Proper 28 + B +2015 The Reverend Robert RM Bagwell+
In the gospel for today, we read these words: ""Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs."
In Church theology we read of the "Church Militant" and the "Church Triumphant"--the Church on earth and the Church in heaven." From the fresh attacks in Paris, we see with glaring clarity, a word of Truth, that the world that is passing away and, that Evil will ultimately be destroyed. --
Our culture, as well as all of Western civilization have found ourselves of late, witnessing a war against Jesus Christ that has not been witnessed for many centuries. In the midst of the brutal attacks of ISIS and the secular humanists steering this nation toward its own destruction. Indeed, to many, the cross of Christ has become not a tree of life, but a stench, a tree that is dead and rotting away. But is that not what the church has brought upon itself. The proclamation of saving Grace has become to some, a conformity to set of rules and regulations that are "acceptable."
Then notice the words of the gospel for today: "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth-pangs"
In the midst of all of this we read: in John 16: 32: ""These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." What is Jesus telling us? As in the Magnificat, the gospel "casts down the mighty from their thrones and the rich he has taken empty away."
The gospel is a word of power. The gospel is a word of freedom and liberation. A Sunday school Jesus "meek and mild" is not a gospel that changes the world. The world is about power and control, the ospel is about freedom, inexhaustible love, respect for the individual and the freedom of the individual. It is a proclamation of the song sung by Martin King and others in the racial striving: "we shall overcome!" A seminary homiletics professor related the story of driving along some rural roads and seeing these crosses every so often that said, " Jesus is coming soon." Rather than dismiss them, he reflected upon the kind of life that we would live if we really acted as is the end would be soon. Would we be more loving, more intentional about what we do. would we focus on the things we really thought were important.
The collect for today is one of my favorites in the whole of our Prayer book tradition. For a moment, I would like to examine this collect and then to apply its principles to the texts that we have today, texts that are about the day of judgment and the end of the world as we know it.
Notice that God has Acaused@ all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Do we believe that God is active and alive in our world today?Many people, even Christians in our day live as though this was not true. The theology of the Prayer Book says that AGod caused all Holy Scriptures to be written.@They were not written by accidentOnly God is the uncaused cause of Plato. They were not written as the Aopinions of the authors. They were written, in active engagement with God for a purpose. ACaused@ the prayer says. We know from physics that Acause@ produces Aeffect.@ What was the effect that God sought from giving us this Scripture, Aour learning.@
We believe that Christianity is a revealed religion. We could not come to know naturally what God would have us to know, so he had to and still has to show us. That ultimate showing is in the person of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh. AGod with us.@Perhaps you know that there are activities you should not engage in without a certain amount of learning.Driving a car, driving navigating a boat, skydiving, investing money, practicing medicine or law and many other things. For so many generations, knowledge of this Word of God was limited by having no access to the Bible. No Bibles; no ability to read, reading it was illegal among other things. We have a great privilege and we take it so much for granted.
How do you do these things?The BCP says: Aread@ (you can=t absorb the Bible through osmosis) Read it. It still outsells all other books each year by a landslide. AMark@ - This does not mean with a Ahigh-lighter.@ When this prayer was written, ships were a very important means of travel and commerce. You would AMark@ your direction with a compass and it would guide you in the correct way.
ALearn@ - How do we learn? By doing, by following, by practicing to become competent in the guiding principles of life. to Ainwardly digest@ - that is, to let it nourish you and make you grow, become a part of the central guiding principles of your life.In the reading from Hebrews we read: ""This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds, "he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."How does this apply to the readings for today? Because they speak of a time of terror and despair when all that we depend upon, all that is familiar is destroyed. The time when God will bring justice to the earth. The unfortunate reality is that much pain for the earth will be a part of that process.
Just suppose for a moment that we were Iraq, Syria, Jordan' and Saudi Arabia. and even Paris, where people are being killed just because they claim to be Christians? In the world of ISIS, where Christians are being sold into slavery! Or in any other place in the world where the status quo has been dramatically shaken like now in Israel and Paris? We are after all afraid of change, even if change is the Way of Eternal Life.. Even if things are not great, we prefer the devil we know to the devil that we don=t know and we assume that God shares our opinion of the status quo. The idea that God might be planning something new and unprecedented for the entire world in simply beyond our imagination. The teaching of scripture is that everything is transitory except love. The only thing that has survival value is love. Love is action, not sloppy sentimentality. If we truly love, we must give it away. All too often we leave these texts about judgment to the fundamentalists. But for those of us who seek to trust the Lord and to follow him, there need not be a fearful dread of what will happen in that day.What is the good news in all of this? We are now and will forever be in the hands of God. As the old hymn said we are :"leaning on the everlasting arms". As we have seen in the brave Christians who have gone to their deaths in the middle East of late, this is the courage that overcomes the world. An elderly preacher said it like this, "I understand the Book of Revelation" to the utter surprise of all his listeners. "It simply means that Jesus is going to win." To me, that's sound theology, for it's saying that no matter what the future may hold, God will be there in Christ holding us in powerful hands. And as the present passes into the future, we are called to be God's hands ‑ reaching out in service and love in the name and power of Christ to help transform this broken and hurting world.