pastorEric aug2014Sermon for 26th Pentecost -

Frightening Signs and Events
By The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer -


“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends: and they will put some of you to death.”
These are words from our Gospel text today this 26th Sunday after Pentecost, from St. Luke’s Gospel. 
We often say at the end of reading the Gospel lesson – “This is the Gospel of the Lord” and the congregation responds “Thanks be to God.”
Thanks be to God for these words?
Now, of course, we know that context is everything when studying the Bible and the context of Luke’s words is very significant.  Luke was writing to Christians during a time of great persecution.  What Luke described was already happening in the Christian community.  Thus, Luke wrote to make it clear that he understood what they were experiencing.  More importantly, Luke wrote to reassure this struggling Christian community that, despite whatever they were experiencing, Jesus will remain with them always. 
Some folks interpret this text as a prediction of the so-called “end times,” but that is not how Luke intended.  Luke wrote these words to help believers who were struggling from oppression and persecution to put their struggles into the larger context of the universal struggle between God and the forces of evil.  No matter how difficult things became, God would not abandon them and God would ultimately prevail.  And, in the end, “Not a hair of your head will be perish,” Luke records Jesus as saying, and “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
I thought of these words often this past week, especially following the US Presidential election last Tuesday.  While some rejoiced, many Christians are struggling and even despondent following this election.  I know many young adults, women and, especially, non-white people who feel threatened and unsafe this week.  Gay and lesbian people are especially worried at the very extreme and homophobic views of the Vice President-elect.  Add to that the racist, homophobic and anti-Muslim responses around the nation following the election only add to these feelings.
You may notice that Vicar Sharon and I are wearing safety pins today.  The safety pin has become a post-election symbol for those who feel threatened by the rhetoric of the President-elect. Wearing a safety pin means that if you are a Muslim, a woman, gay or lesbian, a person of color, an immigrant or a disabled person that the person wearing the safety pin will listen to you and stand up for you.
quote imprisonNoLast night after worship one of our older, life-long members asked Sharon and me what we can do to support immigrants if the President-elect follows through with his campaign promise to imprison and deport millions of people.  She was despondent over this possibility.  I do not have a good answer yet, but I know that we will, we must stand with our brothers and sisters, especially immigrants and Muslims, if there is any attempt to round up and imprison people because of their race or religion.
The teachings of Martin Luther are helpful in these times.  Luther believed that God is an active God, always at work for the good of God’s people.  For Luther, God exercised God’s authority spiritually - through the church to make sure that everyone knew of God’s love, grace and mercy in Jesus Christ - and temporally – to care for the world’s immediate and physical needs of this time and place.  And, Luther believed that God worked to meet the world’s needs through family and government and that both family and government were called to care for those for whom they were responsible.  Luther taught that the family was God’s local agent for care and the government was God’s communal and societal agent for care.  Luther believed that God instituted government to care for the needs of its people and the larger world that God created with special attention to the most vulnerable.
Thus, here is what I believe we, as citizens, as Christians, are called to be and do this week following the election as well as any and every week:
• We need to hold government responsible for the care of all its citizens and remind all office-holders of their God-given responsibility to care for all and particularly to care for the most vulnerable among us

• We need to believe, and I know this one is difficult after the rhetoric of this election, but, as Christians we need to believe that those with whom we disagree still seek the welfare of the people and the world and therefore we are all called to civil debate about politics.

• Whatever our political viewpoint, as Christians we must be committed to non-violent responses.  And this applies to those who are celebrating this election and to those who are protesting this election.  Violence is never the answer.

• Finally, we need to hold our leaders in prayer, those we voted for and those we did not vote for, because acting in the interest of the larger society takes courage and conviction.  Good government takes a lot of work and all have a responsibility to contribute themselves and to pray for our leaders.  And, I have found that prayer is also a way for all of us to get through these and any days of uncertainty, hurt and fear.
The Rev. Dr. David Lose, who Bible work always helps me in my sermon preparation, has even suggested that we should sing that favorite Advent carol, Joy to the World, this weekend!  Lose notes that the writer of this well-known carol, Isaac Watts, wrote these words in response to Psalm 98 which states that “God will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
Lose’s point is that we come together this day, as we do every weekend, to give thanks for God’s love for this world, the whole world – Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, women, men, young, old, persons of all races and ethnicities and religions and sexual orientations – God loves us all.  We are united not by gender or race or economic status or political affiliation, but rather by faith, faith that God created all things and all people, sustains all things and people, and will redeem all things and people, all because of God’s overwhelming love for all things and all people.
Thus, in these days, in all days, we are called to sing words of joy, thanksgiving and praise.  God is still at work in this world, both in us and through us.  And that is still a cause for singing.
Please join me in singing verses three and four of Joy to the World, hymn #267 in your ELW.
No more let sin or sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace and make the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love.
There may indeed be “frightening signs and events in this world,
as my sermon title suggests, but we must remember that in the midst of whatever happens or may happen, God still rules the world with truth and grace.  Today and all days.

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California


Frightening Signs and Events
Sermon for 26th Pentecost
Written by Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
November 13, 2016
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California


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