Letting Go of our Creations

2019-11-17 – Year C – Proper 28 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas Malachi 3:13-4:6; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-16; Luke 21:5-19

Lord show us what it means to be faithful to your word. Show us how to walk as examples of your love and grace in the world. Prepare us for such a moment as this to shine bright our love for you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

This Sunday the passages point us to a time of suffering, doubting, persecution, and turning away from God. The Malachi passage speaks of God’s people doubting whether they should follow God if others are prospering even in evil ways. Some grumble turn aside from following God and see others prosper despite there dishonesty and evil ways. 

How often do you desire to give up honesty and upright actions in the midst of your everyday life? How often do you get discouraged watching others advance through dishonest methods? I probably say this a million times to my kids but there are abundant opportunities to be dishonest, side step the truth, gossip, and choose the wrong way. 

Learning how to be honest, choose the good, holy, and upright takes practice and God sees our feeble attempts at choosing holiness and chooses us. The passage of Malachi gives us hope that as we stumble towards God rather than turn away from Him, he sees, hears, and remembers us. 

I have a friend from Pittsburgh who is a Canon in the diocese of Pittsburgh and she wrote about an opportunity in her life to be dishonest in her work. She is a licensed counselor and runs her own business. 

Tax time came and she had to report her income because she worked alone she was the only person to know her real income. There came a moment when she realized she could lie about her income and save a lot of money in taxes since she was barely scraping by. As she sat with the decision she realized that if she did this one wrong thing many more wrong things would probably follow. 

She made the choice to live upright even though it would literally cost her greatly because she didn’t want to become the kind of person she would if she started down this road. God saw her honesty and provided for her just what she would need. 

When we cling to Jesus and God’s ways we become chosen ones like sons and daughters of the most high king. We become like treasured possessions that are spared and kept safe and protected. We are fought for, cared for, and loved greatly. 

The day will come when God brings about judgment, fury, and correction for the world. We do not want to be on the receiving end of ruin and destruction. All of our days are going to pass away and we will die like the grass and wither like a flower. Who we choose in this life does matter. Whether you are on the way to Jesus or not matters for the rest of eternity. 

If you are here and have ears to hear please consider giving more of your life to Jesus, consider drawing near to him and discovering how to live a more holy life. God’s ways are good and will leave your life more peaceful and will give you more direction.  

Despite the initial doom and gloom overtones there is great hope in the midst of great suffering and for those who put their trust in the Lord. The Old Testament passage and the Gospel point us to the reality that everything that is physical will pass away. I think it is hard for us to imagine that all the physical things that we invest ourselves in will pass away. 

In the Gospel today Jesus is pointing out that the temple that the Jews were so enamored with and so impressed with will pass away. This seems easy for us to imagine today because we know that the temple was destroyed. Remember when Notre Dame caught fire and blazed? Remember how the whole world stopped and watched horrified. Once the blaze was under control people flooded into the streets in mourning. This is how it would be when the temple was destroyed, sheer shock, and horror. 

However to put this into terms that we can understand think about the physical places you invest yourself in. What about your home, perhaps you work hard to fix, build, maintain, or cultivate a place of beauty? How much money, time, and resources do you give to this? What about your church?

 Do you invest your time and energy in fixing, cleaning, or making this place warm and hospitable? What about a business? Have you worked hard in your adult years and cultivated a thriving business, do you have people who work for you? These things our home, church, and businesses are physical places that will eventually fall away. 

In our last home we moved into our house at the same time that an elderly woman across the street had died. Her house sat empty without anyone attending it. In a short amount of time the roof got a hole in it and every time it rained or snowed the water leaked in and soaked the whole building. Within a few years we could see through the windows that the walls were bowing in and the ceilings were collapsing. The house was eventually torn down in a matter of five years. Just a few short years before someone had been tending to this home, living in it, washing the windows, and caring for the yard. By the time we moved it was gone and the lot leveled. 

Jesus reminds us today in the Gospel passage that we need to walk through this life with a godly perspective. The physical things that we cling to, use to identify ourselves, and become emotionally attached to will fade away. Does that mean we do not invest ourselves in them? No, we still need to give of ourselves to work, creating beauty, and building businesses or churches. 

The Epistle lesson today speaks of the importance of hard work, “For we hear some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” The apostles are encouraging the church in Thessalonica to be diligent workers providing for their needs just as they have done for themselves. 

We are not to be idle as it encourages us to get involved in things that are not good for us. If we remain idle some of us wander onto computers and phones looking at and reading things we shouldn’t. If we remain idle some of us gossip, speak ill of others, or compare ourselves to others. If we remain idle and expect others to provide for us we take on an air of entitlement, we begin to expect others to give us what we need or want.  

However it’s our perspective that Jesus longs to change. Once when my son was about three years old he had spent about an hour building an incredible duplo block creation. His little sister crawled over and began to pull at his buildings. He exploded with anger and frustration. When I mentioned that it was time for lunch and therefore clean up time which meant taking his building down and putting it away he was beside himself with anger and rage. 

I sat on the floor with my son trying to help him understand that God desires for us to give ourselves to work and creativity, and to also let go of that which we create. It is so tempting in this life to cling to physical things we can see, touch, and experience. Jesus showed me in that moment that I am not all that different. How many times do you catch yourself snapping at someone who has interrupted you? How many times do you grow impatient for not being able to get a project done? How many times do you judge another person for not doing what you think they should be doing?

 Jesus calls us to cling to the eternal. He reminds us today that there will come a time of persecution, suffering, and calamity. Each and every one of us has or will have a time in our life when we will suffer or experience loss. If you have walked in this world even for a short time you can experience pain, suffering, loneliness, and fear. It is apart of our walk on this side of the cross.

 Life with Jesus however says we will not be alone or abandoned but rather have what we need for the moment. Being a follower of Jesus means seeking him out in our lives and asking him what does he want us to learn. Everything that happens in your life can teach you something about the ways of Jesus. He will not abandon you in your time of need, and if you cultivate a life of listening to him then you will know his voice when He speaks. 

In the Gospel passage today Jesus is talking to the disciples and about what is going to come next, and like so many of us they respond with, “So what’s it going to look like? What will be the signs that it is coming?” The disciples want to know just what it will look like before they have to go through something hard, and if they were honest, it’s probably so they could run away, hide, or lessen there pain in some way. We are not designed as humans to long for suffering. We are not designed to run into severe pain willingly, if we are all honest none of us long for a painful and debilitating season of life. 

The disciples are missing the point and Jesus so lovingly tries to move them back to what he is trying to teach them. Jesus encourages them not to be led astray, do not be distracted by false teachings. If someone tries to tell you when the end is near or that by watching signs they know something is going to happen, “Do not listen!” No person on earth can know the mind of God and what will happen when. 

Be careful who you follow and what you listen too, always think critically about what you are taking in. Try to analyze what position the person is coming from and what they are trying to accomplish in their teaching. Ask yourself if you will become a more godly person by listening to their position and adopting their ways. Try to look at the fruit of the teachers ways and see if it is fruit you want in your own life. 

We listen to a financial advisor named Dave Ramsey and he always says don’t take advice from a poor guy on how you should spend your money. Listen to teachers whose lives demonstrate godly values and godly ways. If you read your bible daily and faithfully you will know the difference between good and evil. The Bible truly is our road map in this life and can be applied to so many people who lead and teach various topics.

Jesus then reminds his followers to not be afraid despite wars, natural disasters, and terrifying things happening. Jesus loves his people so much that he is like a good mother or father who doesn’t want their child to be afraid and instead embraces them to comfort them. 

Jesus promises them that the end will not all be at once but over time. We can not look at the wars or impeding political climate and intuit when God is going to step in. The Lord has His own timing and we are to draw close to him and become more like him in time. 

If we focus on becoming a people who give thanks, turn from evil, and follow after the ways of God, then we will be ready to act in whatever way God sees fit for us. We will be more ready to respond to the pressures of our life and the potential seasons of suffering with grace. Over the years the Lord has blessed me with so many examples of godly men and women who have lived lives of trust, singular focus on Jesus, and peaceful faith. I am forever grateful and I pray that with my broken, often failing life will turn someone to the love of the Lord. 

Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples that some of them will be arrested handed over by family and stand before kings and governors for His name sake. Jesus prepares them once again that following him means taking up their cross. The way of the cross is not easy, it is not pain free, or without difficulty but God promises to be there. He encourages them not to worry about what they will say but rather know that God will place the words in their mouths and people will be overcome with truth and wisdom. 

The authorities will not be able to contradict that which is spoken in godliness. God fearing people who give their lives to the study of the word and seek to live out their lives in godliness will speak words of grace in times of persecution. 

A friend of mine in South Carolina is a priest and one day he was walking outside the church when he was suddenly accosted by a man with a gun. The man walked him back to his office, tied him up on the floor, and robbed him. He then proceeded to ask my priest friend why he shouldn’t shoot him in the head. My friend paused and talked about how his children and wife would deeply grieve him. The Lord had literally placed these words in his mouth. The gunmen then turned and fled. My friend knew and loved the Lord and he sought Him out everyday. God cares for his people and knew what the robber needed to hear. 

You are not alone, you are loved and cared for by God. Jesus promises in his own words to be with them and that by their own endurance they will gain their lives. Our true lives, our true selves can only be found in Jesus. Everything else we try to put on or identify ourselves by is really a parody of ourselves. Jesus gives us our true selves, the ones that can stand up after great defeat and call Him good. Our true selves were made for worship with Him and made to pour ourselves out for others.

There is no need for masks, cover-ups, or the dressing up of ourselves before God. We can be real, whole, messy, and hopeful. For when we lose our life then we will find it. 

The Chrisitan walk is one of valleys and hills, one of struggle and hope. As we set our eyes on Jesus and walk closely with him we become more like him. We become less defensive, more kind, more thoughtful, and more willing to help. 

The way of the cross may bring with it persecution, fear, war, or calamity but God will be there. Jesus will direct your steps, open your mouth, and breath wisdom into your heart and life. You will not be alone but rather come alive in a way you never knew possible. So may you go from this place today encouraged to draw near to him in a new way. May you seek out ways to know Him more so that when your time comes to suffer you will do so with a heart turned towards Jesus. And may you be strengthened for the walk that Jesus has for you. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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