The Rev. Shelby Ochs Owen. This sermon is based on Luke 21:5-19, 2 Thessalonians 3:13
So little John had been a very quiet baby, had been slow to talk. In fact hadn’t said a word even at age 4. One day as he was eating the bowl of soup his mother had prepared for him, John startled his mother by saying, “Soup’s cold.” His mom then said, “Why, John, I didn’t know you could even talk. Why have you waited until now to speak?” He responded, “Well, up until now everything’s been o.k.”
We have had quite a tumultuous week in the wake of the election; actually it has been quite a long and wearisome year for politics in general. Some might truly feel that until now everything’s has been o.k., but, of course, not everyone. Plenty have suffered in all kinds of ways, plenty have experienced disappointment at various points. Wednesday morning yielded surprising results from our presidential election. Some now feel vindicated, relieved, elated; others feel betrayed, upset, deeply saddened or angry, and some simply bewildered, speechless. To say that we are experiencing emotional turmoil as a nation (and beyond) is putting it mildly. No matter how you voted, perhaps we can agree that the atmosphere has been highly charged.
Earlier this week, I had a doctor’s appointment, and when I talked to the doctor about the election, he asked me, with deep concern on his face, “Are we going to be o.k.?”
Are we going to be o.k.? This could have been the underlying question of the disciples in Luke’s passage of today. “When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’” Imagine the disciples’ alarm as they asked him, “Teacher, when will this take place?” And he went on to speak of wars and insurrections they would experience and he then said, “Do not be terrified.” In what is referred to as apocalyptic writing, Luke was referring to what was happening in his community’s midst, which was the actual destruction of the Jewish Temple, as well as making references to the end times.
This may seem like strange literature to us. Yet, in its strangeness we have before us a marvelous example of the tenacity of faith and hope for the people of God. When all of these challenging things take place, nations rising against nation, earthquakes, famines and plagues – in the midst of these things, Jesus says, “This will give you an opportunity to testify.”
This moment, now, today, in this present hour, we are being called to testify to God’s power, God’s love, God’s justice. Jesus’s disciples were being called in the midst of stress and pain to witness to God’s love. This is how they would endure, by recognizing that God is in charge and not only in charge but present to them in the middle of their turmoil. In the middle of the war, in the middle of the famine, in the middle of the hostility surrounding them.
A lot of tears have been shed this week, there have been protests on the streets of major cities, there has been too much rancor through Face Book between people of differing views. A lot of name calling over political views, even among elementary school aged children. A lot of fear and worry from various individuals and groups. On Friday my new Muslim friend told me she hadn’t been outside in days and was scared to. There has been a lot of suspicion when we come upon people, sometimes family members, friends and strangers – How did she vote? Do I even want to talk to him? There has been a great deal of turmoil and anxiety in the nation’s atmosphere. For some it is tempting to run away from it all. I still remember the heavy metal t-shirt of one of my children that sported the band name, “Sick of it All”. I’m thinking about getting him to bring it home for me at Thanksgiving.
Whether we are delighted at the outcome of this presidential race or are outraged, or somewhere in between, we have a choice on where to go from here. We are right to ask, “Are we going to be o.k.?” Strangely, that question or the circumstances that lead us to the question could be a gift. Because the question indicates that we have come up short in and of ourselves, perhaps that we don’t have all the answers. In short it points to our need for God. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Our emptiness reminds us that we are made to need God. That is good news! Because with God we can more fully live! Remember in our baptismal vows, the answers to many of the promises is “I will, with God’s help.” And the strange thing is that we are made to need each other. None of us is complete without the other.
So, just as with the original disciples of Jesus, times of turmoil present us 21st century disciples an opportunity to testify to God in our midst; the times of difficulty are a rallying cry for us to live a life that is centered in Christ, a life of compassion, of inclusion, a life of kindness, a life of humility, a life of love. As Thessalonians reminds us, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” So, we must do what is right with Jesus as our guide. Can’t we walk together, looking for the things we hold in common rather than the things that keep us apart? Can we look for the things that unify rather than divide us, look for the things that build others up rather than destroy, act as bridges that connect us to others rather than as isolated organisms, can we be healers rather than agitators?
The recently deceased Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning wrote, “The more I trust in God’s goodness at work in my world, the more evidence of it I will see and the more opportunities for its exercise I will create.” Politicians will come and go. Our salvation must be sought through a deeper foundation. We must trust that God’s goodness is at work in our world, in our nation, even in ourselves. Can’t we let God’s love radiate through us, in our thoughts, our prayers, our actions today?
Are we going to be o.k.? If we just keep recognizing God in our midst, keep on following Jesus and walking with each other, even loving each other, it seems we have a pretty good chance!