Going Deeper 11-15-19

The Gospel reading for Pentecost 23…

Luke 21:5-19    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."  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."


These words from a commentary on this text caught my attention: “For good or for naught, American preachers who regularly pick up apocalyptic themes in their sermons tend to develop believers who become less interested in the everyday affairs of citizens. Too ‘heavenly minded to be any earthly good’ is a phrase that is occasionally associated with these groups. But I wonder if that description is too kind.”  (if you are unfamiliar with the word, apocalyptic has to do with events preceding the end of time) 


Apocalyptic themes in the Bible are not my favorite.  I agree with the professor I quote above.  If we are not careful, these texts can lead to a self-centered isolationist way of life, where we hunker down and protect ourselves from all of the evil out there, waiting and anticipating the final coming of Christ to set everything straight.  That is not what Jesus teaches.


In our text, Jesus is preparing His followers for events which were right on the horizon.  Around 40 years after Jesus’ ascension, the great temple in Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans.  But Jesus is doing more than getting them ready for the end… He is preparing them for the meantime.  They had a lot of dangerous and challenging work to do as they sought to fulfill Jesus’ “Great Commission” to take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.


Jesus never intended for His followers to be so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly use.  As we await the final and complete coming of God’s Kingdom, we pray and work for the coming of that Kingdom more and more fully into our present world.  This is hard—and for some, dangerous—work, but it is our calling.  Yes, if the world falls apart around us, we will need the peace and hope which are borne from our faith.  But in the midst of it all, we carry forth the mission.


With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."