Sermon for Proper 28, Year B November 18, 2018

Daniel 12:1-3                                      Psalm 16                              Hebrews 10:11-125                             Mark 13:1-8

The book of Daniel, like the Revelation to John, is apocalyptic, it focuses on the end of time using a person’s vision to share its message for us.  And like the book of Revelation, the vision in today’s passage from Daniel is a prophecy of hard times ahead, followed by the deliverance of the faithful.  The Lord says to Daniel:

“There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.

This last verse offering deliverance of those whose names are found in the book is used by some to suggest that some of us are not the book and will therefore not be delivered.  If we are not faithful, we will suffer.  The passage continues:

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

So, should we view this as a warning?  Some, it says, will awake to everlasting shame and contempt.  Others, however, will awake to everlasting life – the wise shall “shine like the brightness of the sky.”

This can be heard as a clear warning to us to be faithful to God.  Or, we can instead focus on the promise this passage offers to the people of Israel who are in exile when it was written.  The people are in exile because they had not been faithful, but they will awaken and they will repent and they will be allowed to return to their home, to Jerusalem.

Thus, Daniel’s vision offers encouragement to those who have remained faithful to God and to those who return to their faith.  It offers hope that their suffering will come to an end.  It even promises that God’s mercy will not only be poured out upon those who are suffering today, God’s mercy will extend to the departed.  It offers them hope that they will be reunited with those who have died.

Jesus, too, talks of a future that includes destruction and chaos.  The temple will be destroyed and there will be false prophets, wars, earthquakes and famines.  Then he says, “This is but the beginning of birth pangs.” Jesus is offering us the hope of a new life.  The world in which we live in will be reborn into something new.

Both these passages are directed to people in the midst of struggle or on the verge of it.  In the next chapter of Mark, Judas betrays Jesus and Jesus is arrested.  What we know from history is that the people of Israel do, as the prophets predict, find their way back to the Promised Land.  And, we know that after Jesus is crucified, people report seeing the resurrected Christ changes the world.  The resurrected Christ is still changing the world.

This life is full of struggle, and to a people who are oppressed, as the people of Israel are in the times of both Daniel and Jesus, the promise of a better life offers the people hope that all will be made right.  It is not, however, a promise that they will see the new world order in their lifetime.  It is not a promise that everything is about to get better.  No, the people are told things will get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

Most, if not all of us have experienced times in our lives that have been like this.  Just when it seems things can get no worse – they do.  People tell us bad things happen in threes for a reason.  Life doesn’t pull any punches for us just because we are faithful.  People we love get sick, people we love die.  People lose jobs, and people are hurt by the insensitivity of others all the time.

Sometimes all we have to hold on to is our faith.  Our faith that God is with us to help us through all the trials and tribulation in this life.  And, although when we all experience such troubles in our lives our hope is for a better future, where we can find peace.

At the end of our service today, the blessing I offer is the blessing found in our Rite I Liturgy.  “The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.   And the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be upon you now, and forever more.”

This peace that is beyond our understanding is the peace that we can experience when we trust that God will make all things right.  This may not happen in our lifetime or in our knowing, but we can experience this peace when we have faith in God.  I’m not suggesting that we are not called to seek justice, but I am saying that at the end of the day, after we have done what we know to do to make this a better and more just world, we need to trust that God’s love will ultimately set people free from oppression and despair.  This trust, this faith in God, is where we can find what we need:  strength, comfort, and peace.

Let us pray.

Loving God, thank you for the promise of new life.  Help us to live our lives in faith, that we might experience the peace you have to offer.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.