Jabbok Dawn

Tumbling in the Sand

A world turned on end


The texts for Sunday, November 13, 2016:  Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; and Luke 21: 5-19

Nations will rise against nation
Earthquakes, famines, plagues
Sickness, persecution, suffering
Injustices, riots, reactions …

Jesus’ words here, to be honest, don’t sound that different
from the news most days
—and from all sides of the political spectrum
there seems to run some justified and unjustified
fear, terror and anger
at the rumors of what is and what will be.

And more than the national stage or the world stage—
there are our lives, filled as they are
with changes and upset
with unexpected trauma and seeming unfairness
—layoffs, horrible diagnoses, sudden deaths of those we love,
family feuds …
And, I no doubt could go on.

This kind of chaos can lead one to fear.
to fear what the future holds
to look desperately for something — someone —
to trust
to turn to
to anchor one’s hope in.

It’s little wonder then, that Jesus warns us to watch out
for that tendency — to trust people who act like
they have all the answers
and that they can lead us into certain futures —

For while we wish it weren’t so, every leader
disappoints eventually
and no leader can save us from uncertainty and an unwritten future.

I suppose, then, our next tendency is to trust only ourselves
— well, *I* will be strong enough,
capable enough
work hard enough
be prepared enough
and the future will not catch me unaware or off guard.

And while I suppose preparation doesn’t hurt much,
I think Jesus warns us about not trusting in ourselves, either,
when he suggests to not prepare a defense in advance.

We, too, are human
We, as prepared as we’d like to be
still do not know the future
and all our preparation does not stave off
it’s eventuality — whether it be good or not.

We really are only left with trusting in this:
that the future is God’s
that the surest promise is that God’s love holds us fast
that the surest hope is God’s love and justice
that the surest vision is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
—that death cannot hold us forever.

We know that God remains faithful
because our entire gospel text today could be written in past tense
nations have risen and fallen. There have been wars and earthquakes
and God was there in the midst of the suffering.
God was in the midst of the wars and violence and earthquake and famine.
And God remained faithful.
And those who believed were given words to speak
and the world has changed.

Even as the future is uncertain
even as we ourselves fall
we can trust in the promise that God will be with us.

And so, what are we left to do in the meantime?
In the midst of uncertainty and fear?

Even as we trust that God’s got this,
we are called to not grow weary in doing good.
We are called to reach out to our neighbors
to hear their cries,
to listen to each other’s dreams for a better world
to work for justice and peace
to care for each other.

Not because it will make anything more certain—
but because we need each other — in all our differences and beauty—

A poem I read this week, by Naomi Shihab Nye
captures it for me …

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ears fill up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in the world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

The road, indeed, is wide
The rain — uncertainty, suffering, chaos — really doesn’t stop
And while God holds us close as we cross through this life,
it is when we hold each other
—particularly those who are different than ourselves—
immigrants, Muslims, the poor, people who identify as LGBTQ+
brown folk, white people, women, men—
and listen to the hum of their dreams
That all of this seems so much more livable
and the rain hardly noticeable at all.


Featured image:  A real world turned on end:  the neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo, Syria

One comment on “A world turned on end

  1. Carol Westphal
    November 14, 2016

    Thank you. So beautifully and powerfully said.


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This entry was posted on November 14, 2016 by in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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