You Are Seen 11-13-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 21:5-19, I explore Jesus’ teachings when asked about the end times. He doesn’t give us much, but reminds us that there will be difficult times before the end comes. In light of the recent election, this seems rather fitting.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/you-are-seen-11-13-16

Note that at the end of the sermon I play a song. It is “True Colors.” Originally performed by Cindy Lauper, here it features Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick from the movie Trolls. The song is present on the audio track linked above.

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

As my kids get older, I’m starting to notice how much less they agree on movies that they want to see. Their tastes are starting to get pretty different, which probably isn’t surprising. But with this change that’s happening, its becoming increasingly rare for all four of us to go to a movie together. However, this past weekend a movie opened that both kids wanted to see.

And so we all ended up at the theater to watch the newest animated film called Trolls. (pause) The premise is quite simple…the world is populated by little trolls…colorful little buggers who love to sing and dance…and they all love each other so much that they give each other hugs every 30 minutes.  And they’re cute too…perhaps you remember the little troll dolls that were popular a few years back with their spikey colorful hair.

As the movie goes on, we’re introduced to a bunch of these trolls, led by the amazingly upbeat and optimistic Princess Poppy…and we eventually meet the one grumpy Troll named Branch…who’s is the utter contrast to everyone else…they’re brightly colored, he’s dull…they love to sing and dance, he refuses…and he’s a bit of a doomsday prepper, because he believes that their one enemy, the Burgins, will eventually find them and eat them.

And predictably, that’s pretty much what happens, as the Burgins capture several of Poppy’s friends, and she sets off with Branch in order to rescue them.  The rest of the plot is pretty predictable as well…but eventually, all of the Trolls are captured and everyone loses hope…and with it, they become sad…downcast…and their color fades…and now I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but rather I’m gonna switch gears…because the notion of hope is present in our gospel today.

As we are reaching the end of the church year, we’ve gotten to the point where we commonly start hearing Jesus teach about the end times…and that’s exactly what’s going on today.  Jesus is sitting in the temple courtyard…surrounded by countless Jewish people who are there for the pending Passover festival…and some of them make comment about the beauty of the temple.

This sparks off several different teachings from Jesus…all of them aimed at what is to come…things to expect…realities to look for that will, in fact, precede the end.  And as per usual, the people want some clarification…Teacher…when will this be and what will be the sign that its about to take place? (pause) I think we all share in that curiosity…we all want to know…when will it be…what will it look like…and how do we get ready for it.

But what I think is interesting is that Jesus tells them some stuff that going to happen…but he also says this…these things must take place, but the end is not immediate. (pause) And even though he talks about some other pretty dire sounding things to come…he doesn’t actually talk about “the end.”

I found myself thinking a lot about this whole deal throughout the week…and I kept asking the question “what prompted this in the first place?” And it seems to stem from the initial prediction that Jesus makes, that there will come a day when that beautiful temple that the people were marveling at will no longer be standing…and they freak out about it.

And that right there, is what caught my attention…because why would this be so shocking for them? If they remember their history, this beautiful temple they’re looking at is actually the 2nd one…the original temple built by King Solomon had been destroyed…and eventually rebuilt…so you’d think that the idea that it might be destroyed again, while discouraging…shouldn’t be that devastating…and so I found myself wondering just why they see it as so dire.

But then I realized just how central the temple is to this culture…it is the epitome of all things Holy…it is LITERALLY the house of the Lord and the inner room…the holy of holies…that’s where God lives among the people….this is where they go to perform their ritual sacrifices…this is where the festivals occur…this is the place that at one time housed the ark and the 10 commandments…this is…quite literally, where they found God and therefore all of their hope rested on it. (pause)

Now imagine the source of your hope being destroyed…how would that make you feel?  Or if someone told you that the thing that you are placing all of your hope and trust in wasn’t going to last…that it would ultimately fail you. Wouldn’t you be devastated by that? Wouldn’t that seem like the end of the world? (pause)
I think it would…and so perhaps this is why Jesus starts talking about what the people can expect…things that will come BEFORE THE END…not in the midst of it. Wars…insurrections…Nation against nation…kingdom against kingdom…earthquakes, famine, plague…opposition…family members turning on one another…friends and relatives…and hate…hate…hate. (pause)
So let’s recap…the loss of an individuals source of hope…devastating cultural events…all of it leading towards the end times. (pause)

And I couldn’t help but think that this is the same feeling that a lot of people had this past Wednesday morning…I remember reading the gospel lesson when I sat down at my desk that morning…and I thought to myself that there are a lot of people out there who take the results of this election as the herald of the end times…and then I thought about it a little more and realized that if the election had gone the other way…then people on the other side of the coin might just have thought the same thing.

And maybe, depending on your point of view, it still feels like that. Many people placed a lot of hope in results of this election…only to find that the source of that hope has crumbled…and we don’t have to think very hard about how utterly divisive this election has been for our country to be reminded of Jesus words about nation rising against nation, and relationships being damaged, if not destroyed by our opinions and choices… and the aftermath…at least so far doesn’t seem much better…the craziness and the ugliness might have switched topics…but its still getting thrown around on both sides.

The reactions of different people to this election cross a wide spectrum…there are extremes ON BOTH ENDS of that spectrum who are reacting in some pretty foolish ways…and I’m not condoning either extreme…but then somewhere in the middle is pretty much everyone else… a lot of other people who are just trying to make the best of the situation that they have found themselves in. And I also know that when each of us stepped into that voting booth on Tuesday, we had our reasons for the choice that we made. (pause)

What I have found troubling in the days since…has been the question of how do we care for one another in the midst of our division…and have we placed so much stock…so much emphasis…so much belief in my candidate winning or losing that we fail to see one another as people…that we fail to see one another as our neighbors?

And admittedly, I’ve been troubled at the words that I’ve heard that people just need to get over it…that they need to get over the elation that they feel because their person won…or that they need to get over the shock and the sadness that they feel because their person lost.

And this might come as blunt for me to say…but how dare we tell someone how they can feel?  Not long ago we as a community were united in grief at the death of a young man…we shared sadness and pain and anger…and no one batted an eye at it.

But this is different…we are not united in our reaction to this election…far from it…and there are people sitting quite close to you now…who voted differently…and who feel quite differently about the result…You might not like how they chose to respond…but if they aren’t breaking any laws…they have the freedom to react how they react.

And if you don’t appreciate me saying that, its okay…it might ruffle some feathers…but even if we happen to disagree on this, I hope that we can continue to care for one another…because that is the example given to us by God, that we are all called to follow (pause)
The glory of the gospel is that each and every one of us fail in life…we place our hope in something that fails…and often times that source of failure is ourselves but regardless, when we have placed our faith and our hope in something of this world, it will ultimate fail.

But God is not of this world…and Jesus, though he was in our world…he is not of this world either…He is something else…and he has overcome the failings of this world…and he has done it for everyone…because he loves everyone and he tells us that we are to do the same…his words for us…his teachings…his commands is that we love God and we love our neighbor…and we do this when we realize that our neighbors all share in the same distinction as we do…being created in the divine image of God, whether they look different or talk different or think different…or heaven forbid…if they vote different.

And part of loving our neighbor is to actually see our neighbor…not as an obstacle but as a person who is worthy of love and acceptance and dignity. (pause)

And so, as we look forward into the unknown future…that unknown that Jesus doesn’t really give us much insight about in today’s glimpse towards the end times…let me say this…You matter…you are seen and you are heard and you are loved.  For those who’s candidate came up short, and you feel as if the country has taken a big step backwards, you are seen and you are heard and you are loved.  For those of you who’s candidate won, and you feel as if the country is taking a step forwards, you are seen and you are heard and you are loved. (pause)

And remember, that through Christ, this broken world is already redeemed…and we are invited into the work of reconciliation. Sometimes that’s pretty easy to see…but sometimes its not…and we need to support one another in that.

Remember Trolls…where I left off…they had all lost their hope…and with it their color faded…but since its super predictable, Branch…the one who refusing to sing…starts to in the midst of their depair.

The song he sings is an oldie but a goody…True Colors…He sings to Poppy hoping to encourage her…and eventually she starts singing back. Last Monday, I was driving to synod event and I listened to this song over and over again…and I began to hear the voice of God…saying over and over again I see you in the midst of all this…and then I heard a voice answer back…finally able to join with God in the work of creating beauty in the midst of despair.

I’m going to play for you now…so listen to the words…and hear God talking to you…telling you that you are seen and you are loved…and know that sometimes we are already able to join in the song…but sometimes we aren’t quite ready… (Play the song)

You are seen, you are heard, and you are loved. May we all join in that song. Amen.

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