Summary: A different approach to an "End Times" passage focussing on witness rather than speculation
Christian witness from Luke 21: 5-19
This morning I would like to focus on our Gospel reading.
Story: Dr. Ian Paisley, the fiery Irish cleric and politician was reputed to have been preaching one Sunday on the End Times - and in particular on the Day of Judgement.
As he reached the climax of his address he said that on the Day of Judgement "there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth".
At which point an old woman put up her hand and said "Dr. Paisley, I have no teeth"
Paisley replied "Madam, teeth will be provided"
It does not unusual for people who preach on these “End Times” passages to engage in flights of fantasy.
Story: Having the advantage of time, I am amazed how Hal Lindsey’s "The Late Great Planet Earth" ever made the best seller list in the late 70’s. His predictions, based on Biblical prophecy, can now be seen to be so off-beam.
But predictions about the end times, like horoscopes are exceedingly popular.
It is interesting that Jesus refused to be drawn into speculation about the end times.
We read, for example in Acts 1:6 how the disciples questioned him about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.
And instead of giving them a reply, he told them that "it is not for you to know the times or the dates that the Father has set by his own authority".... but instead told them to get ready to preach the Gospel to all nations.
If Jesus told his disciples not to waste time speculating about when the end of the world was due, then we have the duty to avoid this same spurious speculation.
I believe it is more profitable to see what lessons are hidden in this passage with regard to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so I have purposely focussed my talk on that this morning.
I believe there are three key themes in this passage that which will help us to bear witness to Jesus.
Perhaps we should start by defining what a witness is. What is being a witness all about?
A witness is a person who can testify to what he or she has experienced or knows of first hand.
In a Court of Law, the witness is not the defence lawyer. He or she doesn’t have to explain why something happened. We have Christians who are well versed in the art of apologetics to do that for us. Like Professor Roy Peacock who is coming to speak to us on the first weekend of July next year.
The witness is not the prosecution lawyer either. We don’t have to try and convince people to make a decision. We can simply leave that to others – such as the Holy Spirit - to do.
In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus shares three keys to witnessing.
1. Deciding not to worry
2. Deciding to stand firm
3. Deciding to live a radically different lifestyle
1. Deciding not to worry
The first key to being a successful witness to Christ is that we can decide not to worry about what we are going to say – or what people will think about us..
The Early Church had a real danger of persecution. Jesus himself was crucified as a
result of persecution.
In this country, we don’t face persecution – though many of our brothers and sisters in Muslim countries do.