November 13, 2016 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 21:5-19
Ordinary 33C
Proper 28

I am writing this before the election results are revealed. You will be preaching after, presumably, a new president has been elected.

Jill Duffield's lectionary reflections are sent to the Outlook's email list every Monday.
Jill Duffield’s lectionary reflections are sent to the Outlook’s email list every Monday.

This is appropriate given that the gospel is the gospel regardless of the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Given the language thrown back and forth for the last several months, many find that difficult to fathom. Surely it is the end of the world as we know it should this person or the other win. That’s the beauty of the texts appointed for this week, however. They point to the reality that too often what we think to be catastrophic actually isn’t. Much of what we believe to be permanent… isn’t. The source and seat of power is not ultimately where we seek it.

Even temples made of massive stones can be destroyed. Those marveling at the opulence, beauty and scale of those stones are missing the time of visitation from God taking place right in front of them. Those who fret over the timing of the end times are told: Don’t be terrified, despite the chaos and calamity, God is at work and you don’t need to be afraid. Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, police officers ambushed, African-American churches burned and vandalized – this is your opportunity to testify.

This is our opportunity to testify and we better get to it. Now is our time to speak the words the Spirit gives us and we better pray that when we speak, a message may be given to us to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19). No matter who is headed to the White House in January 2017, much of the nation will think the end of the world is here. The chaos we’ve seen, the rhetoric we’ve heard and the violence we’ve witnessed isn’t going to stop on November 9. We must find a way to live together – not just in tolerance, but in the perfect love that casts out fear. Now is our opportunity to testify and we better pray to proclaim the gospel with boldness and clarity. We better pray to preach it relentlessly, fearlessly and authentically.

We need to stop admiring the stones of the temple and start following the One who turns them upside down, not leaving one unturned, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. When you step into the pulpit this week people will be wondering: What now? What’s next? You are to tell them: Now is our opportunity to testify.

Now is our opportunity to speak the gospel to the brokenhearted. Now is our opportunity to speak the truth in love. Now is our opportunity to let the world know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another in a very unloving and too often unlovely world. Now is our opportunity to testify to the power of Jesus Christ to reconcile and forgive, to transform and redeem.

Consider all the tumult, the war, the earthquakes, the suffering and the cruelty. Does not God have a Word to say in the midst of it? Have we not been given a purpose to fulfill in the face of it? Are we not to be a light to the world? Didn’t Jesus ask, “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that we love you.” “Tend my sheep.” Now is our opportunity to testify.

The stones are coming down. Not one will be left standing. The middle won’t hold. Like the curtain torn in two, our communities have been split apart by highways built through neighborhoods, and gerrymandered districts carved out so politicians can choose their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives, and prison populations that keep families apart for years, if not forever. The beautiful stones have crushed too many and Jesus is pulling them down. Are we terrified or are we ready to stand strong and testify to the One who raises up Children of Abraham out of stones?

Isaiah offers such a contrast to the Luke text for this week. “For I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth … be glad and rejoice in what I am creating … no more will the sound of weeping be heard or the cry of distress … They shall build houses and inhabit them … They shall not labor in vain.” Imagine. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. Imagine. They shall not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain. Imagine. Can we imagine that this is the new thing God is doing? Can we imagine even in the midst of nation against nation? Can we claim this vision and testify to it and seek to live it, even now?

That’s what I long not just to be preached from our pulpits, but to be lived in our streets by Christians, all of us. Imagine.

In the wake of this election there will be many who say the end is near, all is lost, now what? Now is the opportunity for us to testify to the gospel and to the God who longs for everyone to build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit and enjoy the work of their hands. Imagine.

Beware you aren’t lead astray. Don’t give in to the narrative of destruction for destruction’s sake. Remember Jesus says that the temple that is destroyed will be raised in three days. The Son of God, dead and buried, will be raised on the third day. Destruction, death, enmity and strife will come to an end. Our God is the God of peace, not of chaos. Imagine. Testify. Pray. Speak the words the Spirit gives with boldness. Remember, “We are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved” (Hebrews 10:39).

No matter what happened on November 8, there is a deep need to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, to testify to and live out the perfect love that casts out fear, the love that longs and works for a time when hurt and destruction is no more. Imagine.

This week:

  1. Take two or three verses from the Isaiah text and use lectio divina with those verses.
  2. Take a look at the Acts texts that relate to this Luke text: Acts 8:3, Acts 9:16, Acts 6:10. What is the relationship between the Luke text and these texts from Acts?
  3. People are focusing on the stones of the temple. What should they be focusing on?
  4. How do we metaphorically focus on the impressive stones of the temple and miss the presence of Jesus?
  5. Have you ever had an experience when you felt as if the Spirit gave you the words to say?
  6. Pray daily for peace.

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