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26th Weekend After Pentecost (C/RCL): Nov. 12 & 13 "What Remains the Same"

Twenty-Sixth Weekend After Pentecost (C/RCL): [Post-Election] “What Remains the Same”

Luke 21: 5-19

November 12-13, 2016

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ

          You may have noticed, but the Scripture we hear in worship during November tends to be really dark.  These are the weeks leading up to Christ the King, last weekend in the church year (next Sunday, Nov. 20th), and the end-time is the big item on the agenda.  There’s the continual reminder that at some point this world-as-we-know-it will end, all debts will come due, and Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Isn’t that a day-brightener??

          Some people hear today’s Gospel from Luke and say, “Look!  The prophecies are being fulfilled!  War in Syria!  Earthquakes in Italy!  Famine in Africa!  Drought in our own country!  The Zika virus and AIDS and MRSA!  National and global tumult over the US presidential election!”  But when haven’t natural disasters, bloody wars, political uprisings, and plagues of one kind or another been happening in human history?  At the point the evangelist Luke wrote his Gospel and its sequel, the Book of Acts, many of the events Jesus predicted in today’s passage had already happened.  The Temple had been destroyed in 70 AD, and tragically, one stone was not “left upon another” – all was “thrown down.”  (Luke 2:6) 

Jesus’ point was obviously not to drive anyone to despair.  Rather, in today’s Gospel, His point is to warn His followers that things are going to get worse before they get better.  Jesus is big into “truth in advertising”; He wanted His followers then and now to know that being aligned with Him results in suffering, because often the agenda of the Kingdom of God is downright unpopular.  Remember from last week?  Jesus’ favorite constituents are the poor and the powerless; therefore they are to be our first priority, too.  Jesus’ agenda isn’t the typical political shtick; He doesn’t promise increased prosperity to the already-wealthy of this world; God promises that in the end the tables will be turned and it is the poor who will come out ahead.   

Our women’s retreat a few weeks ago included some home-grown theatrics in the form of Bible skits.  Everyone participated.  The theme was women in the Bible called by God to do extraordinary things.  One of those women was Esther, a Jewish queen to a Babylonian king whose hateful advisor Haman connived and succeeded in gaining the king’s approval to exterminate the Jews in the realm.  Esther feels powerless, but her relative Mordecai challenges her to speak out courageously to the king and serve as an advocate for her people.  Esther’s name came up in an e-mail I received this week:

Dear Mary,

The election is over. President-elect Donald J. Trump and the new Congress will take office in January 2017.

As I look to the challenges that lie ahead, I am reminded of Esther in the Old Testament. She had access to the king and at a critical moment, her cousin, Mordecai, urged her to be an advocate. "You may have been given this opportunity for influence," he said, "precisely for such a time as this."

Please join me in praying that God will guide our nation's leaders:

O God, our Creator, we give thanks for the privilege to express our love for neighbor with our vote. We pray for unity and healing in our country and the world. We pray especially for newly elected leaders to political offices in our country. Grant them integrity and wisdom to serve the common good and provide help and opportunity to people in need. Encourage us as we work with them to achieve the progress against hunger that we know is possible. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

I am grateful to you and all of Bread for the World's members for your persistent and faithful advocacy to end hunger in our country and abroad.

In gratitude,

Rev. David Beckman, Exec. Director

I received another letter, as well, from the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.  The header was this quote from Deuteronomy 10: 18-19:

"You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Dear Mary,

I wanted to reach out to you today following the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to assure you that Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) stands by its mission to protect and welcome refugees to our homeland.

The United States has always been a place of safety and refuge for persons seeking protection, and LIRS and its partners have worked for more than 75 years to create communities of welcome. At a time when the world is facing the largest global refugee crisis since World War II, it is our hope that the new Administration will demonstrate a continued commitment to upholding American values by recognizing that the protection and resettlement of refugees is an urgent and critical component of the worldwide efforts to tackle this crisis.

With your support, LIRS will continue to work closely with its partners across the country to affirm our commitment to supporting their work in local communities, and with lawmakers to help prioritize and sustain policies that support refugees and migrants. 

Faithfully yours,

Linda Hartke

President and CEO

          These letters remind us that administrations may change but Christ’s command to care for the last, the lost and the least remains the same.  In the midst of the upheaval all around us this past week, I asked, “Lord, what do I do??”  “Lord, what do we do??”  And I was both comforted and challenged with the simple response:  “Be faithful.”

            That message is reinforced by the last verse of each lesson this weekend:

·         From Malachi (4:2a): “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings”;

·         From 2 Thessalonians (3:13): “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”

·         From Luke (21:19): “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” The paraphrase of that in The Message is: “Staying with it – that’s what is required.  Stay with it, to the end.  You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”

If we were doing a Bible skit of today’s Gospel, we might have Jesus predict the destruction of the Temple and then utter this Latin quote: Sic transit gloria mundi.  So passes worldly splendor.  So goes earthly power.  Don’t pledge your ultimate allegiance to anything that isn’t eternal.  Don’t spend your life on anything that won’t outlast your life.  Don’t place your ultimate trust in anything or anyone but God.  And remember Luther’s explanation to the second and third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (which you can find on p. 1163 of our ELW):

Your kingdom come.  What does this mean?  In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.

Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  What does this mean?  In fact, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come about in and among us.

That takes us back to Esther.  Mordecai cautions her:

“Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise… from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish.” 

Esther 4:13-14

“By your endurance [advocating for the poor and powerless, the widow, orphan and refugee] you will [sometimes feel you are swimming upstream – but you will] gain your souls.”

Amen

Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham