Synod Eucharist – The Signs of the Time
Rev 2:1-7 & Luke 21:29-36 Clarence E Bester
We are heading into a time of the year, as we have heard in the readings of the past three Sundays, that invites us to be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God – being ready, being on our guard, having our lamps filled with oil, using the talents that God has
blessed us with, because there will be this final judgment when the sheep will be separated from the goats. Yes, the kingdom of God is near!
The Dean quite cleverly combined the gospel lessons for yesterday and today, so that we look at both the parable of the fig tree and the exhortation to watch, be alert and to pray. Why? Because we are reminded that the Kingdom of God is near. For Luke there are further signs of the times in the verses preceding those we heard read today; re-captured in the lesson of the fig tree and all other trees.
The sprouting leaves are a sign that spring or summer is near and I guess the falling of the leaves will also indicate the autumn and winter seasons. The things Jesus refers to and captured in verses 25 to 28 are sometimes described as ‘the awful horror’, but also a
time describing that redemption is near.
No doubt this is no different today from what it was then, as we often see changes in the sun, moon and stars. We have witnessed the roaring of the sea and have seen tsunamis and high waves. We have certainly felt the trembling of the earth as it has been shaken to its very foundations through earthquakes, witnessing the loss of life and certainly times when cloud formations must have created in the imagination a sense of what we read about. We have certainly witnessed thick smoke through ravishing fires and
God’s created beauty destroyed through disaster. We are always encouraged to be on our guard and not to be weighed down with dissipation and the worries of this life, but to be alert and to pray.
What are the present-day signs and how do we interpret them within our context? On Thursday, with the clergy, I added an additional question in relation to the biblical context and our present-day context and the fears and concerns that we might have as we look at
what this means. This is my take:
[Two weeks ago, I presided at St Paul’s Myrtleford and, just before the service, when Rev’d David Kerr went to ring the bell, my Michelle witnessed the most amazing and heartbreaking moment. A man and his son were walking on the pavement on the opposite side of the Church. The child was obviously so excited because he heard this ‘nice noise’ (the church bell) and was pulling his dad towards the church. He said: “Look, there is a man ringing a bell. Come let us go see’, pulling his father towards the Church. So this little boy, all excited, said to his dad…’Can we go in and see?’ to which his father responded… ‘It no good in there’. Disappointed,
the boy said to the dad …’but there is a God in there or maybe God is in the sky’ to which the dad responded…’NO, there are only clouds in the sky’.]
When I was told this, I said to myself…’look at the signs of the time’. Look at how others are looking at us…look at the sign that we present. See how we have distorted the image of the Church and probably the image of Jesus. See how we are perceived in the world and the misconception people have of us.
Are the leaves sprouting or falling? Is the tsunami of distrust, disrespect and waves we often cause shaking the very essence of our witness as God’s people? Is this not perhaps the awful horror and us being weighed down with dissipation? Have we been alert, have we been praying; and what have we done to restore the image of the Church, or even Jesus, within society and the world?
Now it could have been that this man might have been hurt by the Church, someone within the Church, a Priest or whoever. It might be that he finds that it is easier to stay away from a place where you will experience hurt and not healing, brokenness instead of
wholeness, hatred rather than forgiveness, rejection rather than acceptance. And so, the list can go on.
You see, the image that we present to the world is the image that others will have of Christ and Christ’s Church. And I am telling you, it must be confusing, even to God, when we cannot present that all embracing and unconditional love of the God whose generosity of
grace is overflowing.
It is amazing how we think that it is God who needs to respond to others, when we know God is wanting the best for all of us and that we must play our part. It is amazing that many still portray God as a God of wrath, rather than a God of love; where God is the strict daddy with a whip in God’s hand, instead of the one who receives the prodigal son and daughter, the one who welcomes the homecoming of the wayward.
Jesus said…all will know that you are my disciples because you will have this love one for another. All will know that you are my disciples because love is the sign of the time, love should be the sign of the time. How devastating for this young boy who must have
heard something about this God, who knew something about the church but was told…’no good in there’…only clouds in the sky.
We have a lot of work to do my friends. We have a world and a society to transform through the love and grace of God. There are those who think that we might be too late because the damage has been done. There is hope…for God is hope, but God calls us to share that hope in the way we present ourselves.
Difficult though it might be, I believe that we can restore the broken image of the Church by the Church, to be the people God has created us to be.
Not sure, but I do believe that, with the right ingredients within our Christian walk and journey, we can begin to make the difference.
This difference however will have to begin with each one of us…this is where God wants to establish God’s Kingdom and make obvious the qualities of that Kingdom.