Matthew 24:4-14 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
This passage made me think of the Pop tune from the late 1960’s band Chicago. “Does anybody really know what time it is”? As his disciples marveled at the magnificent beauty of the temple in Jerusalem, JESUS brought them back to reality with a glimpse into the future and the frailty of humankind. While it is natural for us to dwell on the horror and magnitude of such destruction, that is not the point.
Not long ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference that featured a session on security. The facilitator was the chief of police for a Houston suburb. He was also a former secret service agent formerly assigned to protect President George W. Bush. The most interesting part of his presentation focused on the mindset of law enforcement. He said that as he and the officers that accompanied him to the conference entered the building they instinctively scanned the area to see if anyone looked out of place, different, or suspicious. They observed the hallways and corridors looking for obstacles or blockages to a clear pathway. They noted the entries and exits. The chief told how even when they were off duty they routinely carried their service revolver of course, but also penlights and small utility knifes just in case. Most of us listened and were entertained but the feeling in the room seemed to be more like hey it’s their job to “stay ready”. Those sentiments changed when the conference room suddenly went black for a few seconds to the gasp and shrieks of the unsuspecting attendees. The smiling facilitator quickly took credit. It had only taken a few seconds of darkness to create panic and make his point. Most of us are not prepared for the unexpected leaving us vulnerable in survivable situations.
JESUS’s central message as Pastor pointed out Sunday is not about “when.” It is about “staying ready.” These days reek of all the signs HE has given. There are droughts, famines, melting ice caps; earthquakes were there have never been earthquakes; religious persecutions and executions, wars and rumors of wars. In the midst of it all JESUS says don’t worry. There is a plan. These things must happen. Stay ready!
GOD of the universe, we give thanks to YOU that indeed YOU have a plan. Remind us today when we witness the chaos that swirls around us that we need not fear. Send your HOLY SPIRIT to strengthen us and keep us faithful and ready! In CHRIST name we pray, amen.