33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov 17, 2019)
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
I realize that humans are very curious. So let’s get this out of the way now… I’m sure many of you saw me walking around up here like a pirate on a peg leg. It’s hard to hide that I’m wearing a medical boot on my right foot. When someone is seen wearing one of these boots, the natural question to follow is usually, “What happened?” Was it from CrossFit? No. Did you trip on a toy that one of your kids left out? Nope. Did you injure it while you were a referee at a recent soccer game? Not quite. Did you hurt it while tackling a robber that was trying to steal your wife’s purse? Unfortunately, not even close.
I fell off a toilet. Before the jokes get even worse, to clarify, I was changing a light bulb while standing on a toilet. You know… that silly light bulb that is above the toilet that a 5’7” man can’t reach because it’s a 9’ ceiling. To make it worse, I actually put a small step stool on the toilet seat so I could reach the light. Yup… I did that… and I’ve done it many, many times before. But this time, apparently, the seat did that little “shift” thing which immediately caused every muscle in my body to react like I just heard my favorite break dancing song straight out of the 1980’s. But instead of break dancing, I broke a bone in my foot.
Between Deacon Richard’s shoulder and my foot, Deacon Bruce is the only healthy deacon left standing! But I’ll be fine. Bones heal. Life moves on. It’s not the end of the world.
Speaking of the end of the world, let’s turn our attention to today’s Gospel from Luke (See what I did there? Wasn’t that a smooth transition?). This is one of those passages in the New Testament where Jesus alludes to the “end times.” We hear that nations will rise against nation. Earthquakes, famines and plagues will occur. Wars and insurrections will erupt. Seizing and persecutions will be wide spread.
Sometimes, when we look at the current state of our own society, it’s hard not to wonder if we are indeed in the end times right now. Well, we are not alone. People have been thinking they are living in the end times pretty much since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. When I looked up a list of dates predicted for apocalyptic events on Wikipedia, it had around 200 entries. All of them wrong (obviously since we are still here having this discussion!).
When we focus on all of the negativity around us, it tends to foster a sense of helplessness. We want to just throw our hands up and say, “What’s the point of even trying?” I mean come on… I tried to change a stinking light bulb and broke my foot! Did I mention it was a LED light? I was trying to be more efficient and environmentally friendly since it uses less electric and is supposed to last 20 years. But now I can’t exercise like I want. I get funny looks hobbling around Wal-Mart and at my office. My ankle aches from the lack of movement caused by the boot. Plus my back is hurting because I’m walking off kilter! Negative, negative, negative, blah, blah, BLAH!
But you know what this experience does allow? It forces me to slow down a little. Spend more time in prayer and less time in the gym. It makes me rely on others for help, which can be very humbling. It is an icebreaker for people who I don’t know very well but ask me what happened. And it allows me to better understand how these lovely boots really do affect people’s low back. This has made me a better Chiropractor for future patients who will also experience wearing one of these. It forces me to let go of the control I mistakenly think I have on my life.
And that is a main point that comes across at the end of today’s passage from Luke. 90% of the passage is Jesus talking about the chaos that will happen in the world before the end. And like I said, we tend to focus on the negative stuff. But the main point to focus on is not in the details of the chaos… not in the unavoidable evil that some people will spread… not in trying to “read the signs” that the end in near…
Shift your focus instead to the final two lines spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Nothing… and I mean nothing… should be able to destroy our faith in Jesus Christ. Granted, there will be times in our lives that our faith will be shaken. There will be times when our faith will be tested. But faith can never be “taken” from us. The only way we can get rid of our faith is if we abandon it by our own choice.
But if our faith teaches and we truly believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God and will welcome his faithful followers into eternity with Him… what could this world possibly throw our way to make us want to abandon our faith?
That’s the message Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel. No matter how rough life gets, hold fast to our faith. Persevere in the face of evil to secure our eternal life.
Remember, we may get shaken, we may be tested, we even may fall off of a toilet… but if we persevere to the end in faith… God will never give up on us.