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Pentecost 25 Proper 28C, November 14, 2010

Pentecost 25 Proper 28C RCL November 14, 2010

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

In our first lesson, the people have returned from exile, and they have rebuilt the temple. But the job is not yet finished. Much rubble remains from the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians. That will need to be removed. And the city walls have yet to be built. It has been hard work, and there is much left to do. In such a situation, it is easy to become discouraged.

The prophet we call the Third Isaiah describes God’s vision for “new heavens and a new earth.” This is God’s vision, not only for Jerusalem, but for the entire creation. No longer will babies and children die. People will live to a ripe old age. They will plant crops and vineyards and enjoy the fruits of that planting. They will build their houses and live in them for many years. There will be peace and security on the earth. “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”

In our epistle this morning, the Thessalonians have somehow fallen into the hands of teachers who are saying that the end is near. Some people have stopped working. They are thinking that since Jesus is coming tomorrow or the next day, they don’t have to worry about getting food or clothes or saving money for the future. Some scholars tell us that these folks have so much spare time that they are interfering in other people’s business.

Paul says that anyone unwilling to work should not eat. Over the years, this passage has been misinterpreted. Paul’s words are addressed to the Christian community, not to the world at large. This passage should not be used to condemn people who are unemployed. Back in those days, as we read in the Book of Acts, many Christian communities shared their possessions and money in common. If people are choosing not to work because they think the Lord is coming immediately, they are not contributing their share. There is not enough to go around if some are slacking off. Paul holds himself up as an example, He would have been eligible to be supported by the community, yet he worked at his trade as a tentmaker, as well as in his ministry to the community. He contributed his share. The point is, let’s all keep working at building God’s shalom until our Lord appears.

In the gospel, Jesus is looking at the temple. It is beautiful and impressive. But in 70 A. D., it was destroyed by the Romans.

Jesus’ followers were going to face persecution. Jesus tells them not to worry about what they are going to say when they are arrested by the authorities. He will give them the words and wisdom to deal with the situation.

False teachers were going to come among them and tell them that Jesus’ Second Coming was at hand, just as happened with the Thessalonians. Wars, earthquakes, famines and plagues have happened throughout history and they are happening now. But Jesus does not want us to waste our energy wondering, does this mean that he is coming right now?

He wants us to remember that not a hair of our heads will perish, and that he will be with us. The word of the day is endurance.

As God’s shalom comes into being, there will be great upheaval. We are in a time of endings and new beginnings. We could look around the world and say, “The end is coming!” and head for the hills. That is exactly what Paul and Jesus are telling us not to do. We could read the paper and watch the news and give up, throw in the towel. It’s too horrible and there is nothing we can do about it. That’s another thing that Paul and Jesus are telling us not to do.

Isaiah’s vision is God’s vision and Paul’s vision and Jesus’ vision of the creation restored. That is what we are working for. No longer will children and babies die. Everyone will have enough to survive and thrive and live. We will live in peace. We will share what we have. We will plant gardens and build houses and live together as God’s family.

That’s the vision—God’s shalom. That’s what we are working for. It’s quite different from how things are now, so there is going to quite a transformation before we get there. Old things will pass away; new things will come into being.

Are we called to ponder endlessly about when this is all going to happen? No.

What are we called to do in these times of wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues? We are called to keep on working for God’s shalom. Keep on caring about people, caring about the environment, feeding the hungry, providing clothing and shelter to those who need it. Keep on keeping on. Keep on praying and loving and giving for the spread of God’s kingdom, God’s shalom. We are called to endure. We are called to be faithful to God’s vision.

May we be strong in our faith. May we be people of hope. May we remember that God is making all things new. Amen

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