Sermon for Sunday, November 14th, 2021
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Who told you that life was going to be fair?
Please tell me where it is written in scripture that God has proclaimed that all things will continually improve. When and where did God promise you that your life would be easy? Where did he say that you wouldn’t suffer? When did he say that you wouldn’t have to fight?
When did Jesus promise you that humans would one day figure out how to not sin, or fight, or struggle, or even kill one another?
That’s right. He didn’t.
You can call Jesus a lot of things, but don’t dare call him a liar. He told us it was going to be this way. Jesus told us that religious folks can be hypocritical; we don’t need to act surprised. Jesus told us that no one is good but God alone, so we don’t need to weep and wail every time we discover anew that humans are sinners. He told us that following him would be hard. He told us that there would be false prophets, coming in his name. He told his disciples that they would fail him and betray him, and they did. He said that the temple would be torn down, and it was. He said that there would be natural disasters, and there are. And he said…that there would be wars.
Jesus told us that there would be war. He didn’t say he ordains it. He didn’t say he desires it. We don’t ever have to call it a good thing. But please, can we stop pretending that he promised it wouldn’t happen? Can we stop pretending that Jesus predicted that someday the world will have some grand epiphany or get tired of fighting? Jesus and John Lennon are not the same! I know this is going to upset some of you terribly who just love imagining that humans are going to wake up one day and just start getting along. Pop culture might promise you that, politicians might promise you that, but Jesus does NOT promise you that.
Quite the opposite. Jesus promises us that there WILL be war and suffering, but he adds that the suffering is NOT the end. The suffering is NOT the end. Jesus actually describes all this suffering as birth pangs. That’s the word he used: Birth pangs. Suffering that is a prelude to something else. A pain that signifies the beginning of something new.
Of course, we are always impatient. We want that new day to happen now. We don’t want to wait on God. We think that we can fix the world with just a little more education. Well guess what, people now have a little device that fits in their hands that has access to all the knowledge in the world, and most of them are as dumb as they ever were. Maybe dumber.
We have not fixed sin, and as long as there is sin, there will be conflict. We don’t need to be surprised about that. If we are surprised that humans are still sinful after all these years, if we are surprised that people are still fighting, then we haven’t been paying attention. Or we have been listening to the deceiver, not to God. The deceiver wants you to think that God is failing and breaking his promises, but God is doing no such thing. We are the ones who fail. We are the ones who sin. And we have proven, if there is anything that has ever been proven, we have proven that we just don’t have the power to stop. The human race does not learn its lessons, not for very long at least. Every generation seems to discover anew just how corrupt and broken humanity really is. Sin is something that every generation has to learn to deal with and to do battle with.
We honor today the countless individuals who lost their lives in battle, especially in the two great wars of the last century, but also in the many conflicts that there have been since then. We are still fighting wars. We fight wars because humans are sinful it’s, but it should be noted, that we also fight wars because humans are more than sinful. We can be noble. We can defend, we can protect, we can love, we can even sacrifice everything for someone else. We fight, in part because we recognize that some things are worth fighting for. I don’t want to live in a world where people are fighting. What could be worse than living in a world of constant fighting? How about living in a world where nothing is worth fighting for? Yeah, I think that would be worse. Should we fight over every spit of land or every economic interest or petty insult? No, we should not. We need to pick our battles carefully. But should we fight sin, tyranny, hatred, injustice, evil and lies? Yes, because some things are worth fighting for. We need to fight those things, not only when we encounter them in the world, but most especially when we encounter them in ourselves. We need to call upon Michael the Archangel, our defender in battle, to stand beside us everyday of our lives and assist us in our daily struggle against evil. And there is evil in the world, and if you aren’t careful, if you aren’t continually on your guard, that evil will march right into your heart. Some things in this world are worth fighting for. Some enemies need to be resisted. And the people we remember today knew that. Thank God they knew that.
My faith is not built on the false hope that humans are one day gonna wake up and start being nice to each other. My hope is not that we will someday put an end to suffering. My hope is that the suffering and conflict that we experience in this world, is a prelude to something else. A prelude to something that God is doing. The birth pangs of a new kingdom that is coming. My hope is not that we humans have fought the last battle; my hope is that God has fought the last battle, and won it. It turns out that God looked at this broken awful world and decided that something in it was worth fighting for: us.