Pentecost 23, November 17, 2019, Year C

Title:Pentecost 23, November 17, 2019, Year C

 Pentecost 23, Year C, Nov. 17, 2019 (full size gallery)

We had 45 in the church on a cloudy nippy day that cleared somewhat by early afternoon.

Carey led Sunday School on Genesis 1 and 2 emphasizing “shame” was the chief issue. She related it to her time in the Congo seeing first hand the problems rape and pillage from neighboring areas which had a toxic effect on families. The people have responded with the growth of the church and counseling to repair these issues

She provided the sermon on Luke 21:5-19. Her mother Barbara was in the congregation to hear it.

We celebrated Alex Long’s birthday and Morgan Key’s second wedding anniversary. Cookie provided a summary of the 225th Annual Convention in Reston

This week is the 5 year anniversary of the Village. From 60 served and 300 pounds of food that November it has doubled in those served and provided four times as much food.

This week is also the ECW Tea on Tuesday where they will review the year, enjoy fellowship and determine their list of donations.

Today’s readings call us to remain steadfast in the faith. In Malachi, the prophet assures us that healing and restoration will come only to those who cling to God’s name. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul proclaims that the Christian life has no room for laziness but calls for enduring faithfulness. Unimpressed by the temple’s beauty, Jesus redirects his disciples’ attention to the end of the age.

Malachi 4:1-2a

The name Malachi (1:1, “my messenger”) may be a title rather than a personal name (2:7; 3:1). Concerned for the holiness of worship, worshipers and priests at the temple, Malachi condemns moral and religious abuses.

He frames his teaching in question-and-answer form. The problem is posed: since the wicked prosper, God must not care about evil (2:17). The truth lies in the future. On the day when the Lord acts, those whose names are written in the “book of remembrance” (3:16) will be spared, accomplishing justice for all.

God, “the sun of righteousness” (4:2), will bring not only destructive heat but healing warmth. The book ends with a commentary on 3:1, identifying the messenger to come with Elijah. Much later, John the Baptist was identified with this figure.

Psalm 98

Its original setting may have been the enthronement festival of Yahweh, celebrated each year at the New Year’s Feast of Tabernacles. Later the psalm was interpreted to herald the Lord’s final coming. It presents the Lord, in faithfulness to the covenant, acting in history for the salvation of God’s people.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

The problem of idleness in the Thessalonian church had been noted also in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. It may have been a reaction to the expectation of an imminent end to human affairs, or a consequence of the belief that “the day of the Lord is already here” (2:2). But such idleness was a misunderstanding of mutual support in a community largely composed of the poor.

Paul reminds them both of the tradition he taught them (perhaps the statement in v. 10) and of his own example. The idle, whom Paul describes in a wordplay as busybodies instead of busy, are exhorted to earn their own living, while the community is encouraged to persevere in well-doing.

Luke 21:5-19

To a question about his prediction of the temple’s destruction, Jesus responds with a series of sayings. He identifies signs (21:8-11) that will soon be fulfilled. Jesus assures his followers that terrible things will indeed happen. The disciples will be imprisoned. They are not to prepare a “defense in advance” for the Lord will guide them. Despite betrayal by family and friends, they will win eternal life through endurance.

But contained in that dreadful shell is the seed of new life: death does not necessarily bring annihilation. Losing everything does not mean we perish. Betrayal and hatred are not the final answers.

In the worst situations, Jesus will give his followers the wisdom and confidence of his presence. Confronting disaster, the Christian responds not with hysteria, but with patient endurance. The Church does not offer the sure guarantee of law, but the abiding promise of intimacy with Christ.

One answer is provided by the model of St. Thomas More who, facing execution, kept his sense of humor. His joke that a man could lose his head and still come to no harm echoes the gospel paradox that not a hair would be harmed, even on the scaffold. Neither fear nor the cold breath of imminent death could unnerve More, whose priority was sainthood. He wrote his daughter Meg about the day of his beheading: “Tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me.”

When faced with trying times, loss and an uncertain future, we might do well to remember that Jesus has the last laugh; the joke’s on death.