Saints have EnduranceAll Saints - Sunday, November 04, 2018
1As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, I am he! and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
9“As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
14“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18Pray that it may not be in winter. 19For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21And if anyone says to you at that time, Look! Here is the Messiah! or Look! There he is!do not believe it. 22False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be alert; I have already told you everything.
24“But in those days, after that suffering,the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awakefor you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
QUALITY OF A SAINT IS ENDURANCE
I want to go back to the Children’s sermon for a moment, and pick up the idea of endurance that I was talking to them about by recalling the story of S, M, A and my encouragement to them afterward to do what God tells us is right even when everyone else is doing something else. I want to let you all know that I focused the children on concept of endurance because we hear in our readings from the Bible this morning that endurance is one of the qualities of the Saints. Jesus makes this very clear when he says, “Those who endure to the end will be saved!” Of course, at the moment Jesus is saying this to his disciples as they sit on the Mount of Olives looking back over Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple rising up in the middle of the city, Jesus talking about a slightly different kind of endurance than I was just talking about with the children. Sure, we are both talking about how Saints endure in resisting the temptation to sin, but while I was teaching the children about enduring in doing what is right, Jesus is teaching us to endure in believing what is right. Specifically, Jesus is teaching us what he has been teaching his disciple all along the Way to Jerusalem and the cross, which is to endure in faith even when everything around us seems to indicate that God is irrelevant.
NO ENDURANCE WHEN THINGS ARE TOO BAD
Now I think we have this tendency to think that God is irrelevant when we encounter two kinds of situations. The most obvious is that we are tempted to not endure in our faith and to think that God is irrelevant when things get really bad, when life is almost unbearable, and we are in deep despair about how things are. This was the situation that Christians that first read Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus teaching his disciples on the Mt of Olives were facing. They were faithful people who could not seem to get a break from constant persecution at every turn from everyone. It almost seemed that they should give up the faith because it was obvious that God was irrelevant. It seems to me that Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman imprisoned for allegedly blaspheming the name of Allah in Pakistan, might have felt this way until she was acquitted this past week and now is hopefully going to be liberated from her persecution by being granted asylum in the UK. And, I have often marveled at how our Jewish neighbors have endured in the faith when there have been so many times when they have been heinously targeted and heavily persecuted for their faith and, yet, they endure. This week would have been a perfect time to have heard their discouraged voices lamenting God’s apparent irrelevance as God seems continually unable or uninterested in stopping the violence against His people. And while I am certain loud prayers of lamentation and frustration were raised by many Jewish voices this week, these Saints of God endure.
NO ENDURANCE WHEN THINGS ARE TOO GOOD
Very thankfully, we Lutherans have not needed this kind of endurance. While we seem quite capable of persecuting one another for differing viewpoints on everything from the color of the carpet to the color of our political preference, we are not really worried about being attacked from outsiders. Mostly because outsiders have no idea what Lutherans are all about anyway, so how could any be offended by us! But while we occasionally may struggle to endure in the face of personal times of despair that may tempt us to wonder if God is irrelevant, I think that the more difficult endurance in the faith comes because our lives are so good. We struggle to endure in the faith because of our comfort and abundance, comfort and abundance that we are tempted to think we have achieved for ourselves. Remember the parable Jesus tells about the farmer who suddenly has an unbelievable bumper crop so he decides to build bigger barns and rest on his achievements? Jesus warns us that his problem is that God has become irrelevant to him. We have technology and science and medicine and psychology and 401k’s and good causes we support and our social networks to care for and care for us and no need for God. In fact, God can become an inconvenience, a burden in the midst of all our blessings. Saints endure against this temptation to marginalize God into irrelevance and cling to the faith.
QUALITY OF A SAINT IS VIGILANCE
Which brings us to the second quality of a Saint, which is vigilance. A Saint is vigilant. Literally, when you look up the word “vigilant” you find that it comes not surprisingly from the word “vigil” which literally means to keep awake. To be vigilant is to keep awake when everyone else is falling asleep. The way I understand this is that a Saint endures in seeing everything with eyes that are open to the way God teaches us to see things and not the way everyone else sees them. Eyes that see with compassion and mercy, grace and justice, eyes that see the inclusive diversity of God’s Saints and and despite how everyone else see it, Saints always have eyes which see that God is most relevant when life is at its worst and when life is at its best. This is what it means to vigilantly endure as God’s Saints and heaven knows the world is always a better place when the Saints are doing their thing. And as Jesus teaches; “Those who endure to the end will be saved.”