…and I feel fine!
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, November 17, 2013.
5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?”
8 Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky. 12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you will gain your lives.
Luke 21:5-19, Common English Bible
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
This past Thursday (November 14, 2013), in the British town of York, a horn sounded, signaling that the end of the world is just 100 days away.
According to Norse mythology, the world as we know it will end on February 22, 2014.
On this day, the god Odin will be killed by the wolf Fenrir and the other ‘creator’ gods.
There will be huge earthquakes, the sea will rear up and the soil and the sky will be stained with poison.
The sound of the horn is supposed to call the sons of Odin to the battlefield, where Odin will ultimately be killed.
After his death, the Earth was foretold to sink into the sea, paving the way for a new utopian world with endless supplies.
The end is surely coming.
And, it may be near; but, it’s not here yet. “Every generation, at some time in its history, has thought its time was the end of time.” Our generation is without exception. Since 2000, there has been no less than one predicted apocalypse per year. Warren Jeffs, Harold Camping, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins—just to name a few a few Mormon and Christian examples—have all sought to predict something that Jesus told us he didn’t even know.
Nobody knows [says Jesus] when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.
Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, Common English Bible
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus and his disciples are walking through the temple when Jesus overheard the disciples commenting on the beauty of the architecture. Jesus, overhearing their discussion, says, “Boys, don’t get too attached to this stuff. There will come a time when it all goes away.” And the disciples, like us, immediately ask, when? what will be the signs of the times? how will we know when the end is here? To which Jesus replies
“Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One,’ or, ‘The end is near.’ Don’t fall for any of that. When you hear of wars and uprisings, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end.”
10-11 He went on, “Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Huge earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. You’ll think at times that the very sky is falling.
12-15 “But before any of this happens… It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’ll [be] called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.
16-19 “[Those closest to you will despise you.] Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me. Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.
Luke 21:8-19, The Message
The end is surely coming, but don’t worry. Just listen to me, says Jesus. Remain faithful.
…and you’ll be fine!
There will be times of great chaos in our world: hurricanes and typhoons, famines, disease, wars and rumors of war. There will be times of chaos in your own life. People will lie to you and cheat against you. People will, says Jesus, hate you because of me. You’ll get sick. You’ll be confused. And, you’ll be confronted with death. But do not worry. Remain faithful and “not a hair on your heads will be lost. By holding fast, you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:18-19, Common English Bible).
Jesus reminds his disciples then and now that bad things are going to happen—things that are beyond our understanding or control; and in those times we must not get discouraged or alter course. We must—in the face of sorrow, grief, pain, frustration, and devastation—remain faithful to the love of God found in Jesus Christ.
We have been entrusted with a great hope of a world where every tear is wiped away, where death and suffering will be no more, a time when Christ will be revealed and all will be reconciled to God. This hope allows and empowers us to rejoice at all times and in all things.
In a tract, entitled “The Character of a Methodist,” John Wesley said it this way: “Methodists know no paralyzing frustration or anxiety.” It’s a beautiful reminder that we are called to live into God’s future whatever our past and present realities might be. We are called to be loving and forgiving in spite of demeaning hatred. We are called to be generous and serve even in the midst of our own hardship and struggles. We are called to be light in a dark world. We’re called to be salt—flavoring the world with the only thing that can truly satisfy a broken and distraught heart and world—the love of God found in Jesus Christ: a love we have known and a love we are called to share.
In the midst of suffering and devastation, the people of God are called to bear witness and live into the Good News of Jesus Christ: a message of God’s relentless and restorative love for a broken and tattered world. We’re called to be hope. We’re called to share and live into that hope in the midst of great chaos and devastation. Do this—hold firm to the promises of God and live into God’s future—and you will surely find that REM was right.
In 1987 REM released a hit single that speaks well to our Gospel lesson. In fact, it would be a nice addition to our hymnal. It starts:
it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane,
and Lenny Bruce is not afraid…
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine!
Friends, the end is coming. The world as we know it will end. It will. But, you need not worry. God’s promises are dependable. God’s future will come. Therefore, let us hold fast to our faith in the face of hardship. Let us live into God’s future. And, in so doing, we will find salvation. And, you’ll feel (and be) fine!
 “Will the world end in 100 days? Sounding of ancient trumpet in York warns of Viking apocalypse on 22 February 2014” By Ellie Zolfagharifard at DailyMail.co.uk <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2507778/Will-world-end-100-days-Sounding-ancient-trumpet-York-warns-Viking-apocalypse-22-February-2014.html#ixzz2kk5nqNBD> Accessed November 15, 2013.
 “Luke 21:5-19: Pastoral Perspective” by Nancy Lynn Westfield in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year C, volume 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), p308.
 An impartial list of apocalyptic dates can be found on Wikipedia.org <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events> Accessed on November 15, 2013. Note: I only suggest Wikipedia as a starting place for research not as a resource in and of itself.