Speaker: Rev. Wybra Price
Scripture Passage: Luke 21:25-36
It’s a blessing to be with you this morning as we gather in this time of worship together, I bring you greetings on behalf of the other 117 United Methodist churches of the Monroe and Shreveport district, for which I have some responsibility. So, thank you for the invitation to be in your midst on this the first Sunday of Advent as we begin a new Christian Year. So, it would be appropriate for me to say to you, Happy New Year if you knew that today, the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of a new Christian year. So, as we share in our time together, I want to share with you a word of scripture that comes from our Luke. The 21st chapter verses 25 through 36. And let me give you a little background before I begin sharing that.
So, Jesus is along with the disciples and they’re having this discussion as they’re marveling at the temple. The temple in Jerusalem that was built, and they’re marveling that the large stones of the temple, and then Jesus says these words:
That means there will be come a time when not one of these stones sits on top of another one of these stones. basically meaning the temple is going to be destroyed at some day. And Jesus began to tell them a little bit about that, and they began to ask, well, well, when do we know when that’s going to happen? How do we know that’s coming? And he shares that partly through the scripture of Luke’s gospel of the 21st chapter, listen closely for the word of the Lord.
Jesus says there will be signs in the Sun and the Moon and the stars and on Earth, and there will be dismay among the nations in their confusion over the roaring of the seas and the surging of the waves. The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. And then they will see the human one coming as a cloud with power and with great splendor. And now, when these things begin to happen, Jesus says, stand up straight and raise your heads because your redemption is near. So, then Jesus told them a parable, and he said, Look at the fig trees and all of the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves, and you can know that the summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is also near. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until everything has happened. Heaven and Earth will pass away. But my words will certainly not pass away. So, take care. Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let the day fall upon you unexpectedly like a trap. It will come up on everyone who lives on the face of the whole Earth. So, stay alert, stay alert at all times, Jesus says, praying that your you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen, and to stand before the human one.
The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Let us pray.
Oh, God, come into our lives this very day and fill us full of hope. Hope for what you are doing. Hope for what you will do. And oh, God, in this day, as we gather for this place in this place of worship, light the dark corners of our minds, warm the cold places in our hearts and fill the empty chambers that is in all of our spirits. Amen.
Where would we be without signs? You probably passed lots of them on your way to worship this day. Whether it’s a sign that said what street you were on or what street you were turning to, whether it’s a sign that said go this way and don’t go that way, whether it’s a sign that had a number on it says please don’t travel more than this number of miles per hour. I’m sure you followed that to the tee. Or whatever it might be. The world is filled with signs there. There are signs that tell us when our favorite shopping place or restaurant is open or close. There are signs that that give us directions of all sorts. All those signs are important to us. But yet there are sometimes there are signs that are confusing in nature that point to different directions or maybe say things that we have to scratch our head and wonder, well, what are they trying to say here?
Dan Lasky, columnist and writer and later hosts on the Discovery Channel, wrote a book some years ago called “Sign Spottings” about differing signs that he had seen and take pictures of as he traveled across the United States or even to other places in the world. I want to share with you some of those signs. For instance, look at this sign. What message do you get? Is it a message to enter or to not enter? Or how about this next sign? Unnecessary, repetitive driving. So first of all, I have to ask myself what’s repetitive driving him? I don’t know that. And what makes it unnecessary? But whatever it is, it’s not allowed. Or how about this next sign? I’m sure it’s advertising some apartments or condos or some place, but, your view, your clear view is certainly obstructed by the shrubbery and the brush that’s there in front of it. Or how about this sign that could easily be just outside of this church or any other? I’m sure the attempt is drive slowly because there are people crossing streets and those sorts of things, but sometimes the signs kind of send a different message. Or how about this sign that tells us that we live in a social media age? And do we have to be reminded to stop tweeting or posting on Facebook or whatever when there’s an emergency and do what you need to do?
Or how about this sign? Now, I would hope it would help us to see that our children are not junk and they don’t need to go to the landfill. But this is the place where you’re supposed to drop them off. Or how about this sign that could be found in one of our national parks? I didn’t know bottomless was defined by 65 feet or whatever it might be.
Perhaps there’s a reason we maybe enjoy or laugh at some of these mixed signals, because the reality is we find those mixed signals all the time in life. There are some times where you said to stop, but yet go, or turn this way, but not that way, but. But only after you go through this part of the circle. I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve noticed increasingly, I’m sure maybe in the Ruston area, do you all have increased the number of traffic circles that lots of communities are doing away with intersections for waste, stop signs that they’re installing traffic circles to help flows and everything else? I think they’re helpful, but if you don’t know them, they can be very confusing. Where do I get off? Where do I get on? I was at another church not long ago that’s near one of these traffic circles. It’s not very far from here. And the person was talking about another church member who got a ticket in the traffic circle, and the one person was saying, well, why did they get a ticket in the traffic circle? It’s pretty simple. You just go to the right and you just get off, you know, whenever it’s your turn to get off. Yeah, but she went to the left. And it was a shorter distance to go to left to turn left instead of going to right and going all the way around the circle. So how is it that we find in these confusing signs?
Case in point is today’s scripture. Here were the disciples and other followers of Jesus, and they were asking Jesus about when, with the temple come to an end because Jesus says to them, there will be a time where this stone will not be on top of this Stone will not be on that the temple will be destroyed basically was the message, and Jesus begins to tell them there will be some signs for that. And they wanted to know, what are those signs? And then he begins to tell them not only signs for the destruction of the temple, but signs for the end of the world. And they got confused. And the scripture even gets somewhat confused. remember what Jesus says? He says there will be signs the Sun and the Moon and the stars on the Earth. There will be dismay among nations there will be confusion among over the roaring of the seas and the surging of the waves and the planets in our heavenly bodies.
There’s going to be all sorts of signs. But some of those signs say different things, maybe. There may be some of you who said, well, we live in a time where I’ve seen all sorts of signs for the end of the age. I mean, some of you, how many of you remember the Great Storm hurricanes of 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Rita? If you were in South Louisiana, even if you were anywhere in Louisiana, you probably know about those great storms.
Or how many of you remember just feet from here 2019, when a tornado came just feet from this very location? And damaged lots of Louisiana Tech and lots of the greater Reston area. Or 2000 just last year, hurricanes Laura that, you know, affected Southwest Louisiana and Ida this year that affected southeast Louisiana.
Or what about the ice storms that we experience this past February that I mean, I’m a Louisiana boy and I never experienced anything like that before. I thought I had moved to Colorado for a minute or two. What about those kinds of signs, not to mention the western wildfires? If you watch the news and see our brothers and sisters out West who are burning up or who fires at homes are being destroyed or even the pandemic itself. Are those all signs? Certainly, there’s no shortage of signs or understandings of distress among nations. There were all around us, and many of us often fear or feel fear when we finish watching the evening news about death or destructions or killing or nations or whatever it might be, or one natural disaster after another.
But here’s our problem. In one form or in another, this start of stuff has been happening for centuries. It may feel like, oh, it’s happening more often than it ever happened before, but the reality has been happening for a long, long time. I remember having a conversation some years ago with an older gentleman who said that he remembered when he was a child, you know, when they were things that are happening in the Great Depression and World War two and Vietnam and other those. And he says they were certain at least members of his family were certain the world was coming to an end. And he said, now an old man. And I recognize the world didn’t come to an end. But all those things happen, and they’re all a part of our history, they’re all a part of what’s happening in our world and our nation, in our community, or maybe even our families. They’re all a part of our story. And yet the world didn’t come to an end.
So the gospel writers, or the writer of Luke’s Gospel, anyway, has a little confusion there as well of mixed sides or mixed signals where the disciples thought they were asking Jesus about the end of the temple in the temple actually did the fall down and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Matter of fact, there’s even some speculations, remember that the Luke’s Gospel was probably even written after that time or even penned after that time. So maybe some of the confusion in Luke’s gospel has to do with the timing of when the gospel was written, but there certainly was a time when the temple was destroyed by the Romans where the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., but Jesus also says, but there are other times. There are times when the son of man or the human one will come again. What are what are those signs, what are what are those times the followers of Jesus want to know? Tell us more about when we will know or how we will know that’s the time.
Just a few moments ago, we lit the first candle of the candle of hope. What hope do we have for the future? The band let us so beautifully in O Come, O Come Emmanuel, that expectancy of the coming of Christ again at Christmas being prepared. Oh yeah, Christ will be born again. Just as Christ was born last Christmas in the midst of the pandemic, maybe this Christmas will be a little bit different than that one. Let’s hope anyway. But the reality is it’s been happening every year for many, many years, 2000 plus years. But how is this year going to be different? What signs are different? What are we seeing?
Jesus’ followers asked, what signs can we expect of the coming calamity? You can imagine the hearers confusion their thought, when talking about the end of the temple in the city and Jesus is now speaking, possibly about the end of the world. As if to cement that confusion, remember what Jesus says to his ears? Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have happened.
My older friend, I just told you about a while ago was of another generation, he’s now deceased, and he was certain that in his generation, those things are going to
happen. The world was going to come to an end, and Jesus was a was going to come again. I mean, that’s what many of the disciples. That’s certainly where the Apostle Paul thought Paul thought certainly that Jesus would come again in the second coming in his lifetime. And yet we still wait. And how do we prepare and wait? Well, the temple and the city did come to an end in 70 A.D. that’s a few years ago, and yet we’re still waiting. We’re here in the season of Advent.
The word advent itself means come in or arrival and symbolizes both the era of Jesus who came earlier and Jesus who will come again. How are we waiting? What signs are we looking for of the coming of the Messiah? What’s more, this often gets complicated by our trouble knowing that the New Testament words, if you read in other parts of the New Testament, particularly the Book of Revelation, the New Testament words about the second coming even mean. I mean, I can tell you as a pastor for 30 plus years now, there are people who, you know, I don’t know how it is for you, Doug, but people who say when you ask them, what Bible study would they want to say, teach me about Revelation Leader lead a study on revelation because we don’t understand that stuff. We don’t understand that apocalyptic end-time prediction stuff. Maybe part of our understanding is understanding that those events will come and go for 2000 years later, are we prepared? Are we ready? What’s more complicated is our trouble of knowing some of that New Testament prediction or thinking we know some of that New Testament prediction.
Some of you or maybe some of your family members or others you might know are convinced that we are in the end times. And maybe we are. I mean, if you watch the news even in recent years and it’s not just happened in recent years has been over history. We know there are people who will come out from time to time. The Earth is coming to an end on such and such a day and this event or whatever is. And then that day comes and goes. And we’re still here. And we ask ourselves, well, where they wrong? Who was I left behind? Did something else happen? Well, either way, maybe the prediction is that that we should be prepared for whenever that day comes, whenever, whenever that sign comes, whatever that might be.
Consider this example, I love history. Did you know that a World War two actually started on September first, 1939? That’s the day that Germany invaded Poland. But there was actually an event, actually several events that happened in the week and weeks prior to that time. Hitler’s original plan called for an invasion to begin the preceding week on August the 26. In fact, 16 combat units of the German Army had put gotten in place for the date of August 26 to invade Poland. But then on the evening of the 25th or that day at some last-minute developments, one of them being that Italy said, we’re not with you any more Germany, we’re not going to be a part of this. Hitler kind of backed out and said, Wait, let’s hold off. And he sent communication to those 16 combat units saying postpone.
Now, communication in 1939 wasn’t always the best. One of those combat units didn’t get word. So, at midnight on the night of the 25th early morning of the 26, they invaded a little section of Poland and took over a mountain pass and a railroad station that was a central part of transportation in the area. There was a short skirmish. The Poles surrendered. Some of them were taken captive. So, the German commander sent word back to his authority saying, mission accomplished. We’ve done what we’re supposed to do. To which he gets word back, it was called off yesterday. To which the commander said, Oh. He let the prisoners go. He gave the train station back and surrendered back into Slovakia, retreated back into Slovakia.
Now that should have been assigned to the Poles that something’s not right here. So that was August the 26th. After some of the other things got worked out on September the first. If you look in your history books. Germany invaded Poland. To great surprise of Poland. And there was little to no adversity to that.
What signs were there and what signs were missed? Naturally, this stumble should have alerted the Polish leaders that Germany was up to no good. But inexplicably, they let this innocence pass without recognizing what it meant. The Poles were taken by complete surprise and quickly succumbed. They were not ready. In attempting to understand and interpret the events of our day, one hazard that we often have is that we miss the signs all together. Or they’re too confusing and we don’t know what to do. But a greater danger is that will miss them completely. We can watch reports of great trouble in the news and look at the difficulties in our cities, and we can view those signs as despair, and some of them certainly warrant that despair. But it would be a shame to do that because despair can cause us to miss the most important thing. Remember what Jesus said in this text? Remember that he was talking to those who were following him, and he said these words: Now when these things began to take place, stand up, he said. Stand up, raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near. Your redemption is drawing near. Thus, we should look for with excitement that day of redemption. There’s a gift in that.
I think we should follow the old adage, some of you may have heard this before, I remember my grandmother sharing this with me in her Cajun French voice, so a little bit different. But in the message was something like this live every day, live every day, as if it’s your very last day. Love the people you love deeply. Forgive often the people you need to forgive. Be generous out of the abundance of the blessing you have received. Live every day, every day, as if it is your very last day. And one of these days, you’ll be right. I don’t know when that day is going to be. I don’t know when that time will come. But if I live my life as if it’s the last day, one day it’s going to come, at least for me, will be my last day. Live every day as if it is your last day. And one day you’ll be right. In other words, Jesus says that to read the world’s trouble only as omens of doom is to misread the world. Instead, and against all conventional logic, we should see these troubles as foreshadowings of our redemption of the Christ to come, of the advance notice of God’s Kingdom coming our way.
The world’s tribulations in our personal trials can be understood as reasons for us to remain faithful. Hopeful, optimistic in the long view. And that’s what we need. We need a long view. We need a long view. That’s a hard position to take when we often see just conflict and trouble. The world is filled with mixed signals. And some of them we will get and some of them we won’t. Some of them we will understand and some of them we will miss altogether. But whatever it might be. Remember the words of scripture? Stand up. Stand tall. Look to the heaven. For the time will come. And when the time comes, will you be ready? Let us pray.
Oh, God, for the gift, the opportunity of the journey of this day. We give you thanks. Send forth your spirit upon us that we might see you, we might be prepared to see you and you. In this advent journey. And whether it’s just the birth of Christ, not just the birth of Christ, whether it’s the birth of Christ again at this Christmas, or whether it’s the end of the world. Help us to live every day, every day, as if it is our very, very last day. And when that day comes. We will have been prepared. We will be ready to meet you again. As the son of God comes into our midst. Amen.