“Beware! Do Not be Led Astray!”

Luke 21:5-19

17 November 2013

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Zion West Walworth & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

 

Prayer.

 

As we draw to an end

This liturgical year

we begin to experience

Far away and nearly invisible

The feint wisps of Advent

Beginning to make its appearance

On the horizon of faith

Consider the dualism

Of closure and opening

Life and after-life

The conclusion of earthly kingdoms

And the emergence of the

Kingdom of God.

Here we stand

Teetering on the cusp

With one foot planted squarely

In the current world

And one foot

Ready to be planted

In the world yet to come.

 

In this state of in-between-ness

We are vulnerable.

Our anticipation places us at risk.

Our eagerness opens us to

Every wolf dressed in sheep’ clothing.

Not all wolves know they are wolves.

Likewise each of us can become wolf

And not even know it.

Think of all the promises made

To keep us locked into the present age:

Church revitalization

Leadership development

Church growth

Small groups

Capital fund raising.

To which Jesus proclaims,

“As for these things that you see,

the days will come

when not one stone will be left upon another;

all will be thrown down.”

(Luke 21:6)

 

All of which is not to say

That some of our labors in this age

Are not without merit.

We need to hold fast to our commitments.

We need to honor our word.

We need to recognize earthly laws.

Be we do need to be wary.

We need to discern

We must remain vigilant.

Beware, Jesus warns us,

that you are not led astray;

for many will come in my name and say,

‘I am he!’ and,

‘The time is near!’

Do not go after them.

(Luke 21:8)

 

Wolves will talk a good talk

About preparing for tomorrow.

But do not be fooled.

They intend to have you for lunch.

They want your money

(this world)

They want your support

(this world)

They want your heart;

In this world,

They will tear it right out of your chest

If you let them.

 

Who then, are we to heed?

 

Watch for the prophet

The one who comes to prepare the way

for Messiah.

Watch for the world the Messiah

Will usher in.

Prophets don’t want your money.

They don’t want to take.

They want to give.

They want your attention.

They want you to be aware of

what is going on around us.

“Pay attention to the wars and insurrections.

Be aware of the earthquakes, famine, and plagues.

Know that when you are arrested, persecuted, and killed

It is only an earthy death,

For not a hair of your head will perish

In the eternal Kingdom of God.

 

Beware, be alert, and be strong.

 

The happenings of this world

Are not coincidental.

We should not treat them

With blind or indifferent ignorance.

We are already living God’s plan.

We only see our tiny little piece.

Hindsight only affords us an educated guess

Regarding divine strategy.

But from hindsight we should

Draw from the well of assurance

And know that we remain steadfast

In the hand of God.

 

I cannot explain why those

Who love you, will turn on you.

But I do know that

God is in control.

I cannot explain why some

Suffer terribly,

Disease, disaster, famine, and death,

But I do know that

God’s plan is being deployed.

I cannot explain

Why people hate

All because of the name of Jesus.

Yet, we know,

That even this

Is a facet of God’s greater design.

 

Beware, be alert, and be strong.

 

In the Fifth Century,

John the Solitary

Counsels Hesychius to

“choose vigilance,

even in preference to fasting,

for vigilance makes

the understanding luminous,

it keeps the intellect awake,

it makes the body still,

it is more beneficial than

all other labours.”

(John the Solitary, “Letter to Hesychius,” in The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, Cistercian Publications, 1987, Pp. 23.)

 

We know that a prolonged state of

Hyper vigilance is counterproductive.

Two thousand years of watching and waiting

With every expectation that the next moment

May be the last

May lead one to be tempted to

Downplay the importance

Or decrease the attention

One places on the imminence

In Jesus’ voice we he tells us

Keep alert

Like the wise servants prepared

for the arrival of the householder.

(Luke 12:35-40)

 

The editor of Weavings,

John S. Mogabgab,

Wrote a number of years ago:

“Vigilance is poised attentiveness

to the spiritual environment,

sensitive awareness of the presence

and purpose of God

in our midst,

uninhibited responsiveness to

the flow of Love’s energy

at work in the world, (and)

constant resistance to temptations

that deform that love.

For Philotheos of Sinai,

Such alertness

‘cleanses the conscience

and makes it lucid.’”

(Mogabgab, J., Weavings A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, XXII(6), November / December 2007, p.2-3.)

 

Beware, be alert, and be strong.

 

Mindfulness

I believe

Is the posture of all disciples of Jesus.

Mindfulness is both

Being alert and being aware

That the old world was,

And now is.

The earth and its mortal nature was,

And is already gone.

The Kingdom of God both is,

And has already come.

For those who endure

Their souls have already been gained.

For those who remain strong

Salvation has already come.

 

Mindfulness

Knows that strength

Does not come from within

… the mustard seed amount of faith

has already been planted within you …

rather strength is a gift

from God

for all those who would claim it

own it

and make it their own.

 

Mindfulness

Knows that strength

Does not come from knowing;

But from questioning.

Faith is never factual or certain

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be faith.

Faith is being mindful enough

And courageous enough to

Be uninhibited and untiring

In the mortal quest

for divine answers.

 

Mindfulness

(Finally)

Is knowing that

At this place in the journey

It is impossible to traverse

The un-climbable rock

Of our existence,

To endure the trials and temptations

Of this mortal life,

And to do it Alone.

 

Endurance comes from community.

This Body of Christ

Is more than his flesh and blood.

This Body of Christ

Is comprised of every living disciple

And of every resurrected Saint.

The Body of Christ

… the whole Body of Christ …

is necessary to carry us

when we can no longer carry ourselves;

to support the journey of others

when they can no longer make it on their own,

in order to bring

each and every one of us

to that circle around the heavenly throne

when every soul is gained

and all former things will have

been passed away.

(Revelation 21:4)

 

Beware, be alert, and be strong.

 

Beware, my beloved,

That you are not led astray.

Be alert, dear members and friends of Zion / East Rochester;

Mindful of the signs,

Believing that this is according to

God’s greater plan.

And,

Be strong, disciples of Jesus.

Band together and you will endure,

And when these days of dualism

Come to an end,

With only the heavenly realm before us,

You will gain your souls.

Of this,

We can be assured.

Amen.