Summary: This was the second to last Sunday in the church year. It has been an interesting journey through Luke. Next week we’ll finish up with Luke with his amazing account of the crucifixion. This week though, I kind of looked back on all of the sermons I’ve pre
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three In One who gained our souls for us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When do you know that it is time to quit?
In my youth, I was a swimmer. I was a sprinter. I detested the long races and loved the quick spurts of energy that made up the majority of most of my races. My displeasure with long races, however, did not keep one of my coaches from signing me up for the mile race. Like an obedient lamb led to slaughter, I climbed on the starting block that morning, heard “swimmers, take your mark, GO!” and plunged into the water.
Normally what happens in the mile race is that you have a few teammates on one side of the pool that dip a placard into the water that tells you how many laps you’ve completed and how many more are supposed to be coming up. Using this information, you’re supposed to be able to tell when to “pace” or take things a little easier, or do what I loved best – to pour everything you have into the last few laps of the race.
Unfortunately, this morning, my teammate with the placard had made a mistake. Somewhere in between talking to the person beside her, she gave me an extra lap at one turn.
I was actually doing pretty well in the race. I wasn’t first, but I was doing well, keeping up with the swimmers beside me. And then the number dropped in the pool…last lap. I poured everything I had into that last lap. I pulled ahead and was amazed at how slowly the guys next to me seemed to be. I came into what I thought was the finish line, and saw the same placard. My counter had figured out her mistake.
I tried to do it again, but I had given everything I had into what I thought was the last lap. Now people were whizzing past me. I was left in foam. I came in dead last and puking in the gutter.
In the Gospel story today, Jesus seems to upset the equilibrium of the people he’s talking with. They’re talking about the temple, about how grand it is. It really was grand. The temple at the time had white marble pillar 40 feet high that were made of one slab of rock a piece. It had gold plates as big as two men lining it and solid gold grape vines with clusters that were as big as a man. And what does Jesus say about this grand building? This great institution of Israel? To beware, for the time was coming when not one of those stones was left on top of another one. It would be leveled.
For the people gathered, this kind of massive destruction and upheaval meant only one thing. It meant that the Day of Lord, a period of governmental and social upheaval, but the Day of the Lord promised something else. It meant the promised restoration of Israel to be the singular world power.
And in some ways, it meant finally giving up on hope and expecting the best things in life to simply come your way. That’s what the Epistle lesson is all about. Paul is writing to people who have given up working and are simply laying around, waiting for Christ to return – trying to catch it on CNN.
But that’s not what Jesus is saying in this text, instead He says that before that Day of the Lord arrives, many of the people gathered there will be thrown into prison. He says that storms and great tumults will arrive. He says that storms will engulf Bangladesh and kill hundreds of people. He says that we will even be handed over to be killed.
It is an easy temptation for us to look for the time when we can finally throw up our hands and give up. In some ways, we look for it. Some of us here have had our equilibrium thrown off as we look into this short week before thanksgiving. How far behind are you on your school work? How far behind are you in that project at work? How far behind are you on that New Year’s resolution you made last year?
I have talked with several people who have just dropped classes just within the past few weeks. Their advisors and teachers have told them, it’s time to quit. They’ve shown them the signs of the semester and it doesn’t look good. For others, they’ve been getting A’s throughout the semester and figure that now is a time to lean back and rest on their laurels.
It can be easy for us to do the same in our faith lives. For some of us, someone told us that having faith in Jesus just meant maintaining a minimum somewhere…that sometime after confirmation, or after you left high school youth group, or after you got married, or after something else, it was time to sit back and basically quit. We quit on looking for experiences of God in our lives, we quit telling people we know about our faith, and we quit reading the Scripture.