The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 21:5-19

A FEW WEEKS AGO, WHILE I WAS ON FACEBOOK READING ABOUT THE CIVIL AND RESTRAINED RUN UP TO ELECTION DAY, I RAN ACROSS A PHOTO TAKEN AT A PROTEST. A MAN WAS HOLDING UP A SIGN THAT READ, “JESUS IS COMING SOON . . . HOPEFULLY BEFORE NOVEMBER 8TH.” WHEN I WOKE UP ON THE 8TH, JESUS HAD NOT RETURNED. IT WAS NOT ONLY ELECTION DAY, BUT I HAD TO PREPARE FOR A COLONOSCOPY THE FOLLOWING DAY, AND HAD YET TO WRITE THE SERMON FOR THIS SUNDAY. I SIGHED, AND THOUGHT, “DARN; I GUESS I’LL JUST HAVE TO ENDURE ALL OF IT AFTER ALL.” I DO WANT TO THANK THE ORGANIZERS OF THE REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY FOR THEIR WONDERFUL FORESIGHT IN ASSIGNING THE GOSPEL TEXT FOR TODAY, THE SUNDAY AFTER ELECTION DAY, BECAUSE THE GOSPEL HAS AS MUCH TO SAY ABOUT THE PRESENT AS WELL AS THE PAST; WHICH IT ALWAYS DOES. UNFORTUNATELY, THEY STARTED THIS PERISCOPE AT VERSE 5, WHEN IT SHOULD START AT VERSE 1, SINCE WHAT FOLLOWS IS A CONTINUATION OF WHAT JESUS HAS SAID IN VERSES 1 THROUGH 4.

IN VERSES 1 THROUGH 4, JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES ARE IN THE TEMPLE COURTYARD WATCHING THE RICH PEOPLE POURING THEIR OFFERINGS INTO THE BRASS RECEPTACLES OF THE TREASURY; WITH A LOT OF COIN-RATTLING AS THE MONEY POURED DOWN. JESUS NOTICES A WIDOW DROP TWO SMALL COINS INTO THE TREASURY; PLINK, PLINK. HE THEN POINTS OUT TO HIS DISCIPLES THAT HER OFFERING IS MORE THAN ALL THAT THE RICH HAVE GIVEN, BECAUSE THEY GAVE OUT OF THEIR ABUNDANCE, WHILE SHE GAVE EVERYTHING SHE HAD TO LIVE ON. WHILE WE USUALLY ASSOCIATE THIS STORY OF THE “WIDOW’S MITE” WITH STEWARDSHIP, WHAT IT IS REALLY ABOUT IS A TOTAL TRUST IN GOD. THE QUESTION COMES TO MIND OF HOW WILL SHE SURVIVE IF SHE GAVE ALL THAT SHE HAD. THE ANSWER, AS INCOMPREHENSIBLE AS IT SEEMS, IS BY HER TRUST IN GOD. THIS SETS THE STAGE FOR WHAT FOLLOWS.

AS THE GROUP MOVES THROUGH THE TEMPLE COURTYARD, ONE OF THE GROUP COMMENTS ON HOW BEAUTIFUL THE TEMPLE WAS, MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF MARBLE AND GOLD ADORNED WITH GOLD GIFT OFFERINGS TO THE GLORY OF GOD. THE TEMPLE WAS INDEED MAGNIFICENT; IT WAS ONE OF THE WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE ROMAN EMPIRE. IT WAS BUILT ON THE SITE OF THE FIRST TEMPLE OF SOLOMON AND THE SECOND TEMPLE OF THE TIME OF NEHEMIAH. AT THIS TIME, IT HAD BEEN UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR 53 YEARS, AND NOT YET COMPLETE. IT WAS STARTED BY HEROD THE GREAT, AND CONTINUED BY HIS SUCCESSORS. HEROD HAD A NUMBER OF REASONS TO BUILD THIS MONUMENTAL STRUCTURE. OF COURSE, IT WAS DEDICATED TO THE WORSHIP OF GOD, BUT WAS ALSO MEANT TO IMPRESS CAESAR, AND EVERYONE ELSE, OF HEROD’S IMPORTANCE, AS WELL AS TO INGRATIATE HIMSELF TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE, SINCE HE WAS AN IDUMEAN CONVERT AND NOT CONSIDERED LEGITIMATE BY THE JUDEANS. SO THIS MAGNIFICENT TEMPLE TO GOD WAS BUILT BY ONE OF THE EVILEST MEN WHO EVER LIVED; MURDERER OF HIS OWN CHILDREN, SLAYER OF THE INFANTS OF BETHLEHEM AFTER THE BIRTH OF JESUS, LICENTIOUS PEDOPHILE, MURDERER OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, AND AN ABSOLUTE TYRANT. JESUS WAS, TO SAY THE LEAST, NOT IMPRESSED.

THE PROBLEM WAS THAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS IMPRESSED. THE JUDEAN PEOPLE BOUGHT INTO THE IDEA OF THIS EDIFICE AS THE CENTER OF THEIR IDENTITY AND THEIR RELIGIOUS LIFE. THEY SAW WHAT THEY WANTED TO SEE, AND NOT WHAT LAY BEHIND THE MAGNIFICENCE BEFORE THEIR EYES. TO THOSE WHO ARE SO IMPRESSED, JESUS TELLS THEM THAT THE DAY IS COMING WHEN ALL THIS WILL BE DESTROYED, “NOT ONE STONE WILL BE LEFT UPON ANOTHER: ALL WILL BE THROWN DOWN.” LUKE WRITES THIS SOME TWENTY- FIVE YEARS AFTER THE ROMANS DESTROYED JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE, BUT JESUS’ PROPHECY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE HAS IMPLICATIONS FOR THOSE FOR WHOM HE WRITES HIS GOSPEL; AND FOR US.

OF COURSE, JESUS’ DISCIPLES WANT TO KNOW WHEN THIS TERRIBLE THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN, SO JESUS, INSTEAD OF GIVING THEM A TIME-LINE, GIVES THEM AN APOCALYPTIC SUMMARY OF WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT. FALSE PROPHETS WILL TRY TO LEAD THEM ASTRAY, EVEN CLAIMING TO BE JESUS AND PREDICTING THE TIME OF THE END. WARS, RUMORS OF WAR AND INSURRECTIONS WILL ABOUND, BUT DON’T BE TERRIFIED BECAUSE THAT DOES NOT MEAN THE END IS NEAR. EVEN EARTHQUAKES, FAMINES, AND PLAGUES WILL OCCUR, WITH PORTENTS AND SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS, BUT, AND HERE IS THE GREAT BUT, NONE OF THIS MATTERS. BEFORE ALL THIS, HE TELLS HIS DISCIPLES, YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED, ARRESTED, GIVEN OVER TO KINGS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS BECAUSE YOU ARE MY FOLLOWERS. THIS IS WHAT MATTERS; THAT YOU BEAR WITNESS TO THE TRUTH IN FRONT OF THE WORLD. DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT TO SAY, JESUS SAYS, FOR I WILL GIVE YOU THE WORDS AND WISDOM THAT THE WORLD CANNOT CONTRADICT. THE WORLD WILL HATE YOU BECAUSE OF ME; EVEN THOSE OF YOUR OWN FAMILY. YET, THOUGH THEY MAY KILL YOU, YOU WILL BE SAFE, FOR BY YOUR ENDURANCE YOU WILL GAIN THE TRUE LIFE EVERLASTING. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS; WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS OUR TRUST IN GOD.

SINCE I WAS AWAKE FOR MOST OF ELECTION NIGHT, PREPARING FOR MY PROCEDURE THE NEXT DAY, I GOT TO SEE BOTH THE EUPHORIA AND DEPRESSION OVER THE RESULTS. ALL THE HYPERBOLY AND VILIFICATION THAT MARKED THE CONTEST CAME DOWN TO THE JOYS AND TEARS OF EARLY MORNING ON THE 9TH. EVERYONE SEEMED TO THINK THAT, FOR GOOD OR ILL, WHAT JUST HAPPENED WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER; IT SEEMED THAT THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED WAS WHO WON OR LOST THE ELECTION. PREDICTIONS OF WHAT GREAT THINGS WERE NOW GOING TO HAPPEN WERE COUNTERED BY PREDICTIONS OF THE HORRORS WE ARE GOING TO FACE. LIKE THE JUDEANS, WHO BASED THEIR NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS IDENTITY IN AN EDIFICE CONSTRUCTED BY A MAN, SO TOO DO SO MANY TODAY BASE THEIR IDEOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL IDENTITIES IN POLITICAL PARTIES DEVISED BY HUMAN BEINGS. UNTIL, AND UNLESS, WE SEE BEYOND THESE THINGS AND FOCUS ON WHAT TRULY MATTERS, WE ARE FIXED IN SEPARATION AND DIVISION FROM EACH OTHER. THE ONLY HOPE FOR UNITY AND LOVE IS TO KNOW THAT WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS OUR TRUST IN THE PROMISES OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST.

WHEN THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, EVERYTHING CHANGED, FOR GOOD AND FOR ILL. ROME CRUSHED JUDEA, YET THIS LED TO THE RISE OF RABBINIC JUDAISM AND THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY THROUGHOUT THE ROMAN EMPIRE. THE WORLD DID NOT END. PERSECUTIONS OF THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST INCREASED, AND THE WORLD DID NOT END; YET THOSE WHO CALLED JESUS THEIR LORD ENDURED, AND EVENTUALLY, BY THEIR WITNESS, LIFTED HIGH THE CROSS OF CHRIST IN THE FACE OF THE WORLD.

WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE EVENTS OF THIS WEEK PORTEND, AND THERE WELL MAY BE STRIFE, AND WARS, AND RUMORS OF WAR, EARTHQUAKES AND FAMINES, AND ALL SORTS OF OTHER THINGS WHICH HAVE HAPPENED BEFORE AND WILL HAPPEN AGAIN. IN SPITE OF WHATEVER DOES OR DOES NOT HAPPEN, THE ONLY IMPORTANT THING IS OUR ENDURING WITNESS TO THE PROMISES OF GOD IN OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. WE MUST ENDURE IN OUR WITNESS BY BEING THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD; TO HEAL THE SICK, TO FEED THE HUNGRY, CLOTHE THE NAKED, TO VISIT THOSE IN PRISON, AND TO HOLD OUT THE REDEEMING GRACE OF GOD TO EACH OTHER AND TO ALL.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG ABOUT BELONGING TO A POLITICAL PARTY, OR EVEN BEING SOMEWHAT FERVENT ABOUT IT. THIS UNIQUELY AMERICAN EXPERIMENT IN REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY REQUIRES THAT WE THE PEOPLE TAKE A KEEN INTEREST IN IT AND WORK HARD FOR ITS CONTINUANCE. IT IS OUR CIVIC DUTY TO BE INVOLVED. REMEMBER, THOUGH, THAT WHEN YOUR BODY OR ASHES ENTERS INTO THE HOUSE OF GOD FOR THE LAST TIME ON THIS TRANSITORY WORLD, NO ONE IS GOING TO ASK TO WHAT POLITICAL PARTY YOU BELONGED. THE PRIEST WILL INTONE, “PUT NOT YOUR TRUST IN PRINCES; THEY WILL FAIL YOU.” PUT YOUR TRUST, INSTEAD, IN GOD; THAT IS ALL THAT TRULY MATTERS.
AMEN

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