Sermon 17th November 2019 – 23rd Sunday After Pentecost
Text: Luke 21:5-19 – Better than Fig Leaves
It would be fair to say that most people believe that we live in uncertain times.
Whether it be through financial insecurity, unemployment, fears of a recession. Even the housing market which has always been a safe investment in bricks and mortar is quite unstable. And in these days it’s not just the financial aspects of the housing market that causes fear but the inferior quality that has seen cracks appearing in it.
Then there are the conflicts around the world, wars, drug cartels, terrorism.
And who can forget the fear caused by global warming in recent times that has seen school children miss school to rally for change – a fear that we have only 12 years left before our eco-system collapses.
We could go on and on and include the bushfires, droughts and other natural disasters.
The list of problems facing the world today is seemingly endless.
But we shouldn’t be misinformed - economic crises, wars and natural disasters have been a part of human existence from the beginning of time as a reminder of our fallen world because our eyes have been opened to know Good and Evil.
What we are going through in our present age is nothing new, no matter how much the media tells us that this is “unprecedented”.
Jesus himself told the disciples today:
When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful calamities and great signs from heaven.
Our world has been through far worse despite what we are told.
Just ask those who remember the Great Depression of the 1930s or the horrors of World War One and Two and the Holocaust – Black Saturday, Black Friday, Ash Wednesday.
Every age has faced tragic circumstances and despite our best efforts every age to come will also face them as this world is not paradise.
It is a broken and fallen world.
Some might ask where is God in all this.
He is where he has always been – at our side feeling every ounce of suffering.
As Jesus once said in a parable about hunger and thirst – as much as you didn’t not help those in need you did not help me.
Jesus feels the thirst and hunger.
It is human nature to believe that the pain and suffering that we are going through is far worse than what others have been through.
And it is also human nature that when struggles happen in life that we believe that we are the ones who alone can fix the problem.
And so it becomes tempting to be like the disciples and look for physical assurances during those times rather than spiritual.
To look to the work of our hands rather than God’s because then “I” am in control.
The disciples even pointed it out to Jesus in speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God as if that was what was important about their faith,
Sadly they were more focused on what was outside the temple rather than inside the temple.
So you can imagine the disciple’s dismay and confusion when Jesus said, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Isn’t that blasphemy – that Jesus says God’s temple will be destroyed?
The disciples were falling in to the same trap that Adam and Eve fell for back in the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden.
They were allowing their eyes to look for assurance rather than trusting in God.
Let’s go back to Genesis 3:
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The very first consequence of that sin was that they took control – they saw that they were naked so THEY sewed fig leaves to make coverings for themselves.
But look what happens at the end of that chapter - The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
How long will fig leaves last as clothes?
How long will bricks and mortar, money and possessions last as security?
So God made them a covering that would last.
And God has made you a garment that will last – your Baptism.
As we approach the end of the church year our bible readings are chosen to remind us that our world is also coming to an end.
Even if we could stop all the crime, wars, climate change or whatever else brings fear into our lives the reality is that this is NOT the world that God has planned for us.
God has planned a very different existence for us in his presence through heavenly Worship.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make this world a better place but it is about where we put our hope, trust and faith in this lifetime.
Like the disciples it is so easy to put our trust in things we have built up for ourselves – our possessions, our careers, our finances or whatever else that might be so we can be in control.
But as Jesus warns, these have no lasting security – just like the fig leaves Adam and Eve made for themselves.
It’s like the 2 men who built their homes.
Both homes were identical.
But one was built on sand – and the other on rock.
And when the storms came the house on sand collapsed while the house on rock continued to provide shelter.
Notice in that parable that the house provided comfort and security for both until the storm came.
Our jobs, our possessions our finances are gifts from God to help us enjoy life while on earth.
But they are NOT the foundation for our lives.
No, our foundation is Jesus Christ and his teachings as he instructed Peter:
On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.
There is no doubt that the church is going through difficult times.
The storms have well and truly hit us and according to Jesus we should not be surprised and we should in fact be preparing for much worse challenges.
Jesus says: they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
He even says - You will be hated by all because of my name.
The temptation is to move away from Jesus and his foundation.
The temptation is that we have to become more like the world so that the world will like and accept us.
But there is real danger in that because we lose our foundation so we can take control of our lives.
And when we lose our foundation then nothing is secure.
It is human nature to want to feel secure about the future.
And the world uses methods to frighten you to future proof yourself.
To set up foundations to secure your future.
But there is no security against sickness no matter how well we look after ourselves.
There is no security against an economic collapse no matter how vigilant we’ve been setting up our financial portfolios.
There is no security against natural disasters – war – terrorism.
But there is security in our eternal life and that security is Jesus Christ.
Jesus has future proofed our eternal life through our Baptism - by paying for our sins and assuring us of forgiveness on Judgment Day – a day that has brought fear to so many people.
None of us know what tomorrow might bring but Jesus does promise that God is with us to the end of the age,
God is still in charge, and we can trust in God when we can no longer trust anything else.
When all else fails – when not one stone is left standing – when death and decay are all around us – we remember God’s promise – I am the same, yesterday and forever – I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end – and even though Heaven and earth will pass away, my words will never pass away.