Sermon Pentecost 24C Sunday November 7, 2010. Ocean Forest Thank you for life, God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 16-17 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. There is a lot to worry about when thinking about the future. I think even as Christians who know how things will end we struggle at times to view a hope-filled, God-filled future.
Nowhere does this struggle come upon us than when our future is personally threatened – be it in a financial threat, a status/employment threat, a threat to our children or grandchildren, a tragic death of a friend, and most of all, a threat to our own bodies through serious health issues or an injury by accident or the like… But, most potent a challenge to faith in God’s promise of life forever in him is the threat of death – to another or ourselves. We have had such a tragic brush with death these last two weeks. A beautiful little baby boy named Tyrone died – probably a cot death. I went into the Primary school class of which the little baby’s older sister is a member. She bravely told the class what had happened over the weekend. There were tears and there was such sadness.
We lit a candle and we read the word – “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them for there is the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them. How precious are these little ones – precious in God’s sight, says Jesus. The little grade one girl is being so brave. She is trusting that her little brother is indeed in Jesus’ arms. Then many of our community have been shocked by the tragic loss of Darren Strudwick, a fit, positive colleague and family and well known and loved by many in the cycling and mining community and here in our school/church community. If only we could this child-like grade 1 faith more often; that simple but profound trust in God’s word for now and the future. Paul urges this simple faith as he writes to a community of people who have obviously been shaken up by trouble and those who have played on their anxieties about the resurrection to life on the final day. He keeps it very simple. We might think simplistic? 1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…. Somehow, someone has been telling people in church in Thessalonica that they have missed the boat on God’s promised future of life. Part of the community have been duped into believing that this great promised resurrection Jesus spoke of has already happened and they did not make the cut! It sounds a bit naïve to us. How could anyone believe this?” we ask. Well, how can anyone believe any “out there” message like this? I might be easier than we think. There are plenty of “out there” messengers in our day too. How about the Mormons? How about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the many Eastern/New age strands of spirituality – particularly Scientology? How about some who speak of the future in the name of Jesus? Of course, God gifts some of his people to see future things and hopefully their message encourages and strengthens faith in God’s promises to never leave or forsake us and be there now and at the end. But so many have very “out-there” messages of gloom and doom and strange belief for the future. Planets, prejudice, even hatred, space-ships, stars, thousands of wives…..these are all mentioned in the many “out-there” messages… We can and sometimes do fall for them. Given the right conditions, we can fall for anything, it seems. The right amount of anxiety and fear of unknown cultures and people, an appealing message of self-improvement and victory over our fears, the right mix of prejudice and even hatred at times, a dob of moralism and elitism, and hey presto: out goes the simple trust in Jesus’ word on living, dying and rising again, and in comes a huge variety of warped but appealing beliefs about the same.
Paul knows this. All he can do is appeal to what he has already shared with this community and exhort them to hang on to that which they originally trusted to be good and truthful and real.
….God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. Friends, this message is for us as we ponder the future and the world as we hear and see it now. The fundamental truth is that we have already been called by God through the death and rising of Jesus of Nazareth for a purpose that he will bring to completion in his time. Paul declares this…..
14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has given you your future in your past and you live in the present in this gift of life. In baptism the Spirit of Jesus resurrected you in power and set you on a course for a known future – a future that we can trust.
Our life in Christ is linear. We are heading somewhere, not just going around in an endless meaningless circle of life. We have a beginning and an end and He is in this – the “Alpha and the Omega”, as St John hears Jesus being named. It is clear from the Word that God will bring this world to its end in his time and will. Christian faith says that the end is in God’s hands. No one knows the hour or the day. So, even though the church has sometimes got very sidetracked trying to “do a Nostradamus” and declare an end date for the world, this is far beyond any human being’s authority and quite foolish. So, whether or not there are dangerous conspiracies going on in the world, or great natural forces at play or UFO’s or other life-forms on other planets in this massive universe or not, God began this and he will bring it to its completion in his way and time and his will is one of grace and love for human beings. He has proven this in the giving of his Son for the world – the “sacrificial Lamb of God who now takes away the sin of the world” so that it shares in the promised new Jerusalem and new heaven and new earth when this old one passes away. Paul is urging us to stick to this and leave these things in the good and trustworthy hands of the Lord. There is good reason for this. If we delve into things that we cannot know and certainly cannot control, we get sidetracked from what we are being called to be and do – work with the Spirit of Christ to make God’s kingdom come on this earth – to participate in God’s mission to “bring all things under Christ” so that “none may be lost” – in other words, to love the stranger, the oppressed, the different, the needy, the lost, the loved in the name of Jesus and in his mighty love. The Faith of Job (Job 19:26-27)…… And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Amen.