Hope, Over our Head Luke 21: 25-36

After Annual Conference one year a man offered a strange congratulation for my reappointment.  He said, “So you are still here.”  I had a quizzical look on my face, so he said, “Every time the Apostle Paul told the gospel truth they ran him out of town.”  So, at the risk of packing my office, I must speak these things in our gospel text.  As long as we believe heaven hasn’t come down and glory filled our souls, we have to speak of what is to come.  It is the church’s job to tell the truth so we are ready for whatever is coming.

Jesus is speaking words of the world as we know it will come to an end.  He says none will escape: it will come upon all who live on the face of the earth.  Jesus also says: We should pray we’ll have the strength to “escape” these things.  He doesn’t say we will avoid trial and tribulations by some lucky rapture.  The word in the best manuscripts for escape is “prevail”.  We will have strength to make our way through it.

We prefer relishing in good times rather than trying to prevail through the difficult times.  Give us gospel light with two artificial teaspoons of sweetness.  Travail is as much of a part of the gospel world as triumph.  Just as Jesus entered into the world through travail, so does the kingdom of God.  Yes, all will be made well; but the old must pass away before the new comes and that will come with travail as it comes to pass.

It is ridiculous to say a single event like 9/11 determines the fate of world, or something to that nonsensical effect.  Our history is filled with wars and rumors of war and promises to usher in peace and prosperity in every age.  No matter how much our fear makes us build walls of security or how passionate we are about doing good; keep Jesus’ words in mind-we are not going to get it right with our walls or our will.  We are applying Band-Aids on the world’s sins and improving some people’s lives by our actions.  God expects us to insure the safety of all, particularly the least and honors any witness that points to what the world should be.  At the end of the day, an end is coming and the former will be judged as all things are made new.

The future isn’t what we make it; it doesn’t grow out of the present.  The world is not going to mature one day and then God starts the applause in heaven before making a grand entrance because we finally got it right.  The ultimate future is not about what becomes of us, but what comes to us; not about the worlds becoming, but God’s coming.

Jesus speaks of the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory; using an image to make us look up.  God comes from above us, not from us.  Our hope is over our heads.  We are over our heads if we think we can bring to pass any degree of certain hope by getting it right.  We cannot offer firm assurance this side of heaven, any more than we can control the weather.  The weather comes to us and we prepare for it.  Jesus says the “redemption is drawing near”; look up and get ready.

When people talk about their life of faith they often speak how faithful they been to a church or how they always try to do the right thing.  I often hear in their voice an anxiety whether what they have done will be enough.  I must tell you the truth as best as a pastor can: It will never be enough.  None of us is going to get to heaven on our Sunday School pins good moral living.  The question is if we trust Jesus to do what Jesus said he would do.  The Our Savior promise of is he will take our hands and lead us to God.  The issue is not whether we know how to get to God, but whether Jesus knows how to get us to God.  It’s not by our power; but by his.

Christ’s coming is a happening in progress and we ready ourselves by raising our heads.  We are not to cower; the terror that has consumed us in this last decade doesn’t have the last word.  We will never know the power of hope if our heads are down in fear and foreboding.  We cannot see Christ coming into our world if our anxieties are so local we fail to see beyond ourselves.  Lift our eyes; our hope is ahead and above us.  Real life comes to us from above us not within us.  Real hope places trust in one who is in control, not we are trying to take control.  The gospel is good news because the outcome of history in general and our lives in particular don’t depend upon us getting it right in our world of terror and uncertainty.  We hear good news when we know our hope is over our head. 

The first thing they teach in dance lesson is keep your head up; don’t look at your feet.  Your instincts say if you dance with your feet you ought to keep an eye on them.  You have to keep your head up and trust that your feet will follow the one who leads.  So if I want to dance well, I will have to allow Terri to take the lead and direct our steps.  When she keeps a firm hand on my shoulder, and gently pushes me around the dance floor, I can dance.  I must keep my head up and stay connected to my leader.

Jesus is saying in this text: Don’t try to do it yourself.  Trust me.  Keep your head up.  Stay connected.  I will lead you through to the end of times.  Our future is based upon the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who disappeared into the clouds and draws our head up so our imagination of our faith can live as if we can see his coming on earth as it is in heaven.  Stand up and raise your heads, people; live as if our redemption is drawing near.

The United Church of Canada’s Affirmation of Faith, A New Creed

We are not alone, we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.

 

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Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 6:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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