|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 19, 2014||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2014||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17|
|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
|➤Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 17, 2013||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10|
|Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 10, 2013||Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38|
|Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 20, 2013||Proper 24C||Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8|
|Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 13, 2013||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 6, 2013||Proper 22, Year C||Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10|
|Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 29, 2013||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 22, 2013||Proper 20, Year C||Luke 16:1-13|
Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:November 17, 2013
Scripture: Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 28, Year C
“By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”
Jesus says these words in the gospel according to Luke after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, after he has wept over Jerusalem, and after he has cleansed the temple there.
Now he is spending the last days before his crucifixion debating with the temple authorities, and teaching his disciples the things that they will need to remember once he is gone.
And one of the things that they need to know is that the current religious structure as they know it will end, and that they themselves will be persecuted. They will be betrayed, hated, and some will die.
These awful times won’t be the end of the story, but they take up quite a bit of our history, past and present.
The book of Acts is full of stories about the persecution of the early Christians.
And persecutions still go on today in many parts of the world.
During this month of November, according to the on line Vatican press, eighty people were publicly executed in North Korea, and some of these people were executed for possessing Bibles. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/80-executed-publicly-in-north-korea-several-for-possessing-bibles
We don’t have to look far to find that all over the world, Christians are persecuted. And while we are horrified at the suffering of people for their religious beliefs, we thank God that we are not persecuted in such ways here in the United States.
So what do these words of Jesus have to do with us? We haven’t been persecuted or imprisoned or put to death or hated because of His name.
But we do live in a time when current religious structures are coming to an end. Metaphorically, our temples are being thrown down by our current culture.
For instance, our culture no longer provides us with a time that is set aside for worship. The fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” is now a countercultural commandment—because our current culture gives us choices between any number of activities on Sunday including sports practices for our children scheduled on Sunday mornings. Stores are open all day on Sunday so that we can shop. Repairmen schedule appointments on Sunday. The Post Office will now be delivering packages on Sunday. Going to church is just one option among many, many other activities competing for our attention.
We also have many more charitable organizations competing for the money that we designate from our budgets to help others. I must get at least five or six “begging” letters a day, asking me for a contribution to protect birds, or wolves, or polar bears, or to keep the old people in Appalachia warm, to educate American Indians, to feed the hungry, or to provide medicine to people around the world.
We even have an announcement of this sort in today’s bulletin–send money to Episcopal Relief and Development to help the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.
I’m sure you have your own list of groups that want your money and groups that you want to support financially. Our church is just one more group in a number of groups who would like to have our financial contributions, and yet St Peter’s is our community of faith, where we all work together to bring God’s healing love to the world. To support our faith community financially is of the utmost importance.
So, although we are not openly persecuted as Christians, we have some decisions to make about how we will live as Christians in what theologians call “the time of witness,” that time we’re in now, between Jesus living here on earth, and the end time, which Fred Craddock describes as “the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of a new world.”
We are living in a time that is desperate to know the Good News.
We are living in a time in which the world and its people, and all of creation, are hurting, and are in need of healing.
We are living in a time in which people in this country want to know what difference, if any, Christianity can make in our increasingly violent and divisive culture.
We truly are living in a time of witness.
And the good news for us is that we get to choose how we will use this time.
We can choose to witness publicly to the fact that we are disciples of Jesus—in the ways that we spend our time, and our money, and in the ways that we treat one another in our own church communities and in the worldwide Body of Christ. We also witness in the ways in which we treat people of other faiths, or people of no faith at all.
This public witness is not as easy as choosing to blend in with the culture at large.
But the writer of Second Thessalonians reminds us that we are to be serious about our lives as Christians in community, and that all of us are to work together in order to witness to God’s love at work in the world. Each of us is called to contribute, to pull our own weight, to do what we can for our community of faith.
So by our endurance in being witnesses in this time of now and not yet, we will gain our souls, Jesus tells us.
And at the end of time, we will be gathered into God’s eternal presence.
The two hymns we have sung today, both associated with Thanksgiving Day, are full of gratitude for the abundance of God’s present blessings, and the for ultimate blessing for which we hope–eternal life with God.
Richard Donovan tells us that around the end of the 16th century, an anonymous person in Holland wrote the words of We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, our opening hymn this morning, and this hymn was written to thank God for the end of a turbulent time in Holland’s history in which Spain and Holland, and the Protestants and the Catholics were at war with one another and thousands of people died. The hymn writer looked forward to a better future, possible only with God’s help. The people who survived those years of turmoil truly felt that by their endurance they had gained their souls, and this hymn is an illustration of their thankfulness.
And Richard Donovan also points out that Hymn 290, “Come, ye thankful people,come,” describes the hard work of the harvest, the work that must be done against the clock, so that the crops can be safely gathered in before winter arrives, and our thanksgiving for getting that work done. Although many of us are not farmers, we all know the feeling of thanksgiving that washes over us when we’ve accomplished the work we’ve been given to do and we’ve met our deadline for that work.
As we approach the end of the church year, and as we continue to approach the end of time as we know it, these passages encourage us to come up with specific ways that we, as the people of St Peter’s, can witness to God’s love in the world–
And also to think of some specific ways that we as individuals can support this community of faith as we work together to be witnesses of God’s healing presence.
The prophet Malachi reminds us that the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all the evildoers will be stubble; that day when it comes will burn them up.
But we will look for that day when we are gathered into God’s presence with great hope, rather than with fear and trepidation, because on that day the sun of righteousness shall rise, and the heat that pours from it will bring healing to those who have poured out God’s healing love in this world.
Truly, by our endurance as faithful witnesses, possible only with God’s help, we will have gained our souls.
As a result, we can sing the last verse of Come ye thankful people come with great hope as we focus on God’s harvest at the end of time—because we are those people who have been healed, and have carried God’s healing love out into the world. We are the people who will be harvested and gathered into the joy of God’s eternal presence.
Let’s sing that last verse again—Hymn 290, verse 4. You can find it on your bulletin cover.
“Even so, Lord, quickly come, to thy final harvest home, gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin, there, forever purified, in thy presence to abide, come with all thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.” Amen
Craddock, Fred B. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Luke. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 2009.