Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28C

Track 1: The Peaceable Kingdom

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

God has promised us blessings far beyond this world. We read in the Book of Isaiah:

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.   (Isaiah 65:17-18)

The new earth prophesied by Isaiah stands out in stark contrast to our current earth:

No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord —
and their descendants as well.   (Isaiah 65:20-23)

We know that our current life on earth falls far short of what we can imagine that it should be. There must be a better life coming. This longing opens a door to potential deception. Governments, politician, and even certain churches tells us that if we follow them, we will have a utopia on earth. Do we believe them?

The Apostle Paul writes that we should set aside this notion:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  (Romans 8:18-23)

We are under the bondage of decay because of our disobedience to God. Only God can set us free. His promise to us is that he will. Are we ready for his peaceful kingdom?

Isaiah prophesied:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.   (Isaiah 65:25)

The Peaceful Kingdom or political utopia? One of these is a lie. If we are talking about this present age without the intervention of God, then we will see no peace. This does not stop people from promising peace if we do what they say. Though the false promises have never worked, it has not stopped politicians from making them.

It is not just the politicians who are making false promises. Many churches are preaching Dominion Theology – that is to say that Christians will have power and authority over all aspects of life. This supposedly will occur before the second coming of Jesus.

Jesus did not forecast this to happen. In fact, it is just the opposite. From the Gospel of Matthew:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”   (Matthew 10:34-36)

From today’s Gospel reading in Luke:

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.   (Luke 21:5-11)

In the last age we will see these things take place. In fact, they are already taking place.

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”   (Luke 21:12-19)

The poem of William Alexander Percy, written in 1924, contains these lines:

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–
The marvelous peace of God.

This marvelous peace will only occur in the Millennial Reign of Christ. If we are to participate in this peace we must first participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We will be betrayed. Are we prepared to be hated? Will we be silenced because of our so-called hate speech? Or will we endure to the end and gain our souls? We will endure, but only if we are embracing the Lord Jesus. He is embracing us if we let him. And he will see us through in this age. And in the age to come we will rule with him in his Peaceable Kingdom on earth.

 

 

Track 2: Not One Stone Will Be Left upon Another

Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

The temple in Jerusalem was the hub of Jewish life. Everything in Judaism was centered around the temple. The temple was, for the Jewish people, the house of God. It represented God to the Jewish people. How devastating it must have been for the disciples of Jesus to hear about its coming destruction.

From today’s Gospel in Luke:

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”   (Luke 21:5-6)

The thinking must have been that if we have the actual house of God in our midst then we must have God himself as well. The temple legitimized the Jewish people, their traditions and way of life.

We remember how God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 7:1-4)

The temple of of the Lord did not legitimize anything. God was not married to the temple. He was not the God of a building. He was God of a chosen people. Before Jerusalem, Shiloh had represented God. God told Jeremiah:

Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.   (Jeremiah 7:11-15)

Did the Jews trust in only a buiding? Do we trust in a building? Do we trust in an institution? Institutions fail. Institutions can become corrupted. Can churches become corrupt?

If our hope is in an institution or in even a church, how secure are we? In today’s Old Testament reading we are warned that anything that works against the righteousness of God will ultimately be destroyed:

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.   (Malachi 4:1-2a)

The Lord Jesus Christ himself is our savior. The psalmist wrote:

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm
has he won for himself the victory.

The Lord has made known his victory;
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.   (Psalm 98:1-3)

Jesus has won the victory for us – not an institution, not even a church. He alone is our salvation for all who put their trust in him. He is our temple.

The Apostle John had a revelation of the Temple of God:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.   (Revelation 21:22-27)

Amen.

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Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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