Isaiah 65:17-25, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
In the book of Genesis chapter 9, after the waters of the great flood had subsided we are told that “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. Yet only two chapters later we read that humankind has does just the opposite and have migrated back together as a united and single speaking community with the resolve to build a city with a tower “whose top may reach into the heavens so that they make a name for themselves lest they be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
God justifiably is less than impressed and with concern of the limitless self-interested and sinful pride of such a situation intervenes and confuses their languages making it impossible for effective communication within their society and in line with “birds of a feather flock together”, so too of those of the same tongue who formed groups and disbursed over the face of all the earth leaving behind a half built tower known to us Babel, coming from the Hebrew verb Balal which means “to confuse”.
Given that historians have dated these events at around the year 2,000 Before Christ it is some time later that we hear of the confusion of the apostles minds as while they are admiring the great temple of God with its dazzling white stones and shimmering gold finishes Jesus instructs them that “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another as all will be thrown down” to which did come about in the year 70 A.D. by way of the Roman army offensive against Jerusalem.
Fast forward another 2,000 odd years and we see nothing has changed as we the inhabitants of God’s world still look to find security and happiness in earthly structures, be they be big bank accounts and possessions, big promotions, big superannuation or the like as it would seem that even in the gathering of the faithful in a so called “Mega Church” that big is better, and if we could get a few more each Sunday what a blessing that would be and the more the better to hear the Word of God and receive his gifts. Yet Jesus also talks of how he works with the small:
-That where 2 or 3 are gathered he is present and of the benefits of having a faith the size of a mustard seed, and that a pastor and theologian once said to me that instead of one great congregation of a thousand members, he would prefer four congregations of two hundred and fifty seems to make some sense.
Don’t get me wrong, whether in numbers large or small any coming together of those to worship and receive from The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are being blessed and should we have the capacity in our earthly lives to fund a big holiday or my favorite, a big screen T.V. go for it. Yet the irony is that should the holiday be planned only around seeing as many countries and sights as possible-you see a lot but don’t get to understand much.
Similar with my fondness of big screen T.V.s in that its size has only managed me to see the same movie but at a further distance away underscores the problem of big, like where we may have a throng of “friends” that we communicate with through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, yet should the house catch fire the one who may come and help is neighbor that we live next to but were too busy to introduce ourselves.
There is a saying that ultimate power becomes ultimate corruption and while the gifts of our modern age are just that, gifts, it does give rise to scenarios like in my lounge sitting where I now sit afar from the contents of what is being displayed due the size of the object, the T.V. screen itself. So to with the smoke and mirrors of our age that we can become at a distance to the real substance of our lives-Jesus Christ, and then when our towers of Babel built on the changing sands of time come crashing down, so too would we if not for our neighbor who though we looked past, was waiting patiently to tame the flames with His waters of Baptism and love that we not only survive amongst the rubble, but rebuilt our temple not on sand, but on His unbreakable gifts to us. Our neigbour Jesus who we held at a distance but comes to us and takes us in as His family, that in Him we not perish, but flourish in the certainty of His life giving forgiveness and promise of eternal life.
To be sustained in His promise and forgiveness and endure in times of trouble and destruction, as those told of in today’s gospel.
To endure knowing in His promise and forgiveness as we await our last day and unite with those who have gone before as told to us in the “New heaven and new earth” as described today’s Old Testament reading where “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat straw like an ox and there will be no longer any hurt or destruction”.
And to live now in His promise and forgiveness heeding His Word of the epistle reading that having been saved in faith by Christ and free from the ways of the world, we are free to serve him by being in the world but not of the world.
In his song Me and Bobby McGee Kris Kristofferson penned the famous lyric of “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose”, and having been saved Christ we have nothing that can be lost as we come to know John the Baptist words for ourselves and join with him in rejoicing that “therefore now this joy of ours in now complete, He must become greater and we must become less” for no longer do we need to ask like those in captivity in Babylon “how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” but trust in where He has placed us in our lives and trust that through the Lord that “the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable in His sight” as we make our way towards our grand and eternal reunion. And though we often fail and fall and doubt our abilities, we know that Jesus is with us and works in the small as well as the great for He has told us “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”.
The sure grace of our Lord that gives us the freedom from self-interest to become less, that He become more and the sure grace of our Lord that gives us freedom amongst the turbulence of our lives because in the sure promise of Christ that your sins are forgiven in faith in Him alone, and that you may have known His love right from the start or been born with a restless yearning heart is of no consequence because now His Words are your words-That Christ Died for you, and you are saved, and being saved you are free to serve him in the big and the seemingly small.
Christ died for you may seem like four small words, but in realising that it is me and you individually and collectively those words transform like four words said to me by a five year old child who while sitting next to me on a plane flight from Adelaide to Brisbane and noting that I was not a comfortable flyer, after teasing me for about ten minutes about wings and all sorts of parts of the plane either falling off or being damaged remarked “but you’re not meant to be scared, because you’re the dad”.
“Because you’re the dad”. Four small words struck me with the awakening of the silliness of my worry that not only changed my fear of flying but somehow, even though we still struck regular turbulence brought me the freedom to actually enjoy the ride.
“Christ died for you” and you are saved. Saved from not needing to aspire to riches, yet saved from them controlling you if they do come your way. Saved from needing fame or to be top of the rung, yet if achieved is given as a gift to serve both the Lord and those he places before you, be it in earthly needs, spiritual needs or both.
“Christ died for you” that you are saved and though you may have been born with a restless yearning heart, no longer do you need to search, because He has found you with His love he held from the start-and His love that He won’t let part that through you as you are-whether in the big or the small, in the pro-active or re-active, in the known or unknown, that in trusting in Him alone that the Words of our lips and actions from our hearts will be heard and give light to a better way of living to those still in the captivity of earthly entrapments, sin and self. The Words of our lips and actions from our heart that gives light not to human towers, but to His cross. The Words of our lips and actions from our heart that gives light not to ourselves, but to Him, our Saviour Jesus Christ. .
That was where the message ended. Then as chance would have it, not long after and waiting at the fish and chip shop to pick up our order. A lady and her young son came in and counted up their coins to purchase minimum chips. If they’d come up short I think I would have had enough left to fix it up, but in hindsight with the view to not insult their sense of self-worth I should have offered them the piece of fish we had ordered by suggesting that I got the order wrong and so didn’t need it and if they wanted it, better them than me throwing it away. The point is that it reminded me of why I actually became a pastor. Being that having seen and sometimes trying to help the poor and homeless, it always upset me knowing that they would still be hungry the next day then realised for them what I had come to know. That hope amongst the adversity, that survival amongst the pain and the strength to carry on when the load is heavy is through having to come to know the love of Jesus, and we as Christians having been given the means and the faith, that no much how little or how great is a gift to us that the strength of His gospel and love is made perfect in their weaknesses, as it is with ours. Amen.