Sunday, November 13
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
I am studying and writing on the day before the election. As you are aware, the tensions and ugliness surrounding this 2016 election cycle have been ‘way beyond what most of us have been accustomed to, in years past. Some of the talk is ‘way over-the-top, suggesting that the world will end if this or that candidate wins.
Our Scripture readings this week speak of the end of the world as we know it.
Hebrew prophet Malachi spoke to his neighbors at Jerusalem, in the disappointing years when they struggled to rebuild the wall and the Temple at Jerusalem. Their community’s standard of living was stagnant or sinking, and fears of enemies nearby and faraway preyed on the people’s morale.
Facing these unhappy realities, Malachi gives them a bracing, timeless word from the Lord:
“ See, the day is coming,
burning like an oven,
when all the arrogant and all evildoers
will be stubble;
the day that comes shall burn them up,
says the LORD of Hosts,
so that it will leave them
neither root nor branch.” – Malachi 4:1
So much for anybody who is not on God’s side. God has a plan and a schedule, and God will deal with God’s enemies thoroughly and completely, right on schedule... God’s schedule, not ours.
Malachi continues, giving good news to any folks who are on God’s side:
“But for you who revere My Name
the sun of righteousness shall rise,
with healing in its wings.
You shall go out
leaping like calves from the stall.” (4:2)
Doesn’t that sound like fun ? Like joy ?
Notice there the Scripture basis of a line from one of our favorite Christmas carols, ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ : God’s answer— to their fears about the end of the world as they know it— points us to Jesus, God-with-us, whose birth we will soon celebrate. God offers wholeness and joy.
Prophet Malachi comforted his people in two ways: he assured them that God would clean up the bad, and that God would supply their healing sunshine.
Also at this time of the church year, we will hear from Jesus’ final teachings at Jerusalem before he was arrested and crucified. Jesus’ disciples, two thousand years ago, were also asking about the end of the world as they knew it: “When is the END coming ?” (Luke 21:7; also see Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:4) Perhaps they were fixated on the current events of their day, in politics and culture, worrying that everything was going to hell in a handbasket... as many are feeling today.
Although the gospels report that Jesus explained it to them in advance, his disciples did not understand that their teacher Jesus, the Son of God, was about to allow himself to be killed by his enemies. They did not understand how God was carrying out His plan to deal with sin. Nor did they understand how their journey with Jesus, playing out right in front of their eyes, would fulfill all of God’s historic promises of life and blessing for God’s people. They just didn’t “get it.”
The answer Jesus gave his disciples at that time is NOT about dates on the calendar or historical events to anticipate. Instead, 1) he warned them not to be led astray by the news of the world; 2) he promised to give them “words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” And 3) he told them to hang in there with God, no matter what: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Or, as Paul put it (2 Thessalonians 3:13):
“Be not weary in well doing.”
In this church year, we have only two more weeks of reading Luke’s gospel, before we switch to Matthew’s gospel for a year.
What have you noticed in Luke’s gospel ?
† Only Luke tells of the angel’s visit to Mary, of her cousin Elizabeth, or of the angels’ encounter with the shepherds outside Bethlehem: “Fear not!”
† Luke is the only gospel that tells the story of Jesus meeting
Zacchaeus (19), or the conversation Jesus had with the robber who was crucified next to him (23), or of the disciples walking with the risen Jesus to Emmaus (24).
† Only Luke includes the stories Jesus told about the “good Samaritan” (10), the “prodigal son” (15), the “shrewd manager” (16), and the prayers of the self-righteous man and the sinner (18).
What is your favorite thing in Luke’s gospel?
Thank God for giving good news in our lifetime.