Sermon for Proper 28, Year B

November 14, 2021

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 else. If we consider the context in which it was written, though, we can hear this passage offers the people of Israel redemption. The people of Israel are in living in exile, because they had not been faithful.  Daniel’s vision offers them hope that their suffering will come to an end and they will be able to return to Jerusalem.  

We know the rest of their story.  Those who were unfaithful repent and together with those who had remained faithful, they do return to Jerusalem.  God’s mercy, we are told, will extend to the departed, and Daniel’s vision goes so far as to say the faithful will be one day be reunited with those who have died. 

          Jesus, too, talks of future 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.  And, hope is what we need in the midst of a pandemic.  Last Thursday night, many of us gathered here for our first dinner together since the pandemic began.  I believed we all experienced the hope of that our world is being reborn into something new. 

          Both Daniel and Mark are directed to people, who, like us, who have been forced into living a live they did not choose for themselves.  Our struggles may be different, but this pandemic makes it easy for me to relate to what the people of Israel felt.  Not only has it been oppressive, the social and political unrest has made it all the more difficult to experience hope.  Opinions are viewed as good or evil, right or wrong.  We are not listening to one another; we are not seeking to understanding one another and find a place where we can agree and move forward.  Our world today is so divided and judgmental.  There seems to be no clear path to unity. 

The trouble predicted in Mark includes the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus.  In the Old Testament; however, the people of Israel do, as the prophets predict, they find their way back to the Promised Land.  And, we know that after Jesus is crucified, people report seeing the resurrected Christ.  The love of Christ could not be extinguished, and it cannot be extinguished now.

          This life is full of trails and tribulations, and to 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 them – and us – hope that all will be made right.  It is not, however, a promise of an instant cure for us or humanity.  Both passages predict worse times to come, before things gets better.  I believe and pray the worst is over for us in regards to this pandemic.  At the same time, I know that the social and political struggles will take a long, long time to resolve.  The peace that is promised may or may not occur in my lifetime.

          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.   Social and political unrest are a part of life.

          We can; however, hold on to our faith.  Our faith that God is with us to help us through all pain and suffering that we experience in this life and the hope for a better future and where we can find peace.  God’s peace.

At the end of our service today, the blessing I offer [is the blessing found in our Rite I Liturgy] Begins with: “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. “

          This peace that is beyond our understanding is the peace that we can experience when we trust that God will make ultimately make all things right – maybe not in the way we think is right, maybe not even in our knowing or in our lifetime, but God’s love will win the battle over evil and dead.  Faith in God helps us experience peace even in this world where peace and unity is only a vision of what is to come.   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 to survive:  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.