Sunday, November 18, 2007

BCP - Proper 28 C - 18 Nov 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY

Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC

BCP - Proper 28 CSunday 18 November 2007

Malachi 3:13-4:6

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Luke 21:5-19


Lord Jesus,

Help us to hold on to the hope of our faith -- Remind our hearts that you always are and always will be with us, in times of joy and in times of fear and sorrow -- Strengthen us in doing your will diligently and unconcerned by how well things seem to go.



To love God is not just talk. And loving God is not always like walking through a rose garden at dusk.

All three texts today encourage us to keep at our work as Christians, no matter what. In case you need reminding, our work as Christians is summarized in the Great Commission and the Golden Commandment.

The commission is …that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations… (Luke 24:47) and the commandment is that …we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourself… (Luke 10:27)

Well, I’m glad we’ve got that settled because now we have to deal with the apocalyptic style of our scripture readings of this morning.


Apocalyptic literature was to the Jewish nation what Western movies may be to ours.

In times when America deals with moral ambiguity and the violence that seems inherent to our national life, we often see Western movies making a comeback. If you pay attention to what’s hitting our silver screens lately, you’ll see that this genre is being explored once again – just as it was at the height of the Vietnam war.

In a parallel way, apocalyptic literature often made a comeback in the Jewish nation’s collective mind whenever they were on the receiving end of international violence and when it seemed convenient to part with their Jewish identity in order to assuage the difficulties at hand.

Apocalyptic literature is meant to reveal the deeper nature of reality; it tears open the veil that seems to hide God at work in the world; it shows catastrophes and hardships as episodes that we need to endure to enable unity with God.

At the time Luke wrote the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish community (of which the Jesus movement still considered itself an integral part) was reeling from what felt like a world-changing catastrophe. The Temple at Jerusalem, the most meaningful center of religious worship, had been destroyed, the city’s population had been massacred after a horrid siege, and the remnant of population had been dispersed in the rest of the Roman Empire.

So it is in keeping with his times that Luke, at the end of the first century of our era, would use the apocalyptic style to emphasize Jesus’ authority.


With today’s gospel passage Luke conveys two important messages to his community.

First important message: Jesus was truly a great prophet. He spoke great truths and some of them have even been realized by the time Luke writes to his people. Two things that Jesus prophesied have by now happened in their living memory or in their present time:

- The Temple has been utterly destroyed,

- The Jesus movement has been, and continues to be, the object of persecutions.

Through the meanderings of our Lectionary, Luke’s intent is truncated by today’s gospel excerpt. Where Luke wanted to take us eventually is that Jesus will return in glory, just as he prophesied.

So Luke wants us to know that if Jesus was right about the destruction of the Temple and the persecution of his followers, he is also right on his second coming. That is Luke’s first important message to his community. Jesus will come back in glory. You can count on it.


Luke’s second message to his community is to continue our living witness to the message of Jesus Christ, in the meantime.

If earthly powers are doing unjust and unrighteous things, we are not to put the gospel under the bushel. On the contrary, we are to show endurance and fortitude in declaring the gospel. We are to persevere in standing for what is right in both word and action. That is how we will gain our souls. That is how we will gain our life.

Should persecutions ensue; so be it. Persecution may actually give us some highly visible opportunities to testify to the gospel. And we need not worry how we will make our case to those who might want to silence us; for Jesus is with us to the end of times and the Spirit itself will speak through us.

That is Luke’s second important message to his community; don’t be idle while waiting for the Lord’s return. Jesus himself told parables on this theme.


The prophet Malachi gives me hope that God will make things good “on the day when God acts”, as Malachi says.

Regardless of how far humanity will have progressed by then and regardless of what calamities will have been endured - On that day, moral ambiguity will disappear and reconciliation will prevail.

Unrighteous success and profit will be unveiled and come to nothing. “Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and who does not serve him.”

And “God will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents…”


In the meantime, we’ve got work to do. And the author of the second letter to the Thessalonians (probably a disciple of Paul, not Paul himself) gives us further guidance in how to be faithful to God. Loving God is a work of community and everyone should actively be involved; it gets harder the more people are coasting and running a commentary from the sidelines. As our writer to the Thessalonians says; “do not be weary in doing what is right”.


Now, before we commit today’s scripture and sermon to memory and move on with our lives, I would like us to stop and think for a moment on what it is that makes today’s world an apocalyptic place. What is it that we need to speak out the gospel about?

Is it the overburdening of the environment to the profit of the wealthiest and most powerful and at the expense of the rest? Is it the use of the justice system to punish rather than to repair, restore and reconcile? Is it the use of industrial and military power to impose our worldview whenever our self-interest is at stake? Is it the pursuit of yet another meaningless pleasure at the expense of deeper connection with our fellow human beings?


“Apocalypse now” is not only a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece; it is one of the themes of the nearing season of Advent. You get a break with the Feast of Christ the King next week, but apocalyptic literature will be back. Think about it.


Let us pray.

Lord Jesus,

Help us proclaim repentance and forgiveness. Help us to start by turning back our hearts towards you and doing your will, no matter what the cost.

Make us instruments of your love that the whole world may know you and love you.

Make us instruments of your peace that your Kingdom may break forth amongst us; for you are the ever-flowing source of abundant life.


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