Before the End…

Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, 6“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.”
7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And 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.
9“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.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12“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. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

A few months ago, I was talking with our young people in Sunday School one Sunday morning. 


Sermon: November 17, 2019

Somehow the subject of 9-11 came up in our conversation.  I realized at that moment how old I really was when the very ones I was speaking with only had heard stories about that day when airplanes purposefully crashed into two of our tallest and largest buildings known as the World Trade Center. 

And, so I cannot say to you today: Everyone remembers that day on September 11, 2001 –  where they were and what they were doing.  Because some of us here were either too young or maybe not even born yet!

But for those of us who experienced that day – it seems like it was just yesterday…

But, here we are -19 years later…

When the United States was attacked by terrorists who crashed two passenger airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City – killing about 3000 people and 25,000 injured. 

But here was what was totally unexpected…

It only took 1 hour and 42 minutes for both of the 110-story towers to collapse.

I don’t think anyone – not even the engineers who designed the buildings or those who built and constructed them, would have ever been able to imagine that such horror could have ever taken place – so fast…1 hour and 42 minutes both buildings nothing but a pile of stone –

Not one stone was upon the other…

No doubt, the day was devastating and horrific –

I feel a little sorry for the ones who were talking about the Temple that day as they were standing there with Jesus –

“Look how beautiful this building is!  It is adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God!” 

Thinking that Jesus would chime in with them and emphasize how beautiful the Temple was – He says, “Well, guess what?  This building is going to be all thrown down – Not one stone will be left upon another.”

Just think if someone had told us that within 1 hour and 42 minutes, our beautiful 110-story World Trade Center would come tumbling down – Not one stone will be left upon another –

We would be devastated.  In fact, we were devastated!  It’s difficult to imagine that such a thing could really happen and even harder to hear that prediction.

And, the disciples respond just as you and I would most likely respond…

Seriously, Jesus?  How could this be?  When is this going to happen? 

Jesus gives them a list:

  • Beware of false prophets.  There will be those who say, “I am He.”  But, don’t go after them. 
  • You will hear of wars and insurrections – Don’t be terrified though – the end will not immediately follow…
  • 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.  – Meaning that there will be some kind of sign or warning that something really bad is about to happen…

Well…what do you think?  Does this then not beg the question, “Is the end near?” 

But wait…it gets worse…because also before the end – Jesus says:

  • You will be arrested and persecuted
  • You’ll be handed over to the synagogues and prisons – and brought before Kings and Governors.

Well, here is the thing…we may not have experienced this kind of persecution in our community – However, it has happened…

In fact, there have been those who have had a gun pointed to their head – “Convert from Christianity or die.”

On April 20, 1999, before the 9-11 in 2001 – there was a gun shooting at Columbine in Colorado where a gun was pointed to her head and then killed when she confessed that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior.

But, not to worry, Jesus says.  I will give you the words to say in your defense.  A defense that in no way will they be able to withstand or contradict. 

Be prepared…to perhaps even be betrayed by your own parents, siblings, and other relatives and friends – all because you believe in Me.  They may HATE you and even want you dead. 

Do not be afraid.  Do not be terrified. 

You know, I’m going to be honest, if I had been the one who brought up how beautiful the building was – I may be wishing I had just kept my mouth shut! 

No doubt, I believe we could go through the list and check off the boxes.  Without hesitation, I wonder if we are just before the end…

Nations against Nations and Kingdoms against Kingdom –

Division even right here in our very own government.

Earthquakes, Forest Fires, Catastrophic hurricanes, and tsunamis…and horrific devastation in parts of our world –

People who are starving and hungry – and we don’t even have to go far to find that – There are those right out our front door –

And, insurrection…Just recently in New York city, the NYPD were belittled and disrespected by  being doused with water – Videos even show where they hit them on the head with a bucket.  Sadly, onlookers and bystanders stand by and watch – laughing as if a side show –

And, while we – here in our community are not necessarily violently persecuted for our beliefs in Jesus Christ – I have to wonder, “Why then…do we still find it difficult to proclaim Christ to others?  Why then is Evangelism so hard?”  What then are we afraid of?

But yet, we have the promises from Jesus:  I will give you the words that you need to say.

But we are afraid.  In fact, we sometimes may even feel terrified.

Look!  Look how beautiful the Temple is – adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God…

…You know…Here is what I think….

Those people were so in armored with the building that was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts that were dedicated to God- but yet, they didn’t see GOD who was standing right there in front of them! 

The Kingdom of God is Near!  In fact, the Kingdom of God is here – right now! 

I believe that is exactly what Jesus was trying to say here…

God is right here! This life is temporary.  Buildings are temporary!

And, in Jesus’ frustration, “I’m right here!  The Kingdom of God is right before you!

And, here is the thing…You may love the building and even the things inside the building…

But, it’s not that building that is going to save you…

It’s not the building that will give you the words to say in your defense.

It’s not the building that can take your suffering away.

It’s not the building that will give you LIFE.

Jesus stood before the people that day – His face set for Jerusalem – and all they saw was the Temple – adorned with gifts dedicated to God –

And, it was God who stood there amongst them –

These are the signs of the times…

…wars, starvation, the poor among us, Earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and fire! 

Kingdoms will rise against kingdoms and nations against nations –

And, a whole lot of suffering…

If you have never been to the 9-11 Memorial in New York City, it is worth your time to visit.  I think what I loved about it is that there is a large pool of water flowing exactly where the towers sat –

For me, it was a reminder of who we are and to whom we belong –

Because you see, Jesus comes to us through the waters of our baptism – the WATER and the Word of God – transforming us from an ordinary to an extraordinary child of God – HIS CHILD!

Here is the thing…Here is what I think Jesus wants us to know more than anything…

Buildings may tumble down where not one stone will be left upon another – Many of us even witnessed it that day on September 11, 2001 –

1 hour and 42 minutes two 110-story buildings in New York City crumbled to the ground when terrorists attacked the United States.

But the ONE who stood before those people that day as they talked about the beautiful building –

That same ONE  – that same JESUS CHRIST is here today – Stands before us –

The ONE who had His face set for Jerusalem –

The ONE who was beaten, spat upon, and flogged –

The ONE who climbed up on the cross –

The ONE who died – went to hell on our behalf – just so you and I will NEVER have to –

The ONE who Saves us and now promises that our eternal life is safe and secure –

God is HERE!  And, God stands before us!  He was here with us yesterday, and He is here with us today, and will be with us tomorrow.

As a Child of God, Suffering is inevitable…

but a Life with Christ is unfathomable;

and more glorious than we can imagine.

Amen.

About pastorterrihttps://pastorterri.wordpress.comI serve as the pastor at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Augusta, GA.

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