Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
26th Sunday after Pentecost
November 13, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
As most of you probably recall, about four years ago the big news at the end of 2012 was about the end of the Mayan calendar and the imminent end of the world on December 21, 2012. Gloom and doom, baby. I remember talking with Jr. High and High School kids about their anxieties about the supposed impending doom. The date became fodder for many comedians and late night talk show hosts. Newspapers and magazines covered the story and talking heads opined on issues relating to the apocalypse that was certainly upon us. But, as we all know, December 21st came and it went, which meant, for many, that they had some Christmas shopping to catch up on rather quickly.
But we are certainly aware that the end of the world and our preoccupation with it is not a new event. You’ve probably heard a lot of the jokes made in the wake of the Cubs winning the World Series (There’s a freeze warning in hell). Hollywood has made a fortune off of the apocalypse. It’s found its way into music and art. And with the realities of typhoons and hurricanes and earthquakes and all other natural disasters where there’s significant damage and loss of life, these verses that we just heard jump out into our subconscious. Is the end upon us?
Yet, here we are, November 13th, 2016, gathered in worship, still awaiting the day that will come when God so ordains it to come, not some Mayan calendar or prognosticator. But, you know, we’re not the first to be waiting, and history suggests that we may not be the last ones either. In fact, if you go back 2000 years and read the Pauline letters, you’ll find in them language that suggests that they were waiting for Christ’s immediate return. Even in the letter to the Thessalonians from Paul that we heard this morning there is evidence of this.
Members of this community had ceased to work and were living off of the generosity of other community members, because they were fully convinced that Christ was coming back in the very immediate future, so why bother going back to work? But Paul, not one to mince words, so kindly warns these persons that if they want to eat, they need to work.
And that’s where we stand yet today. Nothing’s changed in all that time. We’re still waiting for Christ’s return. 500 years ago, when Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the end of the world was coming tomorrow, he replied that he would go out and plant a tree today. The point was clear. Live for today. Live for right now. Let God take care of only what God can take care of, and simply trust in Him to bring about what God’s going to bring about when God ordains that the time is right. But for right here and right now, let us do whatever we can do to let others know that God’s reign is already here by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and utilizing what gifts that God has given to each of us for His glory. We are to be people in motion.
The following clip appeared in a major metropolitan newspaper after a city-wide blackout: “During the power failure many people complained of having gotten stuck for hours on escalators.” Most likely, this clip is a bit blown out of proportion, but at the same time I think that it sends a very poignant message; some people are willing to wait for the momentum of life to carry them. We all know people like this. If I ignore it and let it go, somebody else will take care of it. And it’s true, because if the momentum of life’s going to carry anyone, others have to first initiate that momentum.
Those people who initiate momentum and change in God’s reign are exactly who Jesus calls us to be. As disciples of Christ, we are called to be imitators, starters, energizers, spark plugs; whatever title you want to attach. People who see need in the presence of God’s reign, and then answer that need. And, you know, as I step back and take a look at what we as a congregation have done and are doing, I can’t help but feel that be assured that we’ve taken this to heart. We as a worshiping community find many ways to feed those who are hungry as evidenced by the Christmas food drive. We clothe those who are naked. Our overwhelming response to the Salvation Army Coat Drive is a testament to this. We teach and preach the Word of God through Bible School and Sunday School and Bible Study. We’ve accepted the call to mission, whether it’s in Leech Lake, Minnesota, through the Northern Great Lakes Synod, or right here to those who live next door to us. My friends, I applaud that we are not sitting around waiting for the end, but we here at Emmanuel are answering the call of Christ.
We as individuals and as a congregation are responding to the call of initiating the reign of God. It means that we’re not waiting for the end, but are living in the present time of God’s reign on earth that began when he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into our world. And even in the simple acts that we do every day, for those whom we invite into our homes, with those whom we break bread with, for those whom we pray for in the name of Jesus Christ, we do so to bring the reign of God into their lives right now. We don’t know what the immediate future holds, and now, just days after this monumental election with the high anxiety level that the results of it present for many people; but through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that our future, as well as our present time, is safely and securely in God’s hands.
My friends, as we navigate this world and the end-time imagery that accompanies it, let our faith stand as a reminder that our end time is already assured through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that we have no need to prepare for it in any way. Through baptism, we’ve already been prepared. Instead, let our faith be a guide for us in remembering that today is the day of God’s reign on earth. December 2016 promises not to bring with it the same apocalyptic headlines that December 2012 did; headlines of an anxiety-ridden future event for many that has been turned into a meaningless past event for all. But you know, here’s the irony; if that same series of events sounds familiar, it should: it’s exactly what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago when he secured our future eternal life through his resurrection and erased the debts of our past through his suffering and death. He secured our anxiety-ridden future by making our past meaningless. Because of Jesus Christ coming into our world, God’s reign is not a future event that we wait on, but has been made sure and firm. Amen.