Are you prepared?

  November 17-18, 2007


33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mal 3: 19-20a; 2 Thes 3: 7-12; Luke 21: 5-19

Dc. Larry Brockman

The end of the world!  The scripture descriptions make it seem so frightening.  First, there’s the period of trial before the end that Jesus mentions.  Persecution, betrayal within families, imprisonment, and people put to death.  Then, listen to the judgment prophesied by Malachi for all evildoers:  They will burn like stubble- like dried straw.  My wife and I saw what that was like first hand at our campsite last week.  Our kindling was straw; and the fire consumed it in a blinding flash!  It was gone- forever.

Deep down inside of us, the end can be so frightening, as the scriptures imply, just because it is described as “the end”.  We don’t feel comfortable thinking about that-  the end of life as we know it,  ending in a flash like the stubble.  There’s a haunting feeling in all of us about the fear of the unknown that accompanies death, and “the end of the world” that comes with it.  Because no matter how much we hear about heaven and everlasting life for those who love God, our human nature wants proof- it wants to see and feel what life after death is like, and the truth is- we can’t have that. 

We have to “believe” in God and trust in his promise of everlasting life for those who love him.  Our proof is His Resurrection- and His promise to us.  That happened 2000 years ago, and that’s just too remote for most of the secular world.   But fortunately, God has built into us a capacity to understand “the end” to dispel that fear.  You see, life has a series of “ends of the world” built into it.  And these all condition us for the ultimate end. 

When your life in your mother’s womb ends; you begin life as an infant, and a whole new world is there for you.  When your life as a child ends and you stop climbing in your parent’s laps- your infant world ends.  But, you discover that another whole new wonderful world is there.  And so, there are many stages in life and a new, sometimes frightening world ahead with each of them: a high school; a college; a marriage; this town; that city; this job; that career change; this baby, these triplets.  And each time these key events occur in your lives, your worlds change with them.  You are also called upon to take more personal responsibility in being prepared as life progresses.   It’s called growing up; moving on; maturing.  Although looking back can be nostalgic; no matter how much you would like to go back, you can’t.

Death is just another one of those transitions.  It is just as inevitable as birth, as becoming a child, and as becoming an adult.  You can overcome your fear; but you have to be prepared properly to do that.  First, most of us aren’t going to know when death comes.  There are some people who do know it’s coming soon- those who have a terminal disease.  But most of us don’t know where or when.  Jesus says that, and there’s a good reason for that.  In the early Church, many folks believed that Christ would return in their lifetime.  That’s what Paul’s message to the Thessalonians was about.  Some of them stopped working; and were just talking and waiting.  Paul made it clear- that all should work, just as he was working. 

That lesson highlights the second thing about being prepared.  God doesn’t want you to stagnate.  Each of us has a mission in life.  Being prepared means that you embrace that mission at all times.  When you stop living the life God has in mind for you, it’s like refusing to be born; or refusing to face into the realities of becoming an adult.  You are called upon to accept the transitions in life and grow from them.  And, no matter how old you get, God still wants you to grow. 

So, a third element of being prepared is knowing what God’s will is for you at all times.  For the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about time, talent, and treasure.  As you listened to our staff members and our pastor, if you felt a gnawing feeling of discomfort; if you had an urge; if you heard a little voice inside that says- get involved; then do it.   

Lastly, the fourth element of being prepared is this:  Don’t be misled by the false prophets.  The world is full of these.  I’m not just talking about the far out contingent- the Joneses, Koreshes, etc.  But rather, about those who preach the easy way out.  It comes in several flavors: 

  • Don’t get involved- someone else can do it; 
  • Don’t speak up when something is wrong- you might face retributions; 
  • And It’s OK, everybody’s doing it.

   Finally, I’d like to share with you something about the great Medieval Emperor Charlemagne.  His tomb is in the German city of Aachen, where his Empire was headquartered back in the 800s.   He is buried in the central space beneath the dome of the imperial church there, called Aix-la- Chapelle. The burial chamber is a subterranean room.   In the middle of the room is a single marble chair, the chair on which kings used to be crowned.   It is placed over his grave.   On the chair sits a sculpted image of Charlemagne, wrapped in his royal robes, with a book of the Gospels open on his lap.  There he sits: cold, silent, motionless.   But Charlemagne’s finger points to the words of Jesus:   “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”   

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