When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” —Luke 21:5-6
End Times or Now Times?
It will come as no surprise that in this time of wondering about the future, I would have been drawn to preach this Sunday from the Lectionary text from Isaiah 65 which begins, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Yet the gospel lesson, Luke 21:5-19, is also pretty intriguing for our faith community—for Jesus is talking about the end times.
In our conversation this past Sunday, as we delved deeper into the implications of putting our property up for sale, as we wondered about the future with very practical questions about where we might worship and what we would be if we were not the Congregational Church of West Medford, United Church of Christ (in our 100 year old, 25,000 square foot building)—more than one of you admitted to struggling with how you feel about the possibility of an “End Time.”
Some of you are asking yourself if you can stay engaged in the ministries that you have been a part of. Some of you are wondering why we would start anything new. Some of you are asking yourself whether you will make another commitment of your time or talent for the following year. Many of you wonder about making a pledge again when the future is so unclear and are asking, “To what am I pledging?” “Why would I pledge my financial gifts when someone else may own our property before too long?” “Everything is uncertain, maybe I should wait to see what is happening before I make a stewardship commitment.” And I imagine that all of you have at least had the thought, “I wonder if I should cut bait now, find another faith community that will meet my needs and not wait to see what happens.”
Theologian, David Lose suggests that we have two choices when facing apocalyptic projections. “We can take them as warning and start preparing for the end of which Jesus speaks, either by ordering our lives in a new way or by trying to figure out the events and calendar to which Jesus supposedly alludes. Or we can chuck all that and hear these words as an invitation to live now by faith and hope, inviting the prospect of future tribulation and trial only to sharpen our deep appreciation for the present God has created and given to us as a gift.”
Of course the preferred response is the latter, not only because pastors and theologians say so, but because Jesus himself says so. Lose points out that first, despite his apocalyptic words, Jesus tells us elsewhere in the gospels that no one knows the day and the hour that the he will come again and that we should ‘keep our lamps trimmed and burning’. More significantly, Jesus invites us to trust that the present, the “now times,” the stuff of our lives are chances to be God’s hands and feet and heart in the world; chances to witness to God’s love and grace. And, Jesus reassures us that by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit will be present and equip us to do that witnessing, to speak the good news into the present and to share God’s love.
Lose argues that in this text, Jesus is responding to a sense of anxiety and doubt in the early Christian community and in their time of need, “This isn’t a timetable — it’s a letter of comfort and courage and invitation. One that we can respond to most faithfully not by predicting the end but by seizing the present moment in which to share our faith and confidence in Christ.”
Beloved, we are surely in a time of anxiety and need – and we can take great comfort in this invitation offered to us right from the mouth of Jesus, “…not a hair on your head will perish and by your endurance you will gain your soul.” Let’s seize the present moment and witness to the power of community and our calling to be God’s heart in the world. Let’s make our commitments to stay the course and find the path to which we are being called forward and out of the way it has always been. God is making all things new and we have a future that has yet to be revealed, but which will be grounded in the present moment that God has given to us as a gift. Let us live now by faith and hope and invest in the future with our time, our talent and our treasure…and we will surely be blessed to be a blessing. May it be so.
Blessings, Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade, firstname.lastname@example.org