Summary: in spite of world tragedies we need to remember that 'all things WILL be well'
I had written this sermon last week since I was out-of-town at a training for the first of the week and then at Diocesan convention for the last two day. But in light of the events at Beirut, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Paris, I felt compelled to speak about those atrocities.
The abhorrent murder of 129 Parisians with hundreds injured, the double car bombing in Beirut, leaving 43 dead and over 230 injured, would make some people sure that the end of the world is near. The downing of the Russian passenger plane with over 224 innocent vacationers, for no reason except to create fear – does just that – create fear that our world is coming apart.
We grieve for the senseless killing of innocent people:
families and couples enjoying quiet dinner at a sidewalk café on a pleasant autumn evening; young people crowded into a stadium to hear their favorite band;
people gathered in Shiite community hall, where gunmen kept citizens from providing aid to the injured; and those on a plane looking forward to vacation.
Certainly those who look for signs of the apocalypse believe we are beginning that progression to the end of the world. However, I must remind you what we have been taught repeatedly – that we must stop interpreting the world events as milestones leading up to the end of the world. Jesus specifically warned us:
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Mark 13:7-8)
The massacres, hostage-taking and bombings in Beirut, Paris and Egypt certainly make all of us stop and think about what is going wrong in the world. . . how a group of zealots could willingly and randomly execute people who are innocent. ISIS, who has claimed responsibility for these atrocities, is a sub-culture of the Islamic faith which in no way represents the central teachings of Islam or the majority of the Muslims in the Middle East. Yet these are the people whose actions caused alarm.
We need to keep a level head on our shoulders and not overreact, lumping all Muslims in one basket. While it has portions of war and vengeance, just as the Bible does, the Qur’an is not a book of vengeance - it is a holy book that gives in great detail, the manner in which Muslims must live and care for the planet and all those who inhabit it.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, we need to remember what Jesus told his disciples, and is telling us:
"Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. (Mark 13:5-6)
We must not be lead astray by those who speak doom and gloom and the end of the world. We must not listen to the false prophets.
There have been millenniums where prophets have foretold the end of the earth. Do you remember all the fuss before Y2K, when the prophets were sure that the world was going to explode when we hit the year 2000? It was foretold that all the computers in the world were going to blow up and the world, as we know it, would end. Notice how that didn’t happen? There was hardly a hint of problems!
Do you remember a fellow named Harold Camping, who was sure that Christ would return to earth on May 21, 2011? Feeding on people’s fatigue with natural disasters, wars and suffering, he riled up many fundamentalists and ‘Left Behind’ people. Some sold everything they had, knowing for sure that they would be in Heaven on May 21st.
It didn’t happen!
Then there was the doomsday message generated when someone looked at the Mayan calendar and realized there were no dates after September 3, 2012. The fact that the 5,125 year Mayan calendar came to an end on September 3, 2012 didn’t mean the end of the world. It meant the end of the Mayan calendar.
The world did not end in 2012 – and it hasn’t happened yet!
We often hear of people who believe they know when the world is about to end. They look at what’s happening in the world and say “the end is near”. People point to the Bible and find images and passages that reinforce their point. It’s easy to do – it’s called proof texting – taking words right out of the Bible, adding them to other words from the Bible, and other authoritative statements that support whatever they want to support. It’s no way to read, or study, the Bible.
We have had wars for time immemorial. Do you think that the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon are twentieth-century events? Oh, No!