via this online network of the internet, the more that we will hear about it. 

But even through the turmoil, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is no such thing as a painless birth, but here will always be birth. That sharing the planet with upwards of seven billion people there will continue be problems adjusting.  But despite the turmoil that we encounter in the world out there, despite the gravity of life on earth, Christ is with us, and looking over us. We know that our hearts react to the news of terror attacks overseas because we have the gift of the spirit within us. Because Jesus is there overlooking us, we respond with compassion and solidarity, and while the natural tendency of human beings would be to express violent outrage at the kind of people that we want to compare to those responsible, it is through the arms of our great Lord and Savior that we are given compassion to our fellow human kind, be they those injured or the families of those killed, or those people of another faith who short-sighted members of our society would point to and say, they are responsible. 

We have compassion because we are gifted with God's eternal grace, and we have love because not only has he commanded that we love one another as ourselves, and to love our enemies as our friends, but that amazing grace that he has given us, sinners that we are, unmerited forgiveness, awakens in us the ability to love those who we encounter that we may fear or find discomforting.

And we can look at these painted profile pictures of solidarity statements of solidarity with the people of France with realization that this love of neighbor extends to Lebanon and other places that have been wracked by war, and it shows up among Christians and non-Christians alike, that the spirit of love an compassion lives even among those who don't believe. We know that even what seems to our modern minds the worst of horrors, that God is nevertheless perfecting the people of the world and preparing us for his kingdom where he reigns forever in glory and might. And that via our blessedly assured salvation, we have a share in that kingdom, dwelling in his house safe from harm, in the comfort of God's loving arms. 

And that is the good news of our God, Father, Son and Spirit who lives, reigns and rules our lives that we may be lifted up by his strength and live in joy today. 


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on November 15, 2015 5:12 PM.

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