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Prophesy: Last Sunday's Sermon

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Luke 21:5-19


When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus 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."

They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."


The Sermon


We had another spirited discussion at bible study today. Two things that really stuck in my mind. One was the question about the temple being an important symbol of faith to first century Jews. Then they asked what did we see as important symbols of faith today. We named structures such as the national cathedral and Westminster Abby and the Vatican. As I am currently revisiting that question I look at it a little differently. Maybe it is not a structure at all at least in the sense of a building that is a symbol of our faith. Our symbol is maybe the faith that is in our hearts or possibly the symbol of the cross or a fish.

Thinking about these things reminded of a TV news story I saw several years ago. A tornado had just passed through a Kansas town and totally demolished a church building. The news reporter was interviewing the pastor of the church and asked him what they would do now that the church was destroyed. His response was, “the church is just fine. The building is gone.” We should always keep in mind that our faith is in our hearts. Buildings come and go but the church remains. St. Andrew's Episcopal Church has been in Chariton since the 1860's and by the grace of God it will be here for centuries to come.

I had an interesting conversation with a person who had come to the food pantry. Somehow, during our conversation she mentioned the end of days and how they were very near. My response was that we had no idea when that would happen and she proceeded to correct me by saying Jesus had given very clear clues. I said that Jesus said that even he did not know when the end would come. She corrected me again with a statement I no longer remember. I responded that she must have studied the bible a lot and she said she reads the bible every night. She informed me that she was a Jehovah's Witness and I told her that I had great admiration for her denomination because they bravely went door to door.

The Jehovah witnesses are very good at testifying to their faith. They are evangelists. In the gospel reading today Jesus stressed the importance of testimony. He said, “"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."

There is no really easy way to sugar coat this. Jesus was speaking to his disciples in serious terms about what was ahead for them and it wasn't pretty. It is unlikely any of us here will be put to death for our beliefs but we still are expected to witness to our faith. Simply living your faith by showing acts of kindness and speaking out and taking action when we find brothers and sisters in need is witnessing.

So is the end near. I don't know. I doubt it. On a personal level, none of us know when our own end is coming so we should always keep our lamps lit and our faith strong.

Amen

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