PENTECOST XXII, Sunday November 17, 2019
Gracious and loving God
You call us to be stewards of your
Abundance, the caretakers of all you have entrusted to us
Help us always to use your gifts wisely
And teach us to share them generously
Send the Holy Spirit to work through us
Bringing your message to those we serve
May our faithful stewardship bear
Witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our lives
We pray with intent to offer all things back to you in Jesus’ name.
The other day I was talking to a friend about the trailer for the new Star Wars movie that’s coming out soon and he told me something that surprised me. He said that he had stopped watching trailers for movies and TV shows so that he could enjoy them without any expectation. In essence, he is taking an extreme personal stance on what we call spoilers; which is when somebody tells you how something develops or ends thus “spoiling” the experience. I have to say that I’m not one who really cares about spoilers, but I totally understand where my friend is coming from and actually kind of admire that sense of openness to an experience, that trust in the hands of an author or filmmaker to craft something special.
But of course, we’re talking mostly about entertainment here. Most of us would really love a spoiler or two in real life, to see how things are going to go so that we can be prepared for what is to come and avoid some anxiety. I think this is why predictive prophecy, oracles, and fortune telling are grab so much attention, why they can be so lucrative at times. Like I said, so many of us want and need a guide to what’s to come so that we can make the right choices.
It’s not surprising then, that someone like Jesus would be saying things like we heard this morning from Luke’s account. I noticed that he began his teaching somewhat abruptly this morning. Luke reports that some folks were talking about the Temple and about the wonderful adornments given to honor God. I think that this discussion was probably in a reverential mood, with the company around Jesus impressed with the edifice of the temple, its decoration, and certainly what it represented to the people as the dwelling place of God on earth.
And right on cue Jesus basically says, “yeah guys, so all this stuff is gonna be rubble.”
You can imagine a pregnant pause; the folks around Jesus looking at each other in bemusement as their teacher and Lord has said something pretty out there. They asked him worriedly about what’s going to happen; and what sign they should look for so that they will be prepared for disaster. Jesus answered by refusing to give a sign but to remind them that they should be staying close to him. The time will come where things are going to go down and folks with other messianic claims will be about to prey on the anxiety of the people. Don’t listen, he implored. Jesus is the messiah.
The disciples might have taken a sigh of relief. They knew Jesus, and there was no chance they would deny him (except they kind of did) and they definitely understood what it meant for him to be the messiah (except they pretty much didn’t yet). But Jesus didn’t stop there. He let them know that things would continue to be bad; even with the Kingdom of God inaugurated, the world would still act outside of God’s rule as nation would rise against nation and so on. Bad stuff would still happen. Even still Jesus is the messiah.
The disciples might have been a little bothered, but then, they might have reasoned, that’s the nations doing their thing: rising up against each other and all that stuff that nations do. We’ll be fine, they might have thought, because we’re aligned with the true King, the messiah Jesus. But Jesus let’s them know that the affairs of the broken and unjust rule of the world would come for them specifically. It’s not just that the nations that will rise against the nations, but in fact the world will react to the righteousness of Christ’s Kingdom and its servants and it might end up being pretty bad. And yet, Jesus’ claim remains: he is the messiah and to persevere in his name is to truly have life.
It’s interesting that Luke and Matthew report similar teachings in their accounts. Famously, Matthew’s longer account of this teaching has Jesus remind his followers that only the Father knows the date and time of Christ’s second advent. That’s a warning that Christian disciples should not be overly concerned about when Jesus will return but that he will do so to inaugurate the entire and complete righteous reign of God. In any case, Jesus reminds the disciples that the answer to the anxiety of the coming tumult is to live as his child and disciple, loving him as messiah and loving people as God does.
In uncertain times, there is a temptation to look at this text as foreboding and scary. We can see this morning’s text from Malachi, for example, and feel anxiety at the first half and miss the promise of the second half, just as we might read the majority of today’s Luke’s lesson, get freaked out and miss the final verse’s word of safety in perseverance. The promise that God made in Christ is that the injustice of the world would be dealt with and in Christ all things would then be made new in light of God’s glory. What we should see in these texts is a promise that Jesus is for us, is with us even and especially in the trials that come our way. Perhaps my friend with a spoiler-allergy is on to something, then. To trust that a creator has made something worthwhile is at the heart of spoiler-free living. Perhaps a similar trust in the Creator of the world is in order. As we set our eyes on Christ the King Sunday next week and the coming season of Advent, I pray that the unsettled, unsettling world of 2019 would not draw our hearts from the love of Christ but yet drive us into his loving embrace to love him, serve him, and shine the light of hope to all the world. Because, as Malachi teaches us, for those who revere his name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.
To Christ be all Glory; from age to age. Amen.
The Very Rev. David Bumsted
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
1603 E Winter Park Rd.
Orlando, FL 32803