Archive for the ‘Pentecost 25C’ Category

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs!

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

25th Sunday after Pentecost C, November 14, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Signs, signs everywhere are signs; signs that Jesus said would signify the end of the world as we know it!  Jesus told His disciples that very difficult times were coming for the church and they should prepare for them, but as they waited He wanted them to be centered in His Word and not deceived by false teachers.  He also said that they shouldn’t be frightened by national, international, and natural disasters, or give up when persecution became intense.  He wanted them to remember that the times of persecution and tribulation would be God designed opportunities for them to give their testimony that Jesus was coming again, and He was coming soon!  What would or should they say though?  Well, Jesus told them not to worry about that because the Holy Spirit would be speaking through them!  Jesus point was that because they know what will happen they will be ready for it!

While Jesus was referring first to the ministry of the apostles and disciples of that time, He is also speaking to every Christian of every age, because the signs of the end are still with us and Jesus return is still eminent.  This morning friends, Jesus is telling us that we need to beware of deception and fear and trust the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and empower us!

I. So what are the signs that Jesus gave us?  Well let’s go over the list briefly and check off those that have already happened: False Saviors or false teachers will come who claim to have a new teaching from God!  I think we can check that off; these devils have been popping up left and right.  All of the cults would fit into this category as well as anyone who takes your eyes off of Jesus, His cross, His Word, and His grace!  Next would be wars and rumors of wars… check!  How about nations rising against nations?  Check!  Then there’s great earthquakes in various places.  Check!  How about famines and pestilence?  Check!  And what about fearful things or things that cause terror?  I would say that these Muslim extremists fit that bill; check!  And then there is the great signs from heaven!  Did you know that in just a few short years there is a massive meteor that could hit the earth?  Now I don’t know how many things have fallen out of the sky since our Lord’s warning, but I think that it is safe to say that there has been a lot!  So, Check!  Finally, Jesus tells us that there will be a continued effort to persecute His disciples.  By disciples, Jesus means true Christians who relate to Him by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit; people who would never let anyone take away their faith in their risen Savior!  Did you know that there is a book called “Foxes Book of Martyrs” that chronicles the lives of individuals and whole communities that were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ?  Since its publication in #### we could have written at least two more books whose pages would be filled with contemporary martyrs.  Yes, on this last point we can all join in with a resounding “CHECK” that this sign and all others has been fulfilled and are being fulfilled, even at this very moment!

Oh, I forgot there was another sign; a sign that would be the mother of all signs; the sign that would signify that all of the others would soon take place.  For that sign, let’s go to the opening of our gospel reading this morning.  Jesus and His disciples are leaving the temple when someone points out how massive the stones are and how beautifully it is adorned.  And to this Jesus says, “(Do you see all of these things?)  The days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” [Luke 21:5-6]  Wow, that must have been a shocker for them, because the temple was the pride of their people.  In fact King Herod was spending a fortune to restore it to its previous glory when Solomon first built it! 

Could this really happen?  Well let me tell you a true story, which occurred in the year 70 A.D.  In that year, the Roman Emperor Vespasian was becoming weary with all of the defiance, political unrest, and rioting of the Jews and the people from within the region of Palestine; so weary that he sent his son Titus and a large army to crush the resistance.  In the spring of 70 AD, he arrived with the army, surrounded the temple and on August 10th, the Jewish Sabbath day the temple was destroyed.  But were all of the stones really torn apart so that one would not be on top of the other?  Yes!  It seems that between the stones was melted gold, which the soldiers could see between the cracks of each stone.  In order to get at the gold and claim it for the emperor, each stone was dismantled so that its treasure could be removed!  By the time the soldiers were finished the city of Jerusalem was left in disarray and them temple was destroyed; not one stone standing upon the other! 

II. So what does all of this mean for us today?  It means that we need to read the signs and be ready!  I teach my martial arts students this same concept.  I always tell them that your greatest weapons are your ears, your eyes, and your brain.  They learn that they must read their surroundings and know how to avoid trouble.  In essence, when trouble comes, don’t be there.  Any street smart kid from the “hood” can tell you the truth in that teaching.  Our kids in this community learn at an early age how to “read the streets!”

Remember the brave actions of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who was able to quickly evaluate his circumstances and then beautifully land a commercial airline in the Hudson River?  That was a wonderful example of reading the signs and avoiding trouble.  But then we have the opposite of this example; a woman from Utah who is suing the Google corporation because she was hit by a car.  It seems a car struck her while she was crossing a busy street as her eyes were glued to her street GPS navigator on her smart phone.  She blames the Google Map service she was using at the time of her accident because it told her to walk along state Route 224, never warning her of high speed traffic or the absence of sidewalks; Google should have better advised her concerning the dangers in her surroundings.  Of course, she could have just looked up from her cell phone and assessed the dangers herself!

Yes friends, we can’t deny that the ability to read the signs around us is necessary if we want to survive and thrive in this world we live in!  And Jesus would agree!  In fact, that’s precisely what He’s telling us in our gospel this morning.  Did you know that as He was speaking to His disciples He was just days away from dying on the cross?  He knew this truth, and because He knew it His attention and His ministry was shifted from preaching the gospel to preparing His disciples for a world that would be eternally changed because of not just His death, but also His resurrection, ascension into heaven, and His promise to return soon!  Nothing gives you clearer focus friends than staring down the barrel of a gun in the hand of someone who can and will kill you!  But Jesus was staring at a gruesome cross, and He wasn’t thinking about Himself, He was thinking about His disciples who would be taking up their own cross; He was thinking about you!

III. Yes the end of the world is coming and Jesus wants you to be ready.  But ready for what?  Well friends, Jesus Words are preparing us for this time that we live in now.  He has already told us that it will be a time of struggle and a judgment that is coming upon all of the earth.  This time of struggle, a period of hard times is meant to be a warning for the unbelieving world to repent from their sinful life style outside of faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a warning to them that Jesus is coming soon!  Last week we talked about the resurrection of the dead, and we learned that for those of us who are truly disciples of Jesus this will be a time of joyful celebration.  But for those who choose to live in unbelief, it will be a time of eternal sorrow and pain.  But until all of this comes to pass and Jesus returns, He calls us to be ready, watchful and faithful as we read the signs around us!

In verse vs. 34 He warns those of us of faith not to become complacent; not to quit reading the signs around us.  He is warning us that the danger is real and His return is eminent.  He doesn’t want us to become lazy and caught up in this world.  Listen: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you like a trap!”  Friends, Jesus is speaking to us in the plainest of language; or as we would say, “He’s telling us in plain English!”  He’s saying watch how you live.  Don’t get caught up in the attitude of your society with all of its partying and drunkenness.  Can you imagine being drunk or high and Jesus shows up?  It could happen and for some it will happen!  No friends, Jesus warns us to read the signs so we won’t fall into that trap!  He wants us to be ready, but He also wants us to prepare for His return.  But how?

By warning others that the end is coming and there will be a judgment.  Jesus is telling us that He wants us to be engaged in the sinful world around us so that we will have opportunities to testify about God’s forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ.  He wants us to tell them about the urgency to turn to Jesus and His cross before it is too late and He comes not as their Savior but as their judge!  Jesus is sending each of us out into a world broken by sin; a world caught up in all types of trouble, struggle, persecution, and death and He wants us to share with our neighbors our hope and the reason for our lack of fear!  He wants all of His disciples to tell their family, friends, and even their enemies why this world is so broken and full of sin, and how Jesus has made and will make it new again!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, Jesus isn’t painting such a dark picture of the end of days so that you will be consumed by worry, in fact the exact opposite is true.  He told us the truth about His coming so that we will have peace!  It’s the kind of peace that says to your soul, “Even though you have to endure, you will get through this and everything for you will be good!”  He wants us to live life in a constant joyful expectation of His second coming and final Advent.  Just as the believers in the Old Testament always waited for the Savior’s gracious coming, so too we believers in the New Testament then and now await with true joy and patience for Jesus’ glorious coming to judge the living and the dead.  We know that our judgment will be one of grace and peace with God because of our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ!  And it is this hoping, waiting, and living for Jesus glorious return that moves us to live a life worthy of our high calling as His disciples!  Because of our hope in Jesus and His work upon the cross for us we can live our lives in a world that is falling apart around us not in fear, but in glorious expectation of our assured eternal salvation.

So look around dear friends and learn to read the signs.  Signs, signs, everywhere are signs that say Jesus is coming soon!  May you not grow weary in doing good and waiting with patience, endurance, and peace knowing that Jesus is your Savior and friend!  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!