This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 18 November 2018.
Last week our thoughts and prayers centred on remembrance, mainly remembering those who lost their lives in the first WW, but also the conflicts since and the many lives given for peace.
The Gospel today speaks of wars and rumours of wars, natural disasters and all this can sound fearful even apocalyptic, but there is also the message of hope and peace to be found in the reading.
Jesus we know often speaks in parables, which can sometimes come across as riddles, and his disciples do not always understand him and will ask for clarity when they are on their own as in this passage.
He tells them privately, there will be others who will lead many astray. He speaks about wars, nation against nation, disasters and famine, but he doesn’t really answer their question. Jesus tells them “the end is not yet” and the emphasis is that although people would expect wars and disasters to signal the end they do not.
Whilst preparing for today the words of a song came into my head (and not giving my age away, because it was used in an advert not long ago) it was from a dance by Fred Astaire, “There may be trouble ahead,” I don’t know about the moonlight and roses, but definitely trouble ahead.
The disciples must have been perplexed and Nick Fawcett attempts to tells us how Andrew may have felt: the following meditation is taken from his book.
(No Ordinary Man – book 2 – Nick Fawcett)
“It was a chilling picture he gave us, so unlike those he usually painted, so different from those we’d come to expect – one which shattered all our illusions, throwing everything we thought we’d understood into the balance.
No homely parables this time to bring the message home, no comforting promises, but a scenario which made us draw our breath in amazement – stark, shocking, scary – warnings of doom and disaster, of trials and temptation, of beating and betrayal.
I don’t know why, but we’d never thought of the future in that way before, never expected anything other than joy and blessings.
Not that we had a clear picture, mind you – we were more interested in this world than the next – but when the kingdom did come and the sheep were separated from the goats, well, we were pretty confident which side we’d be on.
Only, listening to Jesus, suddenly we weren’t so sure after all.
His words wiped the smiles off our faces, sent shivers down our spines, for they brought home as never before the cost of discipleship, the faith, commitment and perseverance needed to see our journey through to the end.
We’d imagined, until then, it would be plain sailing, a matter simply of plodding along until the race was run, the sacrifices we might make now more than compensated when the prizes were handed out.
But here was a different prospect although, the possibility that our love might grow cold, our faith be underminded, our courage fail, our horizons be clouded – and the awful thing was we knew it could too easily come true.
We’d grown smug, complacent, too certain of our righteousness, too blasé about our destiny; but we realised then there could be no shortcuts, no easy options – the way is hard and the gate narrow, and only a few will find it.
Yes, it was a chilling picture all right – one that left us stunned and shaken – yet I’m glad he painted it for we needed to look again at the faith we professed, to consider again the response we’d made, and then to match our stride to his, whatever it might take, wherever it might lead.”
Mark was writing the Gospel as the church was beginning to emerge when there were persecutions and false Messiahs. When new Christians were being led astray by the temptations in the world and culture around them and though it was a terrible, painful time there was joy ahead. They just needed to be patient, to be still in God’s presence and remain faithful. So we too need to let God speak to us and be still.
Jesus I’m sure was well aware of the emotionally charged atmosphere that was developing around him, but he was also aware of the troubles that would face his disciples and those who followed him.
Jesus’ prophesy regarding the temple must have shocked his disciples, the stones were large and it had taken many years to build it, but the dark days to follow were not signs of the end, but of the coming of the Son of Man.
Let us pray: (No Ordinary Man – Nick Fawcett)
Lord, it is easy to grow careless in discipleship – to imagine that through confessing you as Lord we have done all that ever needs to be done.
But you call us not simply to acknowledge you, but to follow you, sharing in the work of your kingdom and striving to live as your people.
Teach us, then, to walk by your side day by day, so that we do not find ourselves excluded for that kingdom when it finally comes.
In Jesus name. Amen.
Reader @ St. Margaret’s Holyrood & St. George’s Simister.