Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 21:5-19
November 18, 2001
The images this morning are a matched set. Jesus speaks of tearing down the securities of this world and Isaiah speaks of creating a new world where there will not be any harm.
In these days in America since September 11th we have been feeling the tearing down part of the Bible. Jesus talks about that which gets admired in this world. Basically that is money and might. Jesus says that what is most admired will be knocked down.
We have experienced the knocking down of money in the symbol of the World Trade Towers. We have experienced the knocking down of might in the symbol of the Pentagon.
These are nearly exact parallels to what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the Temple being torn down.
When we feel our foundations shake with knocking down of our sources of security it feels like everything has come loose. Jesus goes on to pile on image after image that lets us know we are not in charge of life. "Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Huge earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines, You'll think at times that the very sky is falling." ... "You'll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There is no telling who will hate you because of [your following my commands to love GOD, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, to love one another, and, most radically Christian, to love your enemy]."
When we hear these words of Jesus we now just nod our heads and, "Yep. That's the way it is. We must be coming to the end of this world. It's breaking up. What we thought secure is no longer secure."
It would be very easy to get discouraged in the middle of airplanes falling out of the sky. Last Friday Brenda, my beloved, and Deborah, the chairperson of our Administrative Council, were flying to Atlanta. I was just coming home from an excellent workshop on worship and heard the news that someone at the Atlanta airport ran a security checkpoint and that they had not yet caught him so they shut the airport down and were doing the same for flights to Atlanta. I hadn't stored the flight information in my head, so I didn't know where Brenda and Deborah might be in the midst of this event.
It would be very easy, given the confusion and terror that Jesus talks about to get very scared about what this meant for Brenda and Deborah and myself and others as well. I know there are folks who are easily scared about these days.
However I think it is important to listen to the whole story and not just stop part way through, at the scary part.
Jesus does go on to say that even in the middle of the scariest part of life when all sorts of unknowns are present regarding a beloved and a friend there is a larger truth at work.
Hear again what Jesus says after describing the terror of his day -- "Even so, every detail of your body and soul--even the hairs of your head--is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it--that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved."
It is my hope that you can hear that part of our faith very strongly in these days. No matter how uncertain is our life and no matter how difficult is our life and no matter how scared we get -- everything about us in in the care of a loving GOD.
Julian of Norwich put this the best of anyone I know. "All will be well again, all manner of things will be well."
Once we begin to catch the shift from terror to wellness we will be able to see it ever more clearly.
The imagery of Isaiah comes into play here with the words of Isaiah. God is, right now, in the middle of terror, creating a new heaven and a new earth. The scary books about the end of time that are all the rage these days are really beside the point. The larger truth is that GOD is asking us to celebrate and be glad forever for there will be no more crying or sorrow when the old securities are knocked down. What will happen is that the blessings of long life and fruitful work will be available to everyone. Health care for all will be real and there will be no more dead-end jobs where we just put in more and more of our time leading us to less and less meaning or security.
Can you imagine prayers being answered before they are finished being prayed? Can you imagine wolves and lambs and lions and cattle living in harmony? Can you imagine no more hurt or harm? GOD says this is the picture of the future which is most true.
While it seems a big jump from toppled towers knocking down our sense of security to mounting a mountain of shalom, we are asked to look for every opportunity to be persistent in this vision.
Where in our current life can we catch a glimpse of this new way of living?
You know that we recently put on new roofs to our church facility. It cost $27,000. We need to rejoice that folks could have said, "See, it's just like Jesus said, we have been bad people and so our Temple is being knocked down. Can we really stay afloat as a congregation with such small numbers and such a big problem? Why don't we just give up?"
Well, I must commend you for following the full story of Jesus. As we gather here this morning we have had almost $20,000 come in as a result of our appeal. This is more than I expected. Is it more than you expected?
Beyond that one of our members has offered us a no-interest loan to be able to pay off the difference.
I claim this to be a sign of what Jesus called Holy Persistence. Knowing that the hairs of our head are cared for we have been bold to think there is purpose for the rest of us here on the Northside of La Crosse. We have not given in to a downturn in the market and a leaky roof.
Now we are called to share this good news with others.
The good news is that the scare of terror can be laughed at. As we learn in a new movie called Monsters, Inc. we find that laughter has much more energy than screams.
Brenda and Deborah have been heard from, they are OK, as of last night. Our roof has been repaired, it is OK, as of last night. You and I can still see the Mountain of Peace beyond the Terror-Toppled Temple, we are OK, now and forever.
So let's laugh at death because we know the rest of the story -- resurrection.
Repeat after me:
Copyright 2001. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.