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Signs of the Times

November 13, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 21:5–28

The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

November 13, 2022

Luke 21:5-28

 “Signs of the Times”

If you watch movies at all, whether streaming at home or in the theater, you know that there are lots and lots of apocalyptic films as well as entire series out there. The basic premise in most of these is that there has been some cataclysmic disaster causing massive global destruction with terrible loss of life, plunging the world into chaos and confusion,. But there are a few survivors left who have to figure out how to live in this strange new world where everything is a threat to their very existence. Why do we have such a fascination with all of this? Sure, we want to be entertained, but perhaps deep within us is a fear that this is not so far-fetched after all. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel lesson conjure up frightening images: great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, terrors and great signs from heaven. As Jesus tells us, these are signs that will precede his coming again, and to be sure, they are unsettling and scary. But the final verse in the Gospel lesson casts everything in a different light; one that is not cringing in fear and foreboding, but abounding in hope: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 5:28). For the child of God, that changes everything. In Jesus, we know how the story ends. On this second-to-last Sunday of the church year with its emphasis on the end of all things and the promise of Christ’s coming again, based on Jesus’ words in the Gospel lesson, the message is entitled, “Signs of the Times.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

So what are the signs of the times today? Following Election Day last week, prognosticators and pundits are having a field day in theorizing what the future of our country will now be. Depending on who you talk to, we are doomed to a future that will be a dismal failure or one that is bright with promise. But can we see beyond the immediate, short-term to what is lasting and eternal? That is what Jesus is calling us to do.  In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus reveals to his disciples that the beautiful temple and city of Jerusalem would be reduced to rubble, which must have shocked the disciples to their core. The future of Jerusalem, as Jesus made clear, was going to be terrible with destruction and death. And that came to fulfillment in 70 A.D. when the temple and city were destroyed by the Romans. That was the immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words, but there is a larger fulfillment yet to come that concerns not just Jerusalem, but the entire world; all of creation. We have not yet seen those signs of the times that herald the coming of the Son of Man: signs in sun and moon and stars; people in distress, fainting with fear and foreboding because of what is coming on the world; the powers of the heavens shaken. Because we have not yet seen these signs does not mean that they will not take place. Let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. The Lord is true to his Word. At the right time, the God-appointed time, all of this will happen.  

In the midst of all this, Jesus calls his people not just to observe the signs of the times, but to be signs of the times. In the midst of such upheaval and uncertainty, even persecution, the very lives of Christ’s people will become a living witness to Jesus: This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:13-19). That has not changed over the centuries. We are still called to be signs of the times; shining with Jesus’ light and love in the midst of a world overrun by greed, selfishness, intolerance, violence, exploitation, and every other sin that separates us from God and one another. In our own place and time at present, we may not face the threat of open persecution for Jesus’ sake as others do in other places. Because of our Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are all called to be witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection both with our lips as well as with our lives.

No one knows what the future holds. Sometimes we wish that we did. But would we then be paralyzed with fear, knowing what’s coming? Will there be good days or bad days? Will there be times of prosperity or adversity? We wonder. The good news is that even if we do know what the future holds, we know and trust the One who holds the future. The One who holds the future is the One who loves us and gave his life on the cross for us, dying for us so that we might live for him. This One is Jesus who suffered, died, and rose again so that we might be his now and forever. This saving truth has real life relevance for the here and now. Because of this saving truth, come what may, our future is secure, no matter what. It is as Paul the apostle writes: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39). Because of this, even in the midst of adversity, loss, suffering and pain, we are able to do as Jesus said; to stand up, lift up our heads, knowing and believing with all our hearts, that our redemption is indeed drawing near because our Redeemer is drawing near.

While we wait and watch for Jesus’ coming again, we observe and pay attention to the signs of the times that are all around us. But we do so not in paralyzing fear and distress, but in confident faith and trust that all of this will give way to our risen, reigning and returning Lord Jesus Christ, who loves us, who gave himself for us, and who is coming again to take us to be with him forever. Because of this, we remain steadfast, abounding in hope. Because of this we straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Amen.

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