Going Deeper 11-18-19

From Malachi, these words: “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”   Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
My week started off with a couple of friends pointing me toward a couple of very challenging and disturbing things.  First, I received an email last Sunday with a link to a presentation by a speaker who shared a perspective that is very new to me.  Kind of set my head to spinning.
He started by showing a video on climate change, of all things, which was the first surprise as I was under the impression that he came from a quite conservative Christian perspective, which typically dismisses the whole thing as being a hoax.  But the video he showed as part of his talk was one which reflected a rather radical perspective, stating that climate change is no longer something we need to consider because of its potential impact on our kids and grandkids.  No, they claim that if some radical changes are not made globally with great urgency, within 15 years we’ll be seeing environmental catastrophes which will make recent floods, droughts, fires, and hurricanes seem like a rather mild prelude.
The main speaker then stated that he was aware that there are scientists who support the idea that this is all a hoax.  But then he really shocked me by proclaiming that he believed that God was really behind the climate change, pointing to how it all fulfills biblical prophecy.  He stated that we really ought to see all of this as evidence that we are truly in the last times.  In other words, people better be prepared for a time of horrific apocalyptic disasters.
While I was processing all of that, another friend texted me Sunday evening asking what I knew about a group called “The Milwaukee Atheists.”  He said he thought I was someone who likes to see all sides of things.  I told him I’d heard a bit about it but would look into it a little further.
The actual name of this non-profit group is “Mythicists Milwaukee.”  I was impressed and a bit terrified by their efforts.  These are intelligent and gifted people who are determined to prove that the Bible is full of unreliable and misleading myths.  They are the antithesis to the Bible Project, which seeks to help people understand the Bible by producing an impressive number of videos.  Mythicists Milwaukee has also produced an impressive collection of videos, which seek to undermine the viewers’ confidence in the Bible.  And they are good at what they do.
Mythicists Milwaukee attacks the Church as well, citing all of the problems and breakdowns they can find seeking to prove that the Church is corrupt and has done a lot more harm than good.  And again, they do a very good job of building their case.  Anyone who has been struggling with hard questions and doubts who come across their videos is in grave danger of having their faith undermined, and potentially destroyed.  Quite the way to start my week!  
It really isn’t very hard to fall prey to fears.  What if the climate change alarmists are right?  And I will go on record saying that while I think their case is certainly not airtight and there are political and other biases involved, I still believe it is foolish on our part to dismiss it all as a hoax.  Can’t we be reasonable in our talking about things so important?  Can’t we step away from our political biases on both sides of the aisle and give this reasonable consideration?
And here is another fear: my answer to that question of whether we have the ability to step away from our political biases on both sides of the aisle and give anything some reasonable consideration, is a pessimistic “I doubt it.”  As I, as a registered independent who tries to listen to both sides, watched what unfolded in our nation’s capital this past week, and the extreme chasm that exists, I wanted to cry out with Shakespeare: “a pox on both of your houses!”  This is a relatively well-known quote from Romeo and Juliet, where as the character Mercutio dies, he utters this phrase three times, cursing the families whose rivalry led to his death. The phrase is commonly applied to criticize warring factions whose rivalry brings ruin to others. 
Don’t our leaders see what they are doing?  As each side seeks to draw our citizens to one side of the chasm or the other, we might all be falling into the abyss!  Jesus taught, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  And even before our divided house falls, we are rendered inept at doing the important things. 
In the midst of these trying and uncertain times, where concerns about the present, as well as the near and distant future, threaten to cause us all to fear, we need to now, as much as ever, process and respond to it all as people of faith.  And as people of faith we find hope and a sense of peace in Malachi’s prophecy that the time has come, continues to come, and will eventually come for all eternity when the “sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.”  
Jesus is the sun of righteous, the Light of the world who destroys the darkness, and brings light and warmth and growth to God’s children.  He came, He continues to come, and He will come again. And, of course, Jesus is the Son of righteousness, whose life of sinless service, death by crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead has made us righteous in the eyes of God.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus prepared His followers for difficult and frightening times to come.  He speaks of wars and rumors of wars, of coming persecutions, of nation against nation (in our case, a nation against itself), and of “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”  All of this can create and sustain fear in our hearts and minds.
But fear must not, and will not, have the last word.  Previously in Luke’s Gospel, this very same Jesus, the Son of God and Lord and Savior of the world, also had this to say to His followers: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
And John, in his Gospel, gives us these words of Jesus: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
In the midst of this troubled and often frightening world, we stand—not alone, but with God and with one another—we stand and live out our calling to shine as lights, and we do so with joy, peace, and celebration, and pray that God’s Kingdom might come, now in part, and hopefully soon in completion.  No matter what is happening or may happen, we stand as one, in the One who brings light and peace and joy.  And together we seek to more and more fully carry forth our mission to share the great news of the Gospel with people who are fearing and dying with it.  We do so in the One who is love, and who has promised to dwell and work within, with, and through us, His children.  Amen.