25th Sunday after Pentecost/Baptism

Sermon Title: 25th Sunday after Pentecost/Baptism
Date: 15th November, 2015
Preacher: Rev’d. Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 25th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: 1 Samuel 1:4-20, Song of Hannah, Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25, Mark 13:1-11

God our refuge and strength,

you have bound us together in a common life:

help us, in the midst of our present conflict

to confront one another without hatred or bitterness

to listen for your voice amid competing claims

and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen [i]

I begin with this prayer as we are again aware of the suffering of many people in our world, particularly with the recent terror attacks in Paris.  Heartless killing of innocent people. We can feel rage, we can feel numb…how do we make sense of this.

This is not the first time, and not the last as we know throughout our human history, that we do terrible things to one another.

Today’s gospel from Mark is of Jesus speaking to his close disciples of devastations that will occur before the end that will come.

Some scholars see chapter 13 as the “Mark an Apocalypse” or ‘revelation’.  The purpose of apocalyptic discourse is to give encouragement to the faithful now suffering the evils of the present age.  Brendan Byrne writing in his commentary on Mark, says that what Jesus was saying was “more akin to another literary genre found in the Bible, that of a farewell testament: an address or instruction that a significant teacher gives to his or her disciples just prior to death. In such testaments the revered figure looks beyond his or her own death to the future awaiting the disciples, foreseeing the troubles and temptations that will inevitably arise, and offering appropriate warning and encouragement.” [ii]

Either way, both the apocalyptic words or a farewell testament, seem to reveal the future and give encouragement. I could speak more on this as it’s a huge topic…some other time!

So, what do we make of people who stand on street corners or in parks saying that the end of the world is about to happen and in some cases give a date.

Do you hear any encouragement or is it just all doom and gloom. When one is feeling already anxious, fearful about events in their own lives, it doesn’t seem to me to be at all helpful. Just as an aside, the ‘second coming’ is in fact about transformation and justice for all people not the terrible end that some say.

Fear ‘sells’ as we know by how much the media feeds us with hour upon hour of the devastating events that happen in our world. And we can get sucked into believing there is no hope.

We live in a world that isn’t’ all ‘sunshine and happiness’! Many of us held a minutes silence last Wednesday for Remembrance Day…the end of World War 1.  And I was also reflecting about the wars since then and the lives lost and the effects of war on those in the forces and their families who have survived or trying to survive.

Some of Jesus’ followers when Mark’s gospel was written would have had a number of challenges facing them:  “disappointment at Jesus’ delayed return, the immense social and religious upheaval caused by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, possible persecution by secular and religious forces, confusion among Jesus’ followers about whether they had missed his second coming and conflicts between rival Christian leaders.”[iii] (Some of this sounds familiar doesn’t it!)

What Jesus is trying to do in this passage in Mark’s account, is “to dampen down the false hopes and expectations arising out of events that might reasonably have been seen as signs that the final days were at hand, leading to disillusionment and loss of faith when these expectations were not met.”[iv]

Jesus never gave a date.  What he did was to make the disciples aware that terrible events occur in the world and that if they/we take heed, we can help change the world, as many faithful people have in the past and the present.

How you might ask. Verse 10 says: “And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.” What is this good news?  It’s the news that Jesus was and is trying to get across to us human beings who are made in the image of God and yet we forget whose and who we are.  Jesus is the way we see God…God of compassion, of love, not of retribution.  A God of forgiveness when we have done wrong or thought bad thoughts. That’s why coming together as a community of faith is important, as we say that we are sorry as individuals and as a community and hear the words of forgiveness so we can go out blessed and with a renewed sense of purpose.

That sense of purpose is about loving…. It doesn’t mean that we blindly turn our eye on racism, sexism or any other injustice. Hopefully what this belief means is that we will be provided with strength and confidence to speak out against worldly powers.

I was taking a service at Cameron Close last Thursday and I said that love has got to start with ourselves, our families….and little by little it will have a ripple effect…and change the world.

Pie in the sky?  It’s got to start somewhere. It’s got to start with us.

Young Samuel is about to enter the Christian community of faith that believes that there is hope; that we can trust and find refuge in a loving God. The Psalmist today invites us to hear again words of comfort:

“Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you. O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize. I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.  And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my body shall rest in safety.  For you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay.  O Lord, you will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness for ever.”

We may struggle to believe and find it all too hard when we hear such tough stuff in the world, let alone what we ourselves are struggling with. And yes, we will fail..we will fail ourselves, our relationships with our families…but we must try and pray and change.

God our refuge and strength,

you have bound us together in a common life:

help us, in the midst of our present conflict

to confront one another without hatred or bitterness

to listen for your voice amid competing claims

and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen     page 202 APBA

The Lord be with you

[i] APBA page 202

[ii] A Costly Freedom: Brendan Byrne page 197

[iii] In the Meantime: Partner in Preaching: David Lose 2015

[iv] A Costly   Freedom: BB page 197