The blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached by Br. Simeon at Springwood on Sunday 13th November 2016:
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST.YR C
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
“The days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down . . .
“I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”
Two priests and a rabbi were discussing what portion of the weekly collection they kept for themselves. The first priest explained that he drew a circle on the ground, stepped a few paces back and pitched the money towards the circle. What landed in the circle he kept and what landed outside the circle god kept.
The second priest claimed that his method was almost the same, except that what landed outside the circle went to the priest and the money that landed inside the circle God kept.
The rabbi said, “I’ve got you both beat. I throw the money into the air and what god wants, God takes.”
In the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
I was very conscious of the fact that when I read this passage in preparing my sermon for today, that I have preached on this passage before and I thought, unlike what some preachers and priests can tend to do is haul out of their list of sermons from down the years and simply just preach from that. The problem with that is, there are many folk who have a very good computerised brain and will no doubt say “he’s preached that before” … so no I won’t be doing that.
Many Jews believed that the end of the world would be signalled by the destruction of the great temple at Jerusalem. That is exactly what happened in the year 70 A.D., when more than a million Jews were killed in a desperate siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. It is against this background of this event that Luke writes his life of Jesus.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and a chronicle of catastrophes. But Jesus does not teach dread here but hope.
Trying to calculate the end of time is a waste of time; the signs of the apocalypse – war, plague, earthquakes – will appear in every age and there always will be self-proclaimed “messiahs” who will manipulate such events for their own power. Jesus assures his followers that those who remain faithful to the vocation of discipleship will have nothing to fear when the end comes.
But in our text for today, the disciples puzzle over Jesus words of warning. The beauty that they see, signified by the splendour of the Jerusalem temple, seems so much more permanent than the trees that change with the season. Yet Jesus warns that it will all pass away. What will this grand destruction mean? Is it the start of a new epoch of history? Is the age of Messiah and Israel’s vindication upon them? If so, then the destruction of so important a national symbol seems to bode ill for the whole enterprise. Puzzled, the disciples are curious as to what Jesus says will all means.
Jesus answer is surprising. The wars, the destructions, the persecutions, all will take place. Lots of the kinds of spectacular events associated with “the end of the world” will happen. But the end is not associated with those things. They are almost like the colours of the seasons. They will happen and will continue to happen (as they have for nearly two thousand years). But these signs are not to be read as the time when history will change from one era to another. THAT change is also happening, but not with the spectacular cosmic events expected.
Of note in the middle of all of this re framing of the story is that Jesus never does answer the question, “When will this be?” He talks around it. He talks of signs, but not of the end. He talks of persecutions, even within families, but says that comes way before the end. He talks of endurance, but never states endurance to what end. We are so apt to get caught up in the images and the themes that we almost do not recognise that Jesus gives us the slip once again. He will not be pinned down on this. But that leaves me asking, “Where is the good news in all of this?” Are we simply to brace ourselves for suffering? Are we waiting only for the promise of the future? What is God doing for us in the face the cycles of tumult that whirl around us?
Jesus calls us not to be obsessed with the “stones” that will one day collapse and become dust but to seek instead the lasting things of the soul, the things of God.
Despite the wars we fight, the earthquakes that shake our cities and yes our lives, the disasters that topple our secure, self-centred worlds, we can always rebuild our lives on the stronger and timeless things of God: compassion, reconciliation, friendship, generosity.
In the most difficult and paralysing moments we face, Jesus promises us that when we act out of selfless love to seek first the good of another, we will find the words and actions that heal and lift up. God remains present to us in the goodness within ourselves and in the caring compassion offered by others.
- Image: JarOfQuotes.com. 2016. 100+ Been Thrown Into Quotes – Jar of Quotes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?tag=been%20thrown%20into&page=2. [Accessed 16 November 2016].