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December 02, 2012
Jeremiah 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
I’m sure you’ve all seen it. There is a classic image that has been used in television in Saturday morning cartoons, editorial cartoons and the Sunday comics for years. Picture it in your mind, you come to a street corner in a busy city and on the corner is a man carrying a sign or perhaps an even larger sandwich board sign. Often the image we see is an older man wearing a monk’s robe and on the sign are the words… “The End Is Near.” This image has been borrowed and reused in movies and comedies and to introduce serious conversations about all sorts of things. I have even seen this idea borrowed in one of the disaster movie parodies where we see the crazy guy carrying “The End Is Near” sign early in the movie and then, later after everyone is in a blind panic over the disaster at hand, we see the crazy guy again. But this time, as everyone runs in panic, he stands quietly on his street corner with a sign that reads, “I Warned You” We laugh at the image of a crazy man warning us about the end of the world because everyone knows that the sun will come up tomorrow. It did yesterday, it did this morning and, odds are that it will tomorrow. It always has and, we assume, that it always will, at least until out sun dies in a few billion years or so. But is it safe to assume that the sun will come up tomorrow? By now most of us have heard the end of the world predictions regarding the end of the Mayan calendar, but personally, I think that has more to do with the scribe running out of stone or assuming that creating a calendar that went several centuries into the future was enough. What I mean is, although it is always prudent and wise to plan for the future and to save and invest for our future, is it wise to always assume that tomorrow will come? To the people who met him, the prophet Jeremiah was seen as one of those crazy old men who carried a sign warning of the end of the world (even though Jeremiah was little more than 12 when he started). Jeremiah warned Israel that God would bring judgment upon them but he also declared that a day was coming when the pain of their suffering would come to an end. (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ Jeremiah declares that a day will come when the world will change. He declares the arrival of the Messiah, the promised rescuer and redeemer of Israel and of all humanity. In those days, Jeremiah says, a man will be born from David’s family tree and that man will rescue the nation and cause them to live in safety. This is a promise that the people of Israel and the people of God have often clung to during hard times when their worlds were full of suffering and hardship. It is not difficult to imagine people of faith finding comfort in these words during their captivity in Babylon or during times when the people were oppressed or their nation occupied by foreign armies.
Jeremiah promises that one day a man will come, born in the line of Kings, a descendent of David, who will rule and reign with righteousness and who will govern with justice and do what is right. Even today, in the prosperity, freedom and safety that we enjoy in our nation, these things sound good. It isn’t hard to imagine how good they must have sounded to people in slavery or who were facing the Holocaust. Particularly as we begin our celebration of Advent we know that the Messiah that Jeremiah and the prophets foretold has come. Jesus was and is descended from the line of kings and he was born in Bethlehem, David’s hometown just as the prophets said that he would. But even so, the day that Jeremiah predicted has not fully come. Jesus rules and reigns over all the world, but he is not the Lord over all the earth. Jesus is not recognized as the king of Israel, he is not yet free to rule with justice and righteousness and Jerusalem and Israel do not yet live in safety. A day that was predicted by the prophets has not yet come to pass. Jesus and the people of his day knew all about the prophecies contained in scripture and Jesus understood that the end of the world and the end of suffering had not yet come. Jesus also carried on the tradition of carrying the sign warning about then end of the world. In Luke 21:25-36, Jesus declares…
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus warns that the end of the world will come with pain, suffering, anguish and confusion. The world and the stars, objects that people often look to as stable and immovable, will themselves be shaken. At that time, the Messiah will come and those who have been watching for his arrival will know that the end is near. Jesus cautions us that the end will come upon us suddenly like a trap. We all know that death often finds us unexpectedly. We lose people that we know and love suddenly through illness, accident and for reasons that we cannot explain, but Jesus says that one day things will be different. On that day the end will come to all who live upon the face of the earth. As the people of God and as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to watch for the signs and to pray for our escape. Whether the sun rises tomorrow or not, sooner or later every one of us will be called to stand before the ruler of heaven and earth, a ruler from the lineage of kings, a descendent of David, Jesus Christ. On that day we must all make an accounting of our lives and all that we have done. Jesus warns us that we should not weigh ourselves down by filling our lives with parties and drunkenness and worry. The thing that I see here is not a Jesus that criticizes parties, but a Jesus that cautions us to avoid extremes. We should neither weigh ourselves down by filling our lives with distractions like parties and alcohol but nor should we paralyze ourselves with worry. Instead we should fill our lives with purpose and action and focus on so that our lives will 2
stand up before the judgment. As Nike says in their commercials, Just Do It. Don’t allow anything to trick you into staying on the sidelines, get in the game. So what would an active life “in the game” look like? Paul gives us a hint in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13…
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. Paul gives us several examples of how to live by modeling them for us in his own life: • • • • • • • Give thanks for the people that God has put in your life. Tell those people once in while that you thank God for what they have done for you and for the joy they have given to you. Teach others whenever you can Pray that God would make a way for you to teach others and to help others to grow strong in their faith. Pray for the people in your life and in your church. Pray that the people of God would be filled with love and that their love would overflow into the people around them. Pray that the people of God would be filled with courage and strength so that they might live a life that is blameless and holy.
As much as it has been a part of modern comedy to see an old man carrying a sign that says, “The End Is Near,” the end might really be a lot closer than you think. During this season of Advent we remember that the prophets warned the people of God that the end was near. We remember that Jesus said that the end was near. And we are reminded by the obituary column every day that, for many, the end came far sooner than anyone expected. The end is near whether we choose to laugh at the cartoons or not. During this season of Advent, let us do as the prophets, as Jesus, and as Paul suggested, let us prepare our hearts, our minds and our lives for the coming of our Messiah, our Savior, our rescuer, our redeemer, our King. The end is near. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Get in the game.
You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at email@example.com. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
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