Is Your Future Fearful or Hopeful?

 

The text for this sermon is found in Mark 13:7, “Do not be alarmed.”  The theme of the lessons concerns the end times.  Pastor Jim Kniseley prepared this sermon for November 19, 2006.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Have you ever considered how much trust and hope and confidence and optimism  you need to be a leader in  a church?  Faithful church leadership is certainly difficult for the pessimistic and timid of this world.

 

So much of the planning that we do around the church involves looking into the future.  We try  our best to catch a glimpse of what is going to take place. How we understand scripture and the promises of God certainly influence how we carry out our common ministry.

 

I was thinking about this the other night when our Worship and Music Team was making plans for our Christmas Eve Worship Services.  We fully expect that all the musicians and ushers and acolytes will all be there as promised.  We fully expect that 500 to  600 worshippers will be in attendance. Why are we so optimistic that this will happen?  Because we trust the folks we know who have promised to be here to serve as volunteers and we have experienced this kind of attendance for the past several years.

 

Today is our day to help at the Thurman-Brisban Homeless Shelter near downtown Fredericksburg.  We want to feed 100 or more folks a good meal and show them some Christ-like compassion.  How do we know that we can pull this off with enough donated food and enough Resurrection folks to prepare the meal?  Because we have had the experience of people signing up and following through on their commitment these past 3 years and we trust that the folks who have volunteered to cook and serve tonight will show up as promised.

 

Today’s scripture lessons are about the future God has in store for us.  In Mark’s Gospel account, Jesus and his disciples are coming out of the temple area in Jerusalem and Jesus teaches them something.  He has them look at the huge stones of the temple.  They were huge.  If you have seen some of the stones that are a part of the wailing wall, the only part of the temple remaining today, you know that they are large, some being 3 feet by 5 feet  and as much as 3 feet thick.  Jesus says “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

 

That gets the attention of the disciples for they understand Jesus is talking about something big that was going to happen.  These disciples had witnessed firsthand Jesus’ miracles, most recently his raising of Lazarus from the dead.  They knew that Jesus was as close to God as anyone they had ever met.  They trusted him that he spoke words and thoughts that could only have come from God.  So, when Jesus talks about the destruction of this temple, they understood that the world they knew, the security of this holy area would be wiped away.  And so they did what any of us would also have done.  They asked, “When?  How should we get ready for this?”

 

Jesus warns them that they will be in for a rough time.  There will be wars and rumors of war.  There will be hard times. 

 

In the midst of his teaching, Jesus says these words should be so familiar to people of faith.  “Do not be alarmed.”  That can also be translated, “Do not be afraid.”  Because, he continues,  “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

 

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that Jesus is talking just of the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem and war with the Romans.  Jesus is talking about himself as the temple.  He is saying that he will be destroyed on the cross.  But this is necessary in order to bring about something new.  The pain will be like birth pangs before the birth of a child. But birth pangs signal that the new birth is about to occur.   When Jesus is resurrected, he will begin the new age.  His disciples will have to pick up their own crosses too, but they are assured of God’s blessings in the new age.

 

Why should we believe Jesus when he tells us to not be afraid and that things will turn out for the best for all that believe in him? 

 

Here is the witness of scripture and of people of faith: 

 

·        God always keeps God’s promises

·        God promised to send a Messiah to bring salvation

to this part of his creation

·        God fulfilled his promise by sending Jesus

·        Jesus did what he said he would; he overcame death and

was resurrected

·        Jesus told us that all power in heaven and earth has now been

granted to him

·        Jesus has promised us that he will make our future good and

secure in him; we too may experience resurrection and new life

·        We believe Jesus

 

Some Christians worry too much about the future.  Some book-writers and preachers paint such a harsh-sounding scenario and try to scare people into getting ready for a future that is downright fearful.  I won’t do that because I intentionally lean on someone I know and trust very well, Jesus.  My future is entirely in the hands of Jesus.  He told me not to be afraid, that he would take care of me, and that everything will turn out okay.  I place my trust in Jesus and his promises.

 

I encourage you today to simply trust the promises of our faith, to trust Jesus, and not be afraid, because our future is secure in him.

 

Thanks be to God!

 

Amen.