We need every word God speaks

 

November 29, 2009

Scripture Reading

Luke 21:25-36

      25"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 

     29He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 

     32"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 

     34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

 

 

Message  “May I Have Your Attention, Please?”

 

Order is a nice thing, isn’t it? 

Just this past week I experienced the blessing of order; of peace and productivity mingling in a well ordered Thanksgiving. It is not usually that way, many of our thanksgivings have been spent traveling; packing and unpacking, rushing from meals to train trips into Chicago, in and out of taxicabs. But this year I experienced blessed orderliness. We had family over for dinner; the house got cleaned ahead of time; the turkey was out of the oven before the guests arrived; Carole had made the pies the night before, the bread was already baked & cut, and there was plenty of room in the ovens to keep the hot dishes hot. We had a peaceful meals and warm fellowship. In the midst of that orderliness I thanked God, because God is the God of order, isn't he? 

After all, as we read the creation narratives we see God bringing order out of chaos; in the Garden of Eden we see a peaceful orderliness, at least at the beginning between God, creation and humankind. In the final chapters of Revelation we read of that same orderliness; the lake is like glass because there is no turbulence or chaos left to bring disorder to God's ordered ways. “No one to make waves” we might say!

 

Now if you agree with me so far, be careful, because today’s Word may just “rock your boat”. For while we affirm the truths of the creation story and John’s Revelation, they take place in a world in which God is fully worshiped and obeyed. So I am going to suggest to you this morning that in a broken world such as the one in which we live, any imperfect order humanity tries to create will be met by a chaos initiated by God. For while we often think of God as the divine source of order and stability, in truth the Bible gives us more of a picture of God’s interruptions and the resultant changes with which we must deal with. Just as a parent interrupts routines that are not working within their families, and makes changes in order to bring about a more lasting harmony, so too our God of order often has to interrupt our set ways in order to bring us closer to shalom; the peace and the order and the well-being he has in store for us in the new heaven and the new earth.

 

So let me suggest an immediate application to this idea as we gather on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Tell me something, what is on your mind these days? Is it not Christmas, and all the preparations you need to accomplish in order to have a well-ordered celebration?

-maybe today you’ve already decided to go and get that Christmas

tree,

-maybe this week you’ll begin your cookie baking because Saturday

you want to bring lots of cookies for our live Nativity event!

-maybe this week you're hoping to get some gift shopping done.

Maybe some of you have already started that, having taken

advantage of the early bird specials. If so then, maybe you're all set to go to the post office this week and mail those

packages to those you cannot be with this year.

Think about all the things we do in order to make sure that our Christmas celebration goes as smoothly as it can. But is that what God wants for your life?

 

Consider this perspective, God's first Advent; that is, Jesus’ birth into this world was anything but a smooth, orderly and expected event. It was an intrusion, was it not, into what had been normal in that day and time? Rome was the occupying force in the land, and the Jewish people were looking for their Messiah to come and initiate change in the status quo. In order to keep the peace and to raise money, Roman officials called for a headcount; a census that would give them a better assessment of the people they controlled, and the kind of taxes they could collect to support the ongoing campaigns of Rome. But as we know from "the story" proclaimed in the Gospels, the time was right and God intruded into their "everyday", to begin his greatest changes; to carry out his plan of salvation and to plant the seed of the Kingdom of God.

 

The Scripture passage we read this morning, describing Jesus Second Coming may seem out of place for Christmas time, but in fact it is a very appropriate passage to begin the Advent season because it reminds us that Advent, either God’s first Advent we call “Christmas”, or His Second Advent we refer to as “Jesus’ Second Coming”, are not about keeping traditions, but rather they are about the intrusion of God into our lives so that our lives are changed. 

And my prayer for all of us over the next four weeks is that we will not strive to keep things the same; rather, we will allow God to intrude upon our traditions and our sense of "normal" and "ordered" so that we might be changed by God's salvation.

 

SS: In short, today's reading from Luke 21 proclaims God's Second Advent so that we can better understand his First Advent as a means of grabbing our attention and focusing us on God’s work of salvation.

 

TS: Today I ask you to keep in mind that Advent is the opposite of what most people treat it as; for rather than being the beginning to something familiar, it is God’s interruption of the norm to bring us to salvation.

 

 

 

 

Today’s Word describing Jesus’ Second Advent also remind us that

1. As hard as we try, humanity cannot “keep it together”; orderliness and “shalom” are not the byproducts of a sin-filled world. God has to interrupt our present chaos to initiate a new heaven and new earth.

 

Luke 21:25-26

 25"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 

 

As I grew up in the church hearing and reading this passage read, I often understood these words as the beginning of God's activities. But the older I got and the more attuned to the brokenness of our world I became, the more I viewed the events described in these verses as the byproducts of our sin and the effect that human sin has had upon creation. Because the phrase "on the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea" is followed by a description of human terror and apprehension about what tomorrow will bring, I see all of these descriptions as a byproduct of a humanity that has chosen to live selfishly rather than self-less-ly. When I used to read about "the roaring and tossing of the sea" I used to think symbolically about the chaos of this world and the belief that was common in biblical days that unsettled waters represented evil and chaos. But again as I grew up and the concerns of our world became my concerns I can now imagine "the roaring and tossing in the sea" as a literal description of life on earth whether caused by a tsunami or as some theorize, a byproduct of environmental changes.

But whatever the interpretation, these verses proclaim a reality with which we have to come to grips; that humanity on its own cannot solve its problems. On our own we can try to minimize our impact on the environment, we can develop warning systems for tsunamis, we can even dream of deep space missile technology that can deflect an asteroid threatening earth, we can even do our diplomatic best to bring peace to warring people. But the truth is we cannot solve the problems caused by our own sinfulness; we cannot solve the social and environmental destruction it brings to this world; we cannot solve the terror and anguish that fills our hearts. And that is why the cross is central to our faith, for is only by God's intervention; his Advent…. his physical interruption into this world as a baby who grew up to die on the cross to save us from sin, that we receive salvation.

Luke 21:27-28

27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 

 

 

 

When God interrupts our world he does so to do what we cannot do on our own; He interrupts to save us. He did so when Jesus was born and he will again when Jesus returns. 

 

 

 

Today’s Word describing Jesus’ Second Advent also remind us that

2. God’s interruptions inform us that He is not only a living God but an active God as well.

We are not alone. While many people choose to live as if there is no God; having a hope that is limited by human achievement and a faith that is based, at best, in human responsibility, our hope and faith are in a God; a God who has chosen to reveal himself in creation and in relationship with humanity through faithful people. He is now manifesting himself to the world through the church; the fellowship of all who live by faith in Jesus Christ and are empowered by his Spirit. 

It is by such faith that we are able to see that God is alive and active. It is through faith that our eyes will be opened to see the signs of his Second Advent not as catastrophe but as a blessed interruption from God that will dramatically change heaven and earth.

 

The Apostle Paul describes the ability of the faithful to see what others cannot see in: 

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

 6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written: 

   "No eye has seen, 

      no ear has heard, 

   no mind has conceived 

   what God has prepared for those who love him" — 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

 

Not only does the Spirit of God reveal to the faithful what others cannot see, but the Holy Spirit also empowers the faithful to stand firm amid the chaos of life. We find this described earlier in Luke 21:

Luke 21:12-15

12"But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

 

By His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, we will be empowered to see the truth and declare the truth. The Holy Spirit will, as Jesus promised, remind us of all he taught us, including the heavenly truths He conveyed in His parables: 

Luke 21:29-31

 29He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 

 32"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 

 

Jesus taught His disciples that when the time comes for his Second Advent, there will be signs in the heaven and on the earth that will encourage those who are looking for him. Just as a gardener can learn of greater things to come by observing small changes in his garden so too will people of faith understand what is coming when they live with eyes of faith.

 

Verse 32 is a verse that has been studied perhaps more than 99% of other verses in the Bible;

32"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away 

until all these things have happened.

What did Jesus mean by "this generation". 

- Some interpreters would have you believe that even as Jesus declared that the Father had not revealed to Him the timing of His return, that Jesus was expecting to return to Earth shortly after his resurrection and ascension. However, the commissioning Jesus gave to his disciples to “go into all the world”, and his warning that some would die because of their faith in him, seemed to contradict this interpretation.

- Others have suggested that "generation" might also be translated "race"; meaning that the Jewish race would not pass from this earth before Jesus Second Advent. That seems to make sense, yet we lacked evidence that such a translation is a good one.

- But the interpretation I appreciate the most is actually the simplest; that's "this generation" does not refer to the generation to whom he is speaking but rather to that generation which will observe the signs in the heavens and on the earth. (Bock, Darrell, Luke: NIV Application Commentary, 1996. p. 538-9)

 

While the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke speaks of events that will be experienced by his first disciples, in true prophetic form Jesus words speak both to his present day as well as to the future.

 

God is alive and well and active, empowering Jesus’ disciples to stand their ground under persecution and guiding the minds and heart of the faithful generation that will witness Jesus’ return amid worldly & heavenly changes.

 

Finally, today’s Word describing Jesus’ Second Advent also remind us that

3.  God wants us to see that while His interruptions will frighten others they are to be our signs of hope.

 

Earlier we read:

Luke 21:27-28

27At that time they will see the Son of an coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

But now Jesus gets more practical:

Luke 21:34-36

 34"Be careful, or our hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

 

God wants us not only to be ready for his coming but to discover hope amid the chaos of life; even as the world is perplexed and filled with anxiety, terror and apprehension. When we trust in God we can have hope. 

God does not want us cowering in a corner for hiding under a desk with our heads between her knees and our hands over our heads like I remember doing during elementary school civil defense drills. 

God wants His faithful children who, through prayer and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to “stand” fully aware that their Savior is coming; coming to change things dramatically… to replace what we know today as Heaven and Earth with a New Heaven and a New Earth.

- Now that’s bad news for people trying to maintain the status quo. but

- It is great news for all who have set their hearts and minds 

on the Kingdom of God!

 

Can you imagine that day? When the earth becomes an unstable environment and even the heavens give evidence of instability, can you imagine the fright that will fill people’s hearts? Already Hollywood is toying with those emotions in the Movie “2012”, based upon a false premise about the Mayan Calendar. The movie presupposes earthly changes caused by solar flames that heat the earth’s core which leads to ocean uproar and earthquakes and reconfigured land masses. 

Others have commentated that in many ways the “2012” is an anti-Christian film, promoting the failure of prayer & faith and salvation from God, as it depicts a salvation make possible by science & human effort.

In many ways “2012” gives just the opposite message that we hear from God’s word today; a false message that looking to God leads only to destruction, and that your only hope is found in human ingenuity. 

Reference:   http://www.december212012.info/  Father Robert Barron debunks “2012” 

 

But remember this morning’s Word; if you trust in Jesus and in God’s word of promise, these dramatic heavenly & earthly changes will fill you with the hope of Jesus’ coming in power and justice.

 

We will stand before Jesus, and not faint, if we trust in God’s salvation. But to be ready to do that, we must trust in Him today.. amid whatever chaos fills your present world. For when we trust in Him now, and find Him faithful now, then, when tomorrow comes with even greater concerns you will know of a God who actively interrupts our normal everyday lives with His salvation. This is the blessing of walking with Jesus today.

Fred Craddock tells of a person who, in a time of crisis, reached down but had no resources upon which to draw: 

I went to see a lady in our church who was facing surgery. I went to see her in the hospital. She had never been in the hospital before, and the surgery was major. I walked in there and immediately saw that she was a nervous wreck. She started crying. She wanted me to pray with her, which I did. By her bed was a stack of books and magazines: True Love, Mirror, Hollywood Today, stuff about Elizabeth Taylor and folk. She just had a stack of them there, and she was a wreck. It occurred to me, there's not a calorie in that whole stack to help her through her experience. She had no place to dip down into a reservoir and come up with something a word, a phrase, a thought, an idea, a memory, a person. Just empty. 

Craddock then reflects:

How marvelous is the life of the person who, like a wise homemaker, when the berries and fruits and vegetables are ripe, puts them away in jars and cans in the cellar. Then when the ground is cold, icy, and barren and nothing seems alive, she goes down into the cellar, comes up, and it's May and June at her family's table. How blessed is that person. 

(Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, edited by Mike Graves & Richard F. Ward, Chalice Press, 2001, p. 30.) 

 

As we prepare to celebrate a Christmas with all the traditions that make us comfortable, why not seek instead what God offers; an interruption of the norm that fills us with hope. 

If you find yourself in a difficult place this day; struggling financially, emotionally, physically, psychologically, then hear God’s Word for you today.

“May I have your attention, please? 

Trust in me for I will see you through your trials: 

for I interrupt your normal life to bring you salvation.”

 

Welcome Jesus into your life now… give Him your heart so that His Spirit can interrupt your life regularly to do some “house-cleaning” and some faith-building. Allow God to make you a temple of His Spirit, so that when Jesus comes you will look up and rejoice as you stand for the Coming King. AMEN.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (r).

Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved