So you've had a rough week. All the things didn't get done as you had planned. Also, you couldn't avoid hearing about close friends and family suffering from illness. You can't resist reading the newspaper with all the drugs and violence happening near and far away. With all that being said it would be nice to come to worship and be inspired, to have your weekly dose of optimism through the Good News of Jesus Christ, just enough to offset the whole week of...not-so-good-news.
And then...you're absolutely blindsided by this incredibly brutal line-up of readings from the Bible with the Lord's wrath, destruction, and the infamous weeping and gnashing of teeth. Where is the Good News we so desperately need in this world? Nevertheless, it's what we've got as churches all over the world are hearing
the same accounts of despair this morning. And we can't just skip over them. It's as much in the Bible as all the Good News along with it: the end times, when our Lord returns to instill the ultimate finale of justice that will cleanse the world for eternity.
But what if there's actually some hope creeping in the background of all this terrifying imagery? What if there's a subliminal Great News with the fact that it obviously hasn't happened yet? Maybe that shows just how much mercy God still has for this broken world. Maybe that shows how much God still adores the Creation, how much God sees it with hope and not despair.
After all, we would think there were plenty of opportune times for God to start this whole Judgment Day process ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven. There were the Crusades when the Church promoted the brutal killings of countless people. There have been world wars and massacres and genocides: unbelievably staggering loss of human life in catastrophically short time intervals. And now we have emerging terrorist groups that threaten innocent people and Ebola taking over entire continents, not to mention unprecedented droughts that drastically alter food supplies and economies across the globe. What exactly is God waiting for? Isn't all that more than enough to ignite God's anger to the point it can no longer be contained from pouring all over this earth?
For whatever reason, evidently not. Evidently God has something else in mind for this entire Creation. Evidently God has something else in mind for humanity, for us. But all these readings this morning force us into a lonely corner making us worry about what's going to happen to us, to our family's who's gone before us, to our children who will have to endure after us. Nevertheless, for whatever divine reason the earth keeps on rotating, keeps on revolving around the sun; a new day keeps on arising. God evidently has something else in mind.
And so we hear in the Gospel a cry from Jesus to use our gifts and talents in such a way that makes us think of our own money, because, after all, our Savior knows far too well, how much we covet each and every dollar. But throughout the Scriptures God reminds us that that money we're under the impression we own actually belongs to God. We just have it for a moment in the grand scheme of eternity, and God allows us temporary ownership to do something more than just pay the bills and save for retirement. And in the Gospel today it isn't just about the money and it never is for our Lord who lived in poverty. It's about all we bring to the table for ministry: our passions, our gifts, our education, our vast life experiences, and yes, even our financial well-being.
And we bring all that to the table not to show off how great we are, or how blessed we are by God, but we dig deep into the pockets of our soul and pull out every cent of gifts and talents to deposit into the lives of our friends and families and complete strangers, so that it will be compounded on a daily rate for years to come in a way we could not even begin to imagine, beyond the black-and-white of numbers on a piece of paper.
And each new day comes as a blessing to thank God not only for another opportunity for us to enjoy it with our loved ones, but as a day that God has yet again shown mercy and hope for this broken world, because evidently this God of new life has something else in mind for this Creation. God has us in mind to bring that mercy and hope to life, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that is overwhelmed with not-so-good news. And we have most certainly been blessed with the greatest news of all, that darkness is conquered by the light, death is triumphed by life; the cross is followed by a resurrection that has saved this fallen world forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon