Summary: A short sermon preached as part of a broadcast on BBC Radio for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today is one of those days. A day when you look at the gospel reading and wish that you weren’t preaching, or that you could roll over in bed and go back to sleep. The gospel for today is about the end times. It’s quite frightening stuff really with those images of nation against nation, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, fearful events, persecution.
There have always been prophets of doom. I well remember in the good old days when football was football, queuing at the Gallowgate end of St Jame’s Park in Newcastle to watch Newcastle United play, and laughing at the man who walked up and down wearing a sandwich board with phrases on it like ’prepare to meet your doom’ and ’the end is nigh.’ Sometimes I was never sure whether he meant that we were going to loose to Sunderland or that the end of the world was fast approaching.
There is nothing new in predictions of great catastrophe. From way before the time of Jesus right up to the present day predictions of the end of the world have come and gone and have often left people with egg on their faces. If I’m honest I have to say that these kind of predictions don’t get me excited at all – whether they are the prophecies of Isaiah about a new heaven and a new earth from our first reading; or the words of Jesus about the passing of the old earth in our gospel reading; or predicted dates of the end that come today.
To me perhaps what is more important to us today is not the end of the world as we know it, but endings in our own lives, times when our world collapses and seems to end, times when our world is shaken to its foundation and almost falls apart.
It may well be that your world has collapsed; it is you who is suffering and sees no hope for the future.
You may have lost a loved one – husband, wife, brother, sister, parent, child, friend. The well-loved voice is silent, the house empty, an aching heart and a hollowness within, your world seems to have ended.
You might be involved in the breakdown of a relationship, facing a divorce, going through a messy break up. What seemed like a great future suddenly disappeared as your world seems to fall apart.
Hardly a week goes by without news of job losses; it may be you that has been made redundant or unemployed, as some companies with long traditions and strong Welsh roots move their jobs elsewhere chasing after cheap labour but leaving behind broken lives and people with no job and seemingly little hope for the future. Your world seemingly collapsed.
You may have received bad news of an illness and be struggling to come to terms with it and to cope with what is happening and may happen in the future. The end it seems of your world.
Whenever these kind of things happen our world falls apart. Those people we have relied on; those things we have trusted; those events we have put faith in, have gone. These can be times of great testing – testing of our faith, testing of our belief in God, wondering whether there is a God. Times like this can shake our faith to its core.