Roger's Postings

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mark 13:1-8.               Your difficult life ahead!!                  18/11/12

 (1)  As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" {2} "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." {3} As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, {4} "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" {5} Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. {6} Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. {7} When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. {8} Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

 Today we are reminded that the road ahead of us as Christians is not going to be an easy one. Between now and the end of time life is going to be tough for us. Now it would be nice if I could stand up here and say that if we stay with Christ, life will be easy for us: that all will now be well for us.

However this reading here, along with many others, remind us, that this is far from the case. The life of the church and us as individuals will not be an easy road ahead. For us to think that we as Christians, and the church itself, should be free of troubles and hardships, and yes even lies and deception, need to hear again what our Lord has to say to us here, and what history has to say in this regard as well.

 If we go back through the ages, it is not hard to track down the church; just follow the trail of blood, deception and difficulties; not to mention the catastrophic world tragedies. It already begins shortly after creation with the blood stained soil beneath the body of Abel; murdered not by a stranger but a brother; slain by one who hated the believer because he hated the believer’s God. And all the way forward from there we follow the trail of blood. From the blood of the very old to the very young: from the infant boys in Egypt and Bethlehem to the grey-haired men and women who would not speak against their God.

 All along the way the church has battled with humanity trying to change God’s Word to suit its own whims and wishes. There has been a never-ending stream of people who have claimed to have a greater knowledge of God, teaching, practical living, and end of the world thinking that changes what God has given to us in the Bible. So there has been this constant struggle to hold to the truth in the face of deception. This present time is no exception.

 Then on top of that we have the ever present reality of wars and rumours of wars, as well as earthquakes, famines and other natural tragedies. Even here God and his church has been under pressure from a sinful humanity that does not want to accept the fact that these are the consequence of human sin.

 So in this world the Church never has peace – peace as the world understands it. Yes wherever she goes, the Church leaves – or, rather, is forced to leave – the tell-tale sign of its existence: The trail of blood and deception and accusation. But there you find the true Church.

 Through your life then, see to it that no one leads you astray from such a path, painful though it may be. For many will come to tell your itching ears what they want to hear: ‘It doesn’t have to be like that. We can have peace; health, wealth and happiness. No more blood needs to be shed. We just have to be loving and tolerant of others beliefs and compromise here and there. We just need to pander to people’s feelings and egos, and all will be well.’ Then the world out there will put away its sword and the devil will not send in his false prophets, and the church will not suffer. But then, too, the true Church will come to an end. God will not be the Lord of the church.

 Here we need to remember that sneaky deception is the way of the devil. It was he who enticed Eve to ‘a better way’, which allowed her to disregard the Word of God and receive that which would make her life freer and better – so she thought. It was he who persuaded Solomon to build temples to the gods of his many wives, in order to keep peace and harmony in the family and nation, which ended in disaster for Israel. It is he that tells us it is great to hold up the teachings of Luther and the Lutheran Church, but laughs and pokes fun at those who seek to uphold those teachings, and who encourages ignorance and slackness to any serious attempt to follow those teachings and practices which are in accord with God’s Word. It is he who tells us that we need to be more tolerant and accepting of other denominations and religions, no matter what they teach.

 And yes, it is much easier to go that road of least resistance: To go along with what the rest of society around is doing and thinking. It is much easier not to get too involved and miss church here and there, than to be ridiculed for standing up for what is right and true.

 But here we need to remember, though it may look simpler and easier, and though the promise is of good feelings, freedom and happiness: this road leads to even greater disaster: this road leads to a complete lack of satisfaction and peace, and finally eternal death in Hell.

 No, see to it that no one and nothing leads you astray from the narrow way that is set before us. The way that follows the truth of God’s Word and leads to life and salvation; and which alone leads us to true and lasting peace, and eternal life in heaven. 

 Here however, remember that we are not travelling alone: In fact far from it. We have with us one who has gone before us. God himself came into our world, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of him and in connection with him we have nothing to fear, because he is the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for you and me. For all of our compromises, he made the good confession before Pilate. For all of our avoiding of the cross, he bore his own for us. For our silence in an effort to save face and be popular, he did not turn his face away from the spit and fist, and the blood and gore. He willingly did it all for you and me, so that we might be his own here and in eternity.

 Now all we need to do is follow his trail of blood: the blood of him who died on the cross for us. There we will find the life of the Church, and our own life. There in Jesus is our life and the life of the Church; and in nothing else. Not in glory or fame; not in numbers or power: not in good feelings and popular thinking: nothing but in Jesus holy, saving blood. In that blood which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. For Abel’s blood pleads to the skies. But the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries.

 Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross proclaim, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ ‘Come to me all of you who are struggling and uncertain: pulled this way and that, and I will give you help and direction.’ Come to me all who have fallen and are guilty, and my forgiveness is yours.’

 Come regularly to the Lord’s Table and feed on his body and drink his blood, so that you can have the assurance that forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are yours in Christ. Week by week follow his trail of blood to the foot of the cross, and there find the strength and courage to go forward in life, standing firm in that which is right and true.

 So let us all, be strong and full of courage. Let us go forward with confidence and hope, even though the times ahead may be rough. But also go forward warily because the deceptions are many. The devil will try to deceive you that, things are not all that bad: go with the flow and life will be easy.

 Remember as a result of our baptism we are a part of God’s kingdom, we are God’s children; brothers and sisters of Christ. Salvation has come to us: salvation from sin; from falsehood, from false hopes, from false and crumbling structures that mankind builds. A mighty fortress is our God, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging, though devils all the world should fill all eager to devour us, we will not fear. 

 We are washed in the blood of the Lamb. We are fed with food that lasts to eternal life. We have Christ with us, before us and behind us. Christ on our right and on our left. Christ above us and below us. We all believe on the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has promised that he will ever remain true to us. So nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. To him alone then be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/ Underdale Lutheran Parish



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