Which Way Do We Go?


This is a sermon that I presented on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (8 November 1998) at the Neon United Methodist Church in Neon, KY.  The Scriptures for this Sunday were Haggai 1: 15 – 2: 9: 2 Thessalonians 1: 1 – 5, 13 – 17; and Luke 20: 27 – 38.

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As the end of this year comes upon us, it brings us the new century closer to reality. And for many, with the new century come a fear that it is the end of the present age. As the year 999 was coming to a close, people were in panic because they were convinced that it was, in fact, the end time.

We know of course that the world did not end at that time and it is probably not going to end in some 400 days. Maybe it is not going to be the end of the world but from a technological sense, the year 2000 threatens to bring many problems for those who use computers or for those affected by the computers. This is also the time of year when the days get shorter and the darkness seems to overcome us.

For the people of ancient Israel, the darkness of the age seemed all too real. At the time of the Old Testament reading for today, many Israelites had been sent into exile and the temple in Jerusalem, the symbol of God’s presence in this world, was in ruin. (Haggai 1: 15b – 2:9)

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

“This is what the Lord Almighty says” “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

There must have been a sense of hopelessness and despair among the Jews that day when Haggai spoke to them. After all, with the temple destroyed and much of their country taken from their homeland, how else should one feel. I sense in today’s society something of those same thoughts and feelings. As we look around, we are convinced that the “end times” are upon us and that God has forsaken this world. It seems like the world is headed in a direction that we cannot accept yet there is nothing we can. We ask who we can turn to, what direction should we take, what can we do. For many, the church of today does not offer the answers we have for our countless questions.

It is times like this when we seek direction to our life. When there are doubts in what we do, it is only natural to turn to someone who can provide the answers. But whom can we turn to? Who can we trust to tell us the truth? But what is the truth? Paul wrote his Second Letter to the Thessalonians at a time when they were convinced as they looked around at their society that it was the time of Jesus’ return. And in such times, it is only natural to look to someone for the answers. But it seemed that those who were predicting that return were only doing it for themselves, for their gain, not for God’s purposes.

Paul wrote the Thessalonians about that question (2 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 5, 13 – 17)

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

But knowing what the truth is as always been a problem. Truth, both for the Thessalonians and for us, is based on that which is dependable and reliable rather than that which can be rationally placed in a system. (From Faith in a Secular Age by Colin Williams, page 24.) That is why Paul warned the Thessalonians to be careful whom they followed.

To the Jews of both Haggai’s time and Jesus’ time, it was felt that salvation came from following the law. We often feel the same way today. If we lead the right kind of life, if we do the right things, then we will be rewarded. Society does it part because it suggest that by following the rules society give us, success and wealth are ours for the asking. But what is the right thing to do? That was the question that the Sadducees poised to Jesus. (Luke 20: 27 – 38)

The Resurrection and Marriage

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Not then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

The Sadducees had used their interpretation of the traditional laws to gain positions of power in the Jewish community of Jesus’ time. So, it was critical for them that Jesus give the answer that they wanted to hear, the answer that they thought was correct.

But we can never expect Jesus to give us the answer that we expect or want. That answer Jesus gave is based on the fact that the resurrection order does not nor can it be assumed to follow present earthly lines. The rules by which life is governed are changed by the resurrection.

But as Paul told the people of Thessalonica,

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

But the Sadducees misunderstood this. Their concerns for following the law was only so that they could maintain their position and had nothing to do with saving grace of God. When you seek to follow earthly rules, you cannot follow Jesus. As Paul was to say latter, it is not the law which saves you but your faith.

What then is the truth? What then do we do? Is the world headed for disaster? The year 2000 is just a little over a year away. Is the end of the world coming then?

It is only natural to fear that which we do not know. In John 14: 5 we read “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?””

Well, for those that fear the new millennium, it should be noted that the new millennium doesn’t actually begin until January 1, 2001. Yes, there is still the problem that the year 2000 will bring trouble because some computers are not prepared for the change of date that will occur at midnight on December 31, 1999. But those are problems created by man, not by God. And these problems have arisen because men and women have allowed the problem to arise. It was noted many years ago that this problem could be fixed but everybody figured that they had plenty of time.

For us, the truth is very simple. In a world that we think God has forgotten, it is important to remember what he told the people of Israel some 2300 years ago. The people of Israel saw the desolation around them and had no hope when Haggai spoke to them.

‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

The truth is that it is God’s grace that offers us our ultimate salvation. Our hope for the future, as hymn 368 says, is not in the laws made by man but through Jesus’ blood and righteousness

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness/ I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking stand. (United Methodist Hymnal, 368)

Our life in Christ is a new life, one that does not follow the rules imposed on us by society. Jesuit Father Luis Espinal wrote the following shortly before he was assassinated in 1980 by Bolivian paramilitary forces.

There are Christians who have hysterical reactions, as if the world would have slipped out of God’s hands. They act violently as if they were risking everything.

But we believe in history; the world is not a roll of the dice going toward chaos. A new world has begun to happen since Christ has risen…

As the days of the year get shorter and darker, we stand on the solid rock of our faith in Christ. It is not without purpose that Advent, the celebration of Christ’s birth comes at the darkest time of the year. Christ is our salvation and our hope.

But light is not enough; light is for the sake of life. We too must have life in ourselves. We too must, like the Life himself, live. We can live in no way but that in which Jesus lived, in which life was made in him. That way is, to give up our life. This is the one supreme action of life possible to us for the making of life in ourselves. Christ did it of himself, and so became light to us, that we might be able to do it ourselves, after him, and through his originating act. (From Creation in Christ by George Macdonald)

Our promise for tomorrow lies not in what society can offer us but what Jesus has promised us. Earlier, I said that many people were seeking direction yet the direction has been laid out for us today. Thomas asked Jesus where they were going. Jesus replied, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”(John 14: 6) The roads we walk, the path we take all are set when we accept Christ as our Savior, when we open our hearts and let him in. The challenge I give this morning, the challenge that we face every day, the choice we must make is whether we will follow that road.

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One thought on “Which Way Do We Go?

  1. Recompense
    From Letters From God and His Christ
    DIRECT LINK to SOURCE

    11/25/07 – A dream of a coming storm, which the Lord gave to a brother in Christ

    I saw a storm coming. The area, where the storm was approaching from, was just the open sky, but there was the sense that it was coming from out over the ocean. I could not tell which coast I was looking out from, but I knew I was looking from America. The storm clouds were approaching and getting darker and thicker. Then three tornadoes, or waterspouts, broke down out of the storm, all at once, and headed for the shore.

    After a small lapse of time, I saw myself climbing up some stairs in a house, to my bed in an upper room. I laid down in this bed, and realized that my resting place had changed. The head of the bed had shifted from facing the West, and it was now facing the East.

    11/28/07 – From God the Father, the Interpretation of the Dream – Given to Timothy, For All Those Who Have Ears to Hear

    Recompense

    The Day has come and it is here. It has come, says the Lord God… I shall repay. Your nation is given up, and will be left in ruins, for all their forsaking of Me. The roof is heavily weighted, all its pillars are cracked and no longer can bear the weight of their burden. The wind shall blow, the fire shall burn, and all these riches shall be consumed. A swift storm shall come upon you, and you shall not know from where it shall come, for it is already upon you. It shall reach across the oceans, it shall be swift and catch you unawares. It is building and grows in its fury… it builds and has come.

    And this shall be its consequence upon you, thus shall it bring forth against you: Confusion, a swirling wind… water, a flood of fear… destruction, collapse of all your foundations. Even the earth shall rise up against you, and nature shall fight against you, oh perverse and mighty nation. When three times pass, it shall be accomplished… it shall surely come to pass. And the elect shall be gathered, even all those I see of Myself in them, My own reflection shown within the eyes of the first redeemed from the earth. For in a moment, a twinkling of an eye, they shall climb the Ladder, and lie down and rest for a short season, even in the place I have prepared for them. They shall rest, until the Day is done and it is finished. Then they shall arise and descend with the King… And as the lightning flashes out of the east, and shines, filling the sky even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

    For your leaders have cast their lot with the Ishmaelites in the dividing of My land… even of the children’s inheritance I had given to their forefathers forever. And so, I shall divide them with calamity, with famine, and with destitution…

    Yet they will turn. And anger shall swell in their faces over much betrayal, causing them to repent of that which they had promised, and they will again stand with the children of Abraham, until three days pass over. Then shall they be given into the hand of him, called the horn of satan… their name dissolved, becoming one of the ten for one hour, then plucked up and broken, during which time the Lord shall bring forth of them a great harvest, a great and mighty harvest, a great multitude, a refined and strong people for My name…

    Then the end will come.

    The King shall reign.

    And that accomplished shall be finished…
    it shall be completed.

    Peace… one thousand years.

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