This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
Reading: Jude 5-19
We are continuing our journey through the book of Jude where, in the first four verses, he pleaded with the community to take a stand and fight for the faith. In our reading for today, Jude continues (I’ll summarize): Be faithful! You know the consequences if you aren’t. Don’t let self-deluded and self-serving people lead you astray. Don’t listen to people who cause rifts and division. Those who cause division don’t have the Spirit. They are worldly. Don’t listen to them. Stay strong. These are the end times.
These are the end times. Dear friends, this morning I’d like to suggest to you that that’s Good News.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray. Amen.
There is so much violence, hatred, and mistrust in our world: the terrorist shootings in Paris, the genocide of the Yazidi, the suspected bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, the persecution of Christians in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East, the Syrian refugee crisis, racist threats and mass shootings on U.S. campuses, a deepening political crevasse that people are less and less willing to cross, and a growing skepticism of people who look, think, speak, and any or everything else different from “us.” It is heartbreaking. There is much to mourn; and yet, at the same time, I find it comforting that the end is near. We, as followers of Jesus, are always living in the end times. The world as we know it is ending and that’s Good News!
As Christians we live in the end times. If we’re being faithful the ways of this world will come to an end. When we accept the invitation to follow Jesus, we put the old world behind us and set our sights on a new one. In following Christ along the Way we become “part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Common English Bible).
5 So [writes Paul to the church in Colossal], put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. 7 You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. 8 But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. 9 Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices 10 and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. 11 In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people.
12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. 16 The word of Christ must live in you richly. (Colossians 3:5-16, Common English Bible)
As Christians we are called to put aside the ways of the world—ways that are divisive, destructive, and lead only to death. In fact, I would like to suggest this morning that we are called to help bring about the end of the world.
When we accept the call of Christ in our lives, we commit to working toward a new world where God is known among all the people; a world in which every tear is wiped away. We are called to vigilantly work toward a world where “there will be no mourning, crying or pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4,Common English Bible).
Do not follow the ways of the world for, as Paul says to the church in Ephesus nd us (Ephesians 4:20-32, The Message):
20-24 You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
Dear friends, stay firm in the faith. These are the end times. So long as we are faithful, this will be the end of a world rife with pain, struggle, division, and death. With God’s help, we the Church will usher in a new world where all are reconciled with God and one another, a world marked by hope, peace, joy, and love; a world where swords are beaten into plow shares and spears into pruning tools (Isaiah 2:4), a world where nations will not take up sword against nation, where divisions cease, where all that separates us from God and one another is no more. And, I don’t know about you, but that’s Good News to me. Amen? and amen.