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Learning to Wait Without Worry

Luke 21:5-36

Proper 28, C

Movies and TV shows have always played on our fears of the impossible actually happening. The story lines are not new, but the graphic depictions to go with them certainly are. Stray asteroids instantly wiping out half the earth. Alien invasions destroying all our major cities and governments in one fell swoop. Zombie apocalypses devouring an unsuspecting and unprepared world. A new ice age freezing half the globe in a matter of hours. If you were to witness the destruction of an "indestructible" national symbol or landmark … if you saw life as we know it stripped bare before your very eyes what kind of “aftershocks” would ravage your emotions? Got it? Now you can relate to how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ prophecy about the temple in Jerusalem in the opening scene of our text. “Not one stone will be left on another?” It was unthinkable. Unfathomable. Unbelievable. It would be, as far as the Jews of Jesus’ time were concerned, the end of the world.

We will never face a zombie apocalypse, but there are still moments in life that shake us to the very foundation of our being. One of them is the fate of this world. It is a very deep-seated fear for most, and that is why the end of the world is still very fertile ground for authors and filmmakers to give us their impressions of what it will be like. But have you also noticed that almost all the conjecture about the fate of the world is negative. Even “utopian" novels like Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984 have a decidedly sinister element to them. Does nobody out there feel good about the future of the world? Are people only afraid about the end? So it would seem … maybe even for some of us gathered here today.

Modern popular culture plays on those fears by bringing the "unthinkable” to life in every gory and graphic way imaginable. The more terrible the destruction, the better the box office. And it's not just in movies. Watch the news, see what's going on in the world. Deadly disease, Climate change, and floods, and earthquakes, and wars and terrorism, supply chain crashes, energy blackouts,and every other kind of over-the-top doom-sayers. There is a heightened awareness of "the end" today, although maybe not in the Biblical sense. Most of our friends and neighbours have an increased uneasiness about where this world is headed. And sometimes, we might think “Who can blame them?”

Jesus brings out the same reaction in His disciples with his prophecy regarding the temple (not one stone left on another). The disciples' reaction is akin to ours: When? What will be the signs? Give us some comfort in our fears, make the unknown known to us! Have you ever noticed that the first question is never “why?” is it ending. It is always “how?” “What will be the signs” "How will this happen?" Give us the technical info on these phenomena so we might better manage our fears! But the very natural questions of “When?” and “what?” are the wrong questions for us as believers as the world nears its end. You see, they are essentially “insider” questions seeking privileged information. Those who ask “when?” and “what?” are seeking their own advantage. Maybe it is a way out … moon colony anyone? Maybe it is release from guilt … oh if it's going to end that way, then it's not my fault. Maybe it is because deep down inside everyone thinks they can stop it from happening. Just like they can stop themselves from getting sick or growing old or dying. But that's the problem isn't it? You can't stop it. There is no way out, and you are complicit in its coming. “When?” and “what?” (or “how?”) get our focus off the true messages of Christ’s return: judgment and opportunity.

The second coming is also known as the Last Day, the Day of the Lord, or the Final Judgment (notice how little that term is used anymore!). The Bible tells us there will be an end, a finite period of time to avail ourselves of God’s mercies and forgiveness, offered in the saving work of Christ on the cross. The destruction of Jerusalem was a model of that finite period, an and that God has set for the world. For the believer, the second coming means our final deliverance from this sinful world, but also our final mission given to us by our Lord before that happens: “Be my witnesses.”

Jesus replaces “when?” and “what?” with “watch out” and “fear not.” Or, “wait without worry” as we go about His final mission. “Watch out” for those who are out to deceive. The deceivers are out to hide the finality and the severity of the final judgment. The deceivers will have you waste your life trying to pretend like it will never happen. The deceivers will sell you a thousand different ways to escape what they say is not coming, all the while trying to hide the fact that Jesus is the world’ s only escape.

In a time of deception, Jesus beings us the truth. Truth in himself, in what He has done to accomplish the salvation of every person. Truth in His Word, which the Holy Spirit uses in our mouths to spread the corrective truth of God to a deceived world. Words like “Fear not”, in a time when the foundations of society are being shaken, and believers will suffer the brunt of the abuse. The lives of Paul and the apostles, recorded in the Book of Acts, are testimony to the “near” fulfillment of Jesus’ words. He suffered dearly before the end. But then …

We are part of the “far” fulfillment, as we, too, begin to run into stiff resistance to the Christian message. The Christian faith is having more and more run-ins with “the authorities” You can see it in little battles over things like prayer before sporting events or civic meetings, Nativity scenes in public places, the push to make all our holidays generically inclusive. But then there are bigger signs that the opposition is growing, in authoritarian governmental mandates on Christian worship, careless narratives around the residential schools of Canada's past which has directly led to the vandalism and arson of over 70 churches across our country last year (with almost no media coverage or arrests being made as of yet). And then there is also the increasing call to keep your Christian views quiet and firmly out of the public square. Your views are no longer welcome in your community, province or country.

But God gives us the tools to be able to wait without worry. He gives us the certainty of his return. He gives us the birthright of being his baptized children. He gives us “words and wisdom” in the face of our opponents through the presence of his Holy Spirit within us.

What will mark our lives as we “wait without worry”? Standing firm in patient endurance and a strong witness. God has given us unchanging truth in changing times. We are called on to declare the dual truths of the second coming: His judgment and His mercy. We believers must always keep one ear open for signs of the King’s return while we do the King’s business with all our might. But we do it because we care about those around us and so that our Lord might care for them for eternity. Watch out, but fear not. That is how we “wait without worry.”


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