Sunday, November 17, 2019



See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name
saying, ‘I am he,” and “The time has come.’ Do not follow them!
Luke 21:5-19

Here is a story from the 1990s, when I lived in the rectory next door. It had been a very busy week at the parish. I decided to go to bed early, thinking I would get a little rest. Wrong! About an hour after I dozed off, the rectory telephone rang.  (When the phone rang that late at night, back then, everyone agreed that I was the pastor.) The caller was a panic-stricken, rural-sounding man with a house full of kids screaming and yelling at each other in the background. He had gotten my number out of the Yellow Pages. We used “yellow pages back in the 1990s! "Reverend, is the world going to come to and end tonight?" In my groggy state, I presumed it already had!"

Well, after serving down in the Bible Belt as a home missionary for ten years, previous to coming up here to Louisville, I had handled enough of these calls to know that a long discussion on biblical exegesis would not work. This man needed a “yes” or “no” answer from an authority - now! So, without batting an eye, I answered with all the authority I could muster at that hour of the night. "No, sir, the world will not end tonight. Please go to bed!"

He put his hand over the receiver to deliver my verdict to his screaming brood.: "He said it wasn't going to end tonight!" There was a lot of muffled arguing before he came back on the phone. "The kids came home from school today saying some preacher had predicted the end of the world and all the other kids were talking about it. They won't go to bed until you talk to them." Believe it or not, I had to talk to five kids, one by one, and tell them in my most confident voice: "Go to bed, honey! The world is not going to end tonight!" The father came back on the line, thanked me, and hung up. I was so pleased with myself that thought I would never go back to sleep!

Jesus left this earth with a promise he would come back. Ever since, his followers have become obsessed, every now and then, with predicting "the end time." Nobody has been right yet! Some of his disciples, especially at the time of Mark's gospel, were obsessed with the belief that Jesus was come in their lifetime - any moment now! This gospel warns those who were trying to predict the “time” to go on living and leave the "when" to God.  Even Paul, after he had written to the Thessalonians about the imminent coming of Christ, had to write to them again and tell them to get off their rear ends and get on with their lives. Some had quit working and had sat down to wait for the end.

Friends! You have no doubt been confronted by some who claim to be able to deal with Biblical “end time” texts! Jesus warns us today not to follow them! He tells us that many will come claiming “I am he” and “the time has come.” He tells us today not to get sucked into their claims of being able to predict even from Scripture. Every time the world gets complicated and events seem to be out of control, a significant number of religious people comb the scriptures trying to find clues to back their dire predictions. It’s as if they hope the world is coming to an end! I guess that’s a lot easier than trying to fix it!

In today’s gospel, Luke warns us about two things. He warns us “not to follow" those who would interpret current events as signs of the world's end, but he also warns us to "watch out" for our own behavior in the meantime because we will have to face a lot of disruption and even persecution before it’s all said and done. However, we can be at peace because we know that the end has already been decided. Good will triumph over evil! So, it’s not a matter of predicting, but a matter of perseverance. In other words, he tells us to worry about living well and being a good disciples so that we don't have to fuss about trying to "get ready" whenever the end does comes.

Friends, how do we do that? We hunger and thirst for holiness, we keep our hand to the plow, we lived prepared and, most importantly, we "wait in joyful hope" for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We need not live in fear and dread because, as Saint Paul tells us, "Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it even dawned on human beings, the wonderful things that God has in store for those who love him."    

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