Monday, December 10, 2012

Sermon for 18 November 2012, Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28B)

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Mark 13:1-13
Two Questions
Proper 28B, 18 November 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” There are two questions from the disciples in verse four. One deals with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and all the city with it. The other has to do with the end of the world. It is appropriate that we talk about the end as the leaves turn colors, the harvest is gathered in, and as snow becomes a regular part of our forecast.
Jesus combines the answers to those seemingly simple questions in the rest of Mark 13. He spends verses 5 through 13 describing everything through the end of the world. Today’s appointed Gospel reading answers their second question. But there’s more to His answer that you need to hear. In verses 14-31, Jesus speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, answering the disciples’ first question. Finally, verses 32-37 warn of false prophets and conclude His teaching on the end of the world.

St. Mark sets the scene: As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Seeing the Jewish Temple in all of its glory would have been awe-inspiring. Jesus shocks His disciples with His response.
3And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
In this world you will have trouble. Jesus’ words ring true. We have good times and bad, but neither one lasts. Persecution will accompany the proclamation of the Gospel. Bad things will happen to good Christians. It is part of life under the cross. Jesus gives his promise: the one who endures to the end will be saved. This is His teaching for you about the end of the world. In the middle of Jesus’ teaching on the end times, his answer to the second question, He takes time to answer their first question.

Now Jesus warns those of that generation about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, when “There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
In Mark 13:14-31 (ESV) Jesus explains when those things will be, "But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  15Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out,  16and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.  17And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!  18Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be.  20And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.  21And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it.  22False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  23But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,  25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  30Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
What things that generation saw! In 70 AD, Roman troops took the city of Jerusalem. It looked like the world was coming to an end. Sacrifices in the Temple came to an end. We Christians know that they were no longer necessary since Jesus is the Temple, our Great High Priest, and the sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The fires burned so hot that stone cracked and crumbled, the gold of the temple roof melted and ran like water into cracks, and not one stone of the temple remained upon another. The destruction was mind boggling, the human carnage horrific. Hundreds of years later, Islam built its famous Dome of the Rock Mosque on the temple mount. All that remains of the glorious ancient Temple is the “wailing wall.”
But the disciples also asked “what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” Jesus’ answer to that question resumes in Mark 13:32-37 (ESV) 32"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  33Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.  34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.  35Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning— 36lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  37And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake."

A medieval liturgical verse summarizes all of this very well: “Guide us watching and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.” Jesus’ words abide with us and we abide in Him.
We are duly warned about false prophets. They will come. They will deceive some. And the surest sign that one is listening to a false prophet is when you hear a date for the end of the world. You’ve heard of such preachers. The date comes and goes, and they just look foolish. They have their followers, but you are not to be among them. You are given to be on your guard and stay awake in Jesus, no matter what comes.
At the heart of all of this is Jesus. He has warned us ahead of time of what will happen in the last days. We need not be surprised. His words have already been fulfilled. They will be fulfilled again. We, the baptized, are given to be faithful until Jesus’ return. Until then, Jesus abides with us in Word and Sacrament, the means the Lord has given so that we may remain faithful until the Last Day. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Two Questions. Jesus is our answer, our hope, and our salvation. He is the one who sustains us until the Second Coming and He is the One who comes.
The Lord is present with His people. That’s a promise. Our Triune God has been with Immanuel Sheridan for over a hundred years. We raise to Him our songs of thankfulness and praise, trusting in His promises and His presence in Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.