Here are my thoughts for this past Sunday, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost. The Scriptures were Isaiah 65: 17 – 25, 2 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 13, and Luke 21: 5 – 19.
It seems to me that there is a contradiction in the Scriptures for today. And the problem today is that too many people want the contradiction. They want the good life espoused in Isaiah and push for the war that Jesus implies will come with the end of times. And the same people will offer Paul’s words for today as proof that the good life only comes through individual effort, not community effort and certainly not from anything the church may say or try to do.
But Isaiah’s words for today end with words of peace, Paul was writing about those who quit working for Christ because they felt that Christ was coming, and Jesus warned us to be wary of those who would try to mislead and deceive us.
I see too many people today who, because of the position in life they have created for themselves or others have created for them, believe that they have the right to tell me what to think and do. I also know that many people today are rather happy letting these so-called experts do just that, tell them what to think and do.
Yes, there is going to be dissension in the world today. There are far too many people who fear the world and want to find ways to gather all things together and keep them for themselves. I have said it on a number of occasions in the past and I will say it again; there are many people today who see the church sanctuary as protection from the outside world and all the work that they do for the church is make sure that the walls that separate them from the world are strong and impenetrable.
But when Isaiah wrote his words, he was writing to a community, not to a collection of individuals. When Paul was writing his words, he was also writing to a community and not a collection of individuals. And that is part of the contradiction of today. We call ourselves a community but then we act as a collection of individuals. We are more interested in our own well-being than we are the well-being of the community of which we are a part.
And we fail to realize that if the community that we live in should fail, we will be without just as much as those who don’t have anything right now. But our world says that we can do that; we can have wars and destruction, we can have families turn against families, brothers against brothers and parents against children and nothing will happen.
The contradiction is that we think that once we have done something simple, say to come to church on Sunday, then we have accomplished what is necessary for our lives. But we have to remember, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, in answering the call presented in the Gospels, we radically change our existence. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, we find ourselves being dragged out of a relatively safe and secure life into one that is absolutely insecure. We leave a life that is observable and calculable for one where everything is unobservable and fortuitous. We step out of the realm of finite into the realm of infinite possibilities.
Everything that we do in answering the call to follow Christ is in direct contradiction to what our senses, our friends, the law, and the world around us say it is. But that contradiction will bring more than we can imagine. There is a call today to put down your nets, your books, your things of life and follow Jesus. It will lead you to places unknown but it will lead you to a far greater life. You don’t have to do that; you have been given that choice. But it is choice that speaks of war and violence, death and destruction, hopelessness and frustration.
There is a choice and in an world of contradictions, a very clear choice.