The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 14 November 2004
So What's Happening?
The WTC towers were the zenith of man's ability to use steel and ingenuity. They stood for what they were: world trade, commerce, the system of buying and selling and making profits--for all kinds of businesses.
After 9/11 some of those businesses almost came to a standstill. Some have not recovered yet. We are still trying to make sense of what that destruction means to us as God's people.
As the close followers of Jesus, his disciples looked at the temple, dedicated to God, they could not but help remark at the grandeur of the place--those magnificent pillars, the gold gifts, the precious stones which made that place a total standout in its world. Was it eternal? Well, maybe not eternal. They knew the history of the temple being destroyed at least once before, but surely this one would draw people to it and in that drawing, bring people of all kinds to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the great forefathers, the patriarchs of this religion.
This temple Jesus says would come to an end. Not one stone left on another. Every stone thrown down in a violence that brought to an end temple worship, the system of sacrifices to God, the whole sacradotal system--priests would become obsolete with no temple.
What was going on? What was happening?
The only possible sense that could be made of that destruction is that God's will was being accomplished, and most importantly, God's people would have the opportunity to witness to their faith.
It came as Jesus had said. People, gurus, prophets came and said that they had the answer. They would tell people that the end is near. They would put together the whole scenario so that people would begin to think they had the answer and not Jesus.
We have become a nation in the U.S.A. that is frightened. Frightened by terror, by revolutions, by volcanoes erupting, by hurricanes devastating our land, by nations bombing others, by mass starvation and genocide of peoples. We see our system of commerce, our way of life being threatened by prices of oil and energy which could cause peoples in our own country to die of the cold and be unable to carry on business as usual.
What's happening? What's going on?
The only possible sense that can be made of all this is that God's will is going to be done, and his kingdom come.
Yes, I know I can say that, but what does that look like? Well, I don't know. I know that Jesus makes some promises that look like the product of fantasy: "Don't be frightened." Not a hair of your head will perish." "By standing firm, you will gain life."
In our country, that is the U.S.A., we have not suffered from mass hysteria since the crash of '29. At that time, starvation was common; thousands lived in shelters made of cardboard; soles of shoes were patched with cardboard; banks which had your money didn't have your money; people who had secured their futures financially found themselves penniless; farmers who had worked hard lost their farms to banks who didn't want them either.
Since that time we have felt we had a system that was fool proof. We had a system of Social Security, national insurance for the monies we had in banks, government to pay our pensions if the companies we worked for went belly up. We have prided ourselves in being the most powerful nation of the world. Our systems of democracy, capitalism, human rights were what God wanted.
Yet our city have areas that look like the worst kind of desolation. People live in housing that is primitive. Millions of people cannot pay for basic health care. Crime is so rampant that burglar bars are everywhere. Thefts and muggings are so common they are not even reported to police. We have developed a system in our country so great, that we can no longer let our children walk to school without fear of molestation by pedophiles of various kinds. We tout family values, but no longer have families as God once constituted them. And the end is not yet.
What's going on? What's happening?
As we face the wars, the revolutions, the end times, we can give into fear, or follow gurus who promise us safety when there is none, or we can trust this person who is called Jesus.
Jesus came to face destruction. He came to face annihilation of mankind from earth and from the presence of God. He came to face death, stare it in the face, embrace it to his chest, feel the world without any hope, any God, any justice. He was the gift of a Father who knows his children, where ever they are, and wants them back from the brutal ways they have developed, from the hell they create in this world, from those systems that could believe we could find heaven through self destruction be that by becoming human bombs, by drugs, by beliefs that human systems are divine, by trusting in our ability to see what is right and that you and I have the power to do what is right all by ourselves.
God help us! It appears to be hopeless, with no justice, no peace. Jesus God's gift came to help us understand that he has never deserted us, will never leave us, even when the valleys of shadows bring death so close. He confronted all of that. He faced it in the place where that magnificent temple stood. He has destroyed death. He has said that we should trust him and him alone for life, for a person to follow, for truth in this world.
We need to testify to the truth. It is not in our power, in our strength, but it is in our Savior that we have the power to save the world and to save ourselves.
What is happening? What's going on?
Each of us who trusts that Jesus is Lord, that all power in heaven and earth is his, have this time to tell others of the power of God which leads to rescue from fear, from hopelessness, from pride and arrogance, from false beliefs to the place of feast and celebration, even as the enemy seems to be closing in.
His promises that in all of this that"not a hair of (y)our head will perish' and that we "do not be frightened" are either to be believed or trashed. He is either a nut case or the only light in the gathering gloom.
In a time when our world wants us to tolerate everything and leave them alone, we are to stand up and be counted as people who are well, as people who have hope, as people who will give rather than take, as people who trust in God and not on paper on which those words are written.
And the only question which remains is: What's happening with you? What's going on with you? Amen.
Walter W. Harms, Retired Pastor