Monday, November 19, 2018

Father Riley's homily from November 18, 2018

News for YOU:

… On November 18th we wrapped up our 2019 Stewardship Campaign and the vestry will be preparing a 2019 budget for approval in our January 2019 congregational meeting.  We will provide a date and time for the congregational meeting soon.  Pledges may still be made by offering your 2019 pledge to our Treasurer, Mrs. Brenda Funderburg, at

... Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer 10am Sundays, November 25th and December 2nd.  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays at 10 am December 9, 16, and 23 and our Christmas Eve service at 5pm. 

...Saint Joseph Orchestra Chamber Christmas Concert will be in our church Sunday, December 16th at 3pm.  Please invite others to join us.

26 PENTECOST, PROPER XXVIII - B - 18                        MARK 13. 1-8

We live our lives surrounded by all sorts of signs. Physically speaking, there are behavioral signs, bodily attitudes and gestures. There are of course weather signs. We listen to forecasts and watch the Doppler radar.

In nature, there are yet more signs that one can observe. For example, this time of the year the squirrels are actively preparing for winter.  In traveling there are directional signs, speed limits, which for the folks from Texas, I might add, are mere suggestions, and there are hazard warnings.

I remember as a child riding in the back seat of my father’s ‘52 Chevy traveling to Mississippi to spend the holidays with my grand parents. We traveled in those days on the two lane black tops. With my face against the window I would read the Burma Shave signs, you remember those. However, the one that always jumped out at me was a huge billboard somewhere between Tuscaloosa and Columbus that read “Repent! And get right with God for the End Is Near!”

I never knew what that really meant until I was older, began to read the Bible on my own, and discovered the different passages concerning the end times. Ever since Jesus prophesied about the end of time, as we know it, people have been trying to figure out when it will be.

Like the disciples in today’s gospel reading, they want to know, they want a sign. That anxiety about the second coming and the final judgment has continued to our present day. In my lifetime, there have been several announced predictions that have come and gone without the end having taken place.

You may recall, for example, all of the excitement and anticipation when the calendar hit the year 2000. The disciples and the early church took Jesus’ words to mean that the end would be immediate and thus they carried out their mission of proclaiming the good news as if it would happen anytime after Christ’s Ascension into heaven.

Jesus gave us a few signs to look for and when asked by his disciples when it would all occur, he said, it was not for them to know. What was and still is important is that we who have chosen to follow him continue to do the work we have been given to do and leave the rest up to God.

However, we all know that is difficult. Waiting on God requires patience and most of us are not good at waiting on anything. We are a people who do not like to wait for the mail to come, the garbage to run, the water to get hot, or in a doctor’s office, and the list goes on. We are an impatient people.

The Day of the Lord as the prophets of the Old Testament referred to it will be a day some will look forward to and others will not. Daniel says, in our first lesson, that it will be a day of anguish for some, and resurrection for others.

Jesus warns against false prophets as being one of the signs along with natural disasters, wars, and famine. However, these Christ says are only the beginnings of the “birth pangs.”  With all of that said, what the disciples wanted, and what we have all wanted down through the ages is a sign that everything will be all right.

Today’s gospel leads us into Jesus’ emphasis on being prepared for that day. We will hear it again next week and again on the first Sunday of Advent as we begin a new church year. Christ warns his disciples to be on guard to avoid the temptation of being led astray or worse yet, to fall into apathy.

Fidelity to the end is what is required. Faithfulness is never easy. Like those early believers, we too hear the warnings and become anxious when we consider the coming Day of Judgment. We too keep studying signs and look for some kind of direction. When the sign we should be looking to is the sign of the cross.

As the author of Hebrews aptly reminds us Christ has made peace, our reconciliation with God, through his sacrifice on the cross. The sign of the cross speaks both to fact and promise. Jesus’ death on the cross has won the victory. The cross is our promise that if we remain faithful we too will share in his victory, and shine, as Daniel predicts, “like the brightness of the sky."

As followers of Jesus, one of the arts we must learn to practice, is patience, in other words, we must learn to “wait on God.” False teachers, frightening rumors, and natural disasters will all tempt us to panic. We must resist the temptation.

Again, Jesus says, these are only the beginnings. The early Christians were viciously persecuted by the Romans. The history of the early church shows that all these warnings were needed. The Temple in all its beauty was destroyed, as Jesus predicted, by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Jesus’ warnings are to be taken seriously by all who call themselves Christians today for many Christians throughout the world face persecutions especially in countries, which are predominantly Muslim. You and I may not as yet face that kind of persecution in our own country, but we all face the opposite temptation, to stagnate, to become cynical, to suppose that nothing much is happening, that the kingdom of God is just a dream and life will go on as it always has.

Moreover, in the worst case, we convince ourselves that we can live any way that we choose and all will be well in the end, when it comes and, as some suppose, if it comes. However, to live our lives in such a manner is to foolishly ignore Jesus’ warning and his admonition to be patient, to wait on God, and remain faithful.

Patience is a virtue and we need to practice and pray for it however unfashionable it may be in our hurried and anxious world, while “holding fast to the confession of our hope without wavering,” as the author of Hebrews writes, “for he who has promised is faithful.” AMEN+


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