Message for the twenty sixth Sunday after Pentecost, November 13, 2016.
Based on: Isaiah 65, verses 17-25 “God shall create joy and delight; the wolf and the lamb will lie down together”
Luke 21: 5-19 “Persecution in the days to come, trust God!”
Opening Prayer: Holy One, may the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts, may all of it be acceptable in your sight this day, amen.
On Remembrance Day, I was pleased to attend two quite different celebrations in honour of those whose lives were lost in the first and second World Wars.
The first celebration I attended was down at Crab Park, located just north and east of Gastown overlooking Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains.
The second celebration was a sung mass performed by the St. John’s Vancouver choir hosted at Kerrisdale Presbyterian Church on 41st Ave.
Each venue drew quite different crowds but what they had in common was this:
We gathered together in a set apart time and space for the specific opportunity to come together in memory and hope.
We gathered together bringing a common sense of hope for loved ones whose lives were changed or lost as a result of serving in the armed forces.
We gathered together also to show respect for those who continue to make these choices even now.
And, we gathered together bringing a common longing for peace to be born anew in our broken and ailing world.
The rituals, the music, the 21 gun salute, the singing of ‘O Canada’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ all familiar ones to me helped me to recognize myself as having come home.
This sense of having come home felt comforting to me, especially as I reflected on last week’s surprising turn of events in American politics; this itself occurring after a very public, lengthy, divisive, vitriolic, fear mongering, and harsh campaign.
The harshness of the American presidential campaign calls to mind for me the harshness of the context of our reading from Luke’s gospel this morning.
It, too, was one rife with division, fear mongering, and vitriol.
That said, I am also aware of, at the heart of it, todays’ reading from the 21st chapter of Luke carries with it the need to hold fast to the good news in the midst of trial and tumult.
Listening again to Jesus’ encouragement for the need to trust in God’s sustaining presence in the face of war, insurrection, famine, plagues, betrayal, persecution, death, and destruction, I am aware of how challenging that call it was.
In some denominational circles, interpreting Jesus’ words as offered in this passage from Luke’s gospel could be used to underscore an understanding of war, insurrection, famine, plague, betrayal, persecution, death, and destruction as being a part of God’s will for our lives.
Not so, in our denomination.
In our denomination, we understand God as the very One who would caution us to be prepared for, mindful of, and to stand firmly together in our faith in response to those false prophets who would lead us down wrong paths.
In our denomination, we understand God as the very One who encourages to speak truth to power to those individuals and groups so eager to divide and segregate.
In our denomination, we understand God to be the very One who promises to walk with us as we learn how to respond to voices that invite betrayal, persecution, and death.
In our denomination, we understand God to be the very One to speak with and through us on behalf of the last and the least.
I hear Jesus’ strong encouragement to those early followers to know and accept the reality that discipleship is costly and to expect that to be so.
I hear Jesus caution to his listeners to expect betrayal, hatred, persecution, death and destruction.
In the midst of all that, I hear Jesus’ call to continue to testify to this good news in all circumstances and all situations and his promise that God will provide them and us with the words and the wisdom for responding to the ensuing challenges.
Finally, I hear Jesus’ promise that enduring faith will lead us all in amazing new directions.
In the current times of trial and tumult in our own world and in our own lives as citizens in the Western world, it feels as though we are coming to the end of an era of openness and tolerance.
We, too, like those early followers are challenged to find new ways to be bearers of God’s truth.
We, too, are called to keep working together for the well being of our church, our communities, and the whole of God’s good Creation.
A daunting task, yes?
Still, we have our shared history of faith; we have our stories from scripture, and we have each other.
We have the opportunity to live into abiding hope or ‘passion for the possible’ and to endure for the sake of our souls, for the sake of our community, and for the sake of Isaiah’s vision that the lion and the lamb might someday lie down together.
We have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ voice calling to us softly and tenderly to come home, to be home to one another, and to offer sanctuary to those struggling with the very real divisiveness and fear mongering we and others are experiencing in our rapidly changing post modern context.
Are we up for the journey?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, with God and the Holy Spirit as our guide, I pray that It may be so. Amen.