Testify!

Luke 21:5-19

Last week, I came about as close to preaching on politics as I ever will.  And in fact, I didn’t really preach about politics or the headlines of the day… I simply juxtaposed, as did Jesus when he warned the Sadducees (who tended to focus myopically on living life in the here-and-now) about pinning their hopes on the petty struggles and victories of this age… rather than on the promise of the next age… of the promise that, in the end, all shall be made right… when we become like angels and children of God… children of the resurrection! (Luke 20:36)

But in this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus reminds his disciples (and us) that, sometimes, things have to get worse before they can get better. Don’t you just hate it when Jesus waxes all somber and prophetic about the destruction of the Temple and the coming apocalypse?  Oh, for heaven’s sake!  We usually save that sort of stuff for the first week in Advent… don’t we? And yet… as I mentioned last week, this is an apocalyptic time for many of us.  And it’s not just about politics and the headlines of the day, though that may feed into it.  Maybe it’s mounting health issues… pain, physical and/or emotional… or loneliness… dread of the long, cold nights that lie ahead before the days start getting longer again.  And death.  I attend a lot of funerals this time of year.  I may have mentioned it to some of you before: I’m not sure I’ll ever experience Advent, and the lead-up to the “holiday season,” quite the same way that I did before becoming a priest.  The holidays can be a “blue” time for a lot of people.  And I’m not just talking about Elvis.  Did you know that some churches have taken to having actual “Blue Christmas” services on the evening of Winter Solstice (on or about December 21st), which is the longest night of the year?  It’s true… and it’s apparently a helpful thing for many who struggle to find joy and hope during festive seasons.  The service often includes opportunities for the expression of grief and pain, along with a focus on the enduring promise of hope.  Images of the longest night giving way to the returning light is a significant part of the imagery of worship.[1]  Maybe we should try it in this space one Advent… what do you think?

So, in our Gospel passage today, Jesus said things may get worse before they get better.  That’s some tough news… and some tough love for us: another season of declining health… of aches and pains and broken relationships… depression, betrayal and bereavement.  And even as he’s warning us about all of this bad stuff that’s going to come crashing down on us, Jesus also tells us not to “prepare our own defense in advance” (v. 14).  Whaaat?  Not look out for number-one?  That’s crazy!  If we don’t, first and foremost, “gird our loins” and get ready to put up a fight… who’ll do it for us?  Funny you should ask.  Don’t take my word for it… take it from Jesus.  You’re here today because you’re followers of the risen Christ, right?  You’re here—at least I hope you’re here—because you’ve decided to place your faith in Jesus and give him your whole life… everything you’ve got.  Well, if that’s why you’re here, “put your mouth where your money is at.”  Wait… what?  Isn’t that backwards, Fr. K?  Shouldn’t we be putting our money where our mouth is?  God, I hope not.  Because (try to hang with me here…) our mouths—or better yet, the things we say and do—don’t always represent our Christian ethos.  Yeah, I know… most of us try to love God and our neighbor and refrain from judging others, but we aren’t always completely successful in our efforts, are we?  Like the Sadducees, sometimes our best intentions are tainted by our self-centered concerns for the here-and-now, and that sometimes trips us up… causes us to behave in an un-Christlike fashion in our words and deeds, doesn’t it?  And I get it.  In fact, I’m guilty of it.  But that’s not how we’re supposed to be.  That’s not why we were made.  God wants our lives on Earth to reflect our faith… for our mouths to be where our money (our faith) is.  Because, in the midst of all of the darkness and crisis, we were made to testify…

…testify in words and wisdom that none of our opponents will be able to withstand or contradict: Testify to a time when all shall be made right… when we become like angels and children of God… children of the resurrection!  Testify to Christ’s love and redemption for those beset by injustice, and in great need of hope.  Testify to our responsibility as a people of faith to love, and not judge, our fellow human beings.  Testify to those with the means to effect positive change in our society the value of human dignity and equality.  Testify to the power of peace and reconciliation in healing the divisions between the nations and peoples of the earth.  In short, to testify by our words and actions what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world.  That’s something no one else can do for us, you know.  Not the government or news media… no one.  I wonder if, sometimes, we want other people to be out in front, promoting social progress and making laws so that all we have to do is what society expects of us.  It kind of relieves us of the responsibility of taking a stand for what is right, doesn’t it?  It certainly offers us a path of least resistance.  But I’m pretty sure that we weren’t put here on earth to take the easy way.  That’s not the example that Jesus has set for us.  Jesus turned the world upside down by his words and actions and he expects us to do the same.  And perhaps that’s the “silver lining” of the cloud that seems to have enveloped us lately: the opportunity to testify to the love of God and the brotherhood of all humanity.  So, fear not.  And pray!  And if you’re lucky, you may get the chance to testify!  And should you ever find yourself in that position, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

[1] “Blue Christmas:” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Christmas_(holiday), accessed November 15th, 2019.

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