Due to bad weather, only 10 people heard this. One of my better ones I thought.
The Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
November 13-14, 2010
Text: Luke 21:5-28
Dear Friends in Christ,
Sven and Ole were these two old pastors who served churches that were right across the road from one another. The two churches were out on a paved country road just before a sharp curve. Sven was a Swedeborg - that is Swedish Unitarian - and Ole was a Lutheran. These two guys had a habit of putting up signs in front of their churches to get each other’s goat. So one day a guy drives by and there’s Sven on his side of the road and Ole on his side, each putting up a sign. Sven’s sign said “Da end ist near!” Ole’s sign said “Turn around before Da end!” The driver shakes his fist at them as he zooms by and yells; “When are you two old Swenskas going to grow up?” He peels around the curve. Suddenly there is the sound of tires squealing and a crash. This went on for a little while. About the time they heard the fifth crash, Ole calls over to Sven, “Maybe ve should jus’ say Da bridge ist out.”
How many people in our world are like the drivers going by those churches. The warnings are there. But they pay no heed to them. They don’t recognize them for what they are. They go on their merry way, paying no mind to the fact that the judgement is coming, one way or the other. I think of all the snowmobilers back in Lincoln County, where I previously served. The trails literally ran from tavern to tavern to tavern. Every week there’d be several injuries and deaths on the trails. Inevitably, the guy was four times the legal limit going a hundred and twenty at two in the morning. Not even the wood from a town of Corning popel tree is soft enough to absorb that kind of impact. Then of course people would go around ringing their hands and saying, I don’t understand why so many people are getting killed on snowmobiles. Did those snowmobilers understand that the judgement of God was at hand as they quaffed their twentieth drink of the night? Obviously not. But in a short time, the opportunity for repentance was over. They were in the judgement hall of Christ.
Our text is one of warning, one of law and vengeance. One of the false ideas of modern man is that vengeance is wrong and has no place among men. This is not correct. Rather we learn that vengeance belongs to God. (Is. 34:8, Rom 12:19) God exercises this judgement both in the final judgment and through earthly, human agents upon the earth. In this case, the human agent was a Roman general by the name of Titus Flavius Vespatian Minor, who would later become the Emperor Titus.
Christ uses a form of a technique we call typology. This is typological prophecy. In typological prophecy, a near term event is used a type or symbol of some ultimate or final event. In this case Christ is using the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur in 70 A.D. as a picture of the final judgement at the end of time. And following Jesus’ logic, this makes every disaster, natural or man made, a picture of the final judgement of God. We should take such events as a warning to us. As Christ says speaking of those killed in another disaster, “you repent, lest you also perish.”
The temple was a beautiful structure. Some said that after Herod’s renovation, it was more beautiful than the temple of Solomon. The first temple was really the tabernacle constructed by Moses and Aaron at Mount Sinai. It was God’s intent that it be moved from place to place within Israel. However, very quickly , it found a permanent home at a place called Shilo. The Ark of the Covenant was lost at the time of the High Priest Eli, when the Prophet Samuel was still very young. After this Shilo fell into ruins. It would never again be Israel’s place of worship. The Ark was recovered and later, David moved the Ark to Jerusalem. Solomon built the temple to house the Ark, God’s throne of grace among His people. Later, the Ark was lost again. It appears to have been removed from the Temple by a Pharaoh the Bible calls Shishak. This Pharaoh is better know as Ramses II or Ramses the Great. Though Scripture does not record this, it appears to have been returned. About three hundred years later, during the rule of King Manassah of Judah, it was lost again, and remains missing to this day. It is almost certain that the Ark of the Covenant was not in the temple when it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. About fifty years later, when they started to rebuild the temple, people wept because it would not be as beautiful as the previous temple. King Herod the Great, the Herod of the Christmas story, ordered a reconstruction or renovation of the temple. Ordinary stone was replaced with marble. Gold was pounded into the veins of the marble. Some of the stones used were twenty feet or more long. When the sun hit the temple it seemed to glow with a heavenly light.
This was the picture before the disciples that day. Christ warns that they would live to see the temple destroyed. Most of them did. God rejected the Temple and the rulers of the Temple because they had rejected Him. The end was closer than anyone realized. The early Christians remembered Christ’s words. When they Jewish revolt began they fled Jerusalem and went into hiding in the hills. Not a single Christian was killed when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.
But this is a warning for us as well. Every time we see a disaster, large or small, from a car crash to a hurricane we should see it as a warning to us. We are to repent of our sins. We are to seek Christ’s forgiveness. We are to amend our lives and live lives that reflect the reality of being Children of God.
It is only in repentance that we can avoid destruction. When the tsunami hit Indonesia a few years ago a passenger train was swept away and most of the people were killed. Among the dead was the Bishop of the Indonesian Lutheran Church and his wife. You might say that God did not protect them. But they were protected by God. He had forgiven their sins. They may have died. But they did not perish. They now live among the saints of heaven. They were ready for the end.
God uses the events of this world to punish and save, to warn and to preserve. When we see that one stone indeed is not left upon another, we are to know that this was the hand of God. We are to take that to heart. We are to cling to our Baptism, and flee to the Absolution and to the Supper. We are to cling to the forgiveness of our sins. I cannot promise that life will be easy. I cannot promise that God’s ravaging hand will not strike here, for reasons that we will never understand in this life. We might die. We might be left destitute. But in Christ, we will not perish. We will have life and have it abundantly. We will have the life that Christ gives through repentance and forgiveness. That life will not end, regardless of what happens here or there.