Oh, the irony that this Gospel text should show up the Sunday after a horrendously bitter and atrociously divisive election: when plenty of Americans predicted the ultimate appearance of the anti-Christ if their opposing candidate was elected, promises made of so many leaving the country immediately if the results pointed a certain direction to their dismay, and that quite simply, all the fire and brimstone, from you know where, would shatter loose upon us all. Of course it wasn’t just this time around that children of God have predicted the undisputed nearness of the end. Plenty has happened in this world’s history that has convinced us that surely it was all about to draw to a certain close.
Just over a half millennia ago the Black Plague killed an estimated twenty million people in Europe during a five-year span. The Crusades between warring armies with religion as the culprit left inches’ worth of blood flooding entire city streets. Even all the way back to the first century when the Roman Empire annihilated the holy city of Jerusalem: time and time again we thought there was no possible way for there to be any future whatsoever, any hope for humanity, any hope that this God could still bring anything at all to the scene of us feeling absolute nothingness. And time and time again humanity has been proven wrong! God, with an insurmountable arsenal of love and mercy, is still greater than all the doom and gloom we can shout from the mountaintops.
But still, why does Jesus go out of His way to tell us about all these terrible things that are supposed to happen to us: plagues, famines, earthquakes, persecution, wars? Is He trying to frighten us? Is He trying to prepare us? “All will be thrown down,” our Savior warns us. “All will be thrown down,” including the things we cherish: including church buildings, including an entire nation we call home. It’s not meant to scare us necessarily. It’s not meant to make us cringe in sadness realizing not only our own mortality, but the mortality of a country that has persevered through so much in two hundred forty years’ time. We live in a beautiful world, to be sure, but it is undoubtedly fragile. It will not last forever, and neither will any country in it.
And quite frankly, that’s okay. It’s not supposed to, because only God is meant to last forever. Only God can withstand all the plagues, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, wars, and more. Whether all is thrown down by politicians or armies or average citizens, God knows how to restore into a new creation beyond anything we can ever imagine. No one is capable of shattering that most certain hope. Because even with all the terrifying imagery that Jesus describes there is still this most wonderful Gospel, this incredible Good News: “not a hair of your head will perish.” Nothing can stop this God from taking care of us all the way to the end, no matter how brutal it may be, and beyond!
We may not necessarily experience plagues, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, and wars, directly, but whatever may come: job loss, sickness, family divisions, hatred, anger, fear, death. “Not a hair of your head will perish.” This God cares about us in the most intimate way, even more so than we can love ourselves.
Nevertheless, we most certainly forget about that from time to time, especially when we join in the dooms and glooms misery-ridden outlook on the world: when we feel all hope is lost, and we wonder where the world is going next. Well, the world will still be going with God, because God is not letting the world go…ever. We cannot shatter our eternal bond with this God of love. We can think all we want how much we have this world figured out, that fire and brimstone is about to shatter upon us all. That elections determine eternal fates. That individual humans have the power to alter how much beauty and joy can emerge in our local communities and throughout the world.
Maybe that’s why Jesus has to keep reminding us that “All will be thrown down,” at some point. There actually is hope in those words. Because even if all is thrown down, God is left standing. Even when death threw itself onto a cross and brought our Savior’s body down, Jesus stood tall walking out of a tomb that was sealed with the most intense hatred and lust for power. Life stood tall in the shadows of death. And it will most certainly do so for all of God’s children, including for all those who died when the world thought all hope was lost forever. And yet, God still most certainly knows how to bring hope and joy in spite of all the doom and gloom we can shout from our rooftops, because God did so on the cross and out of the empty tomb. Nothing, absolutely nothing in all this creation, can separate us from that love in Christ Jesus, our Lord, now and 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