November 17,2013, Pentecost 26 – This Is Not the End
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There are events that hit us really hard, things that strike at the core of who we are. 9/11 was like that – we remember where we were when we heard, how we felt. What if it had been the White House that was destroyed – or all of NYC? Imagine the terror and confusion and grief and anger that would have followed.
That is the kind of event Jesus was talking about in the passage today. People commenting on the Temple, noble stones and offerings, etc. and he warned them that within their lifetime the whole thing would be destroyed,. It hit harder than anything we can imagine, bec. the Temple had been at the center of who they were for 1000 years and now Jesus was telling them that not one stone would be left on top of another.
Josephus, who lived at the time, described it —
So terrible they thought it must be a sign of the end of the world
But Jesus told them it wasn’t the end, that they had to be patient, and even more, that they would have to persevere through much more, imprisonment and persecution and betrayal and even death.
The horrible thing is that the world is so full of destruction and sorrow that we sometimes even get used to hearing about it, we tune it out, until it happens to us, like it did at the World Trade Center. Then we are shaken, and at times like that, like the Jews in Jerusalem there are people who begin to say that it’s a sign of the end.
It happens on a personal level, too, when we experience a loss that is so devastating we can’t imagine our lives going on anymore. A death, or a bad diagnosis, or a betrayal by someone we trusted – we feel that our world at least is coming to an end.
The thing is that loss and destruction and betrayal belong firmly to this world. Wars and famines and pain and death are manifestations of the broken creation, part of this world since Adam and Eve took the fruit from the wrong tree. But the real sign of the end is healing. The end, the Day of the Lord that the prophets are always going on about is not about loss or destruction. The end is not where we lose everything – the end is where everything is made right and good and whole again at long, long last.
That’s why Paul wrote to the church in Rome that the whole creation is groaning, like a woman in childbirth, just waiting and waiting to be set free from its slavery to death and decay.
The end is not about loss at all and that is why after Jesus warned the disciples that they would be betrayed and imprisoned and some of them would even be put to death, he said the strangest thing – not a hair of your heads will perish.
The prophet Malachi wrote about the Day of the Lord “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings” and then the next part of the verse, that we didn’t quite get to in the lectionary, says, “You shall leap like calves out of their stalls.”
The story of Rosie
The real end is that kind of joy, the utter joy of freedom. The amazingly good news is that the end has already begun.
Do you remember – JBap in prison – are you the One? Tell John what you have seen – blind see, lame walk, etc The sign that Jesus was the One God had sent to redeem the world is that destruction and death started to unravel – the prisoners were set free, the blind received their sight and the deaf could hear again, and the lame could leap for joy like a calf out of her stall.
Because when God came into his creation it was for the purpose of making it whole again.
Important for us to know because we are the people of God, we are the physical presence of Jesus Christ in the world, his business is our business – we have no other ministry than the ministry of Christ. We are in the healing and restoration business. The last few weeks the Vestry has been making a budget for the church, and as we plan and prioritize there is nothing more important for us to remember – more important than balancing the figures or paying the bills – nothing more important than the ministry he has given us to the world around us: We have no other purpose than his purpose, which is the healing of the whole creation, one person at a time, one kind word at a time, one act of mercy at a time. We are the bearers of his invitation: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden” “Come, all who are broken or discouraged, sick or wounded” “Come, all who are held captive” “Come and find healing, because the end has already begun.” And the end will be the undoing of all undoing, the death of death, and the setting right of all wrongs. The sun of righteousness has risen with healing in his wings.