IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!
As I prepare for our worship services in November, I’ve come to notice that a number of the Scripture readings deal with times of trouble. On November 8, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, our Old Testament lesson from 1 Kings 17 will talk about the destitute situation of a widow with only enough food for one last meal for her and her son. The Gospel lesson from Mark 12 will be about a woman who is so poor, she only has two copper coins to rub together. On November 15, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, the reading from Daniel 12 actually says “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” And in the Gospel reading from Mark 13, Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem, and in essence, the end of the world.
And so it is, as we come to the end of the church year, we have a focus on end times. Each church year is a sort of microcosm of the span of our Christian lives, beginning with Advent and the promise of a Savior, then His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Then comes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the celebration of our new life and growth during the season of Pentecost, winding up, once again, with our focus on the end.
How depressing! Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve got to endure shorter days, longer nights, and colder temperatures? Now, in the church, we’ve also got to focus on the end, and times of trouble!
Well, let’s keep in mind that in our Scripture readings, the times of trouble are countered by good news. In 1 Kings 17, God allowed the tiny amount of food to never run out, providing many, many meals for the widow, her son, and also for Elijah, until the Lord sent rain upon the earth again. And in Mark 12, the widow with the two copper coins is commended by Jesus for her stewardship.
In Daniel, the times of trouble are countered by times of deliverance, when “…many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life....”
And in Mark 13, when Jesus prophesies about the destruction of Jerusalem, and the terribleness of the end times, the reading ends with, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved”.
All of these stories, and many more like them in the Bible, serve to remind us that things are not always as they seem. As bad as things may get (and things can and do get bad!) our Lord has in mind for us what’s best: the forgiveness of sins! Life! Salvation! Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can be sure that whatever trials we must endure in this life and on this earth will turn out, in the end, for our good.
So are you dealing with times of trouble right now? Where? In your family? Among your friends? At your job? Your school? Your church? “Fear not,” says God through the prophet Isaiah, “for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
There’s no sense in sugar coating it, things are tough. And humanly speaking, there is much to fear. But God tells us to fear not. And He assures us that no matter what, He’s with us to strengthen, help, and uphold us.
And how does He do that? Through His means of grace, Word and Sacrament. So we gather together around those means of grace. We gather together to hear the Gospel message proclaimed in our ears, the sweet sound of the absolution, “I forgive you all your sins….” We gather together to eat and drink the very body and blood of Jesus, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the strengthening of our faith. We gather together as the baptized in Christ, returning to our baptisms daily in contrition and repentance, and living out our baptisms in service to God, and to our neighbor.
May God grant us the assurance of His presence in times of trouble, as we gather together, as His church, around His means of grace.
Sincerely in Christ,