Twenty-Third Sunday

Twenty-Third Sunday

Luke 21:5-19

The Holy Gospel according to Luke. Glory to you, O Lord.

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified:for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. Somake up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


The woes of Jesus’ warnings in Sunday’s gospel are playing out in real time. For the first time in eight decades, war is raging in Europe and another is brewing over the Korean peninsula.

The insurrection of January 6, 2020 threatens eruption once again as widespread violence strikes the families of our leaders, threats of violence surround our voting centers and hate crimes rise to unprecedented levels. Famines are again plaguing northern Africa and the middle east. There is no shortage of ominous signs of impending ecological disaster as forests burn, carbon content in the atmosphere increases and glacial and polar ice melt into rising seas.

As if all of this were not enough, Jesus warns us that the bonds of human community will decay resulting in increased violence, particularly against those who would align themselves with God’s gentle reign. That, too, is becoming evident as political discourse devolves into swinging hammers, threats of violence and the rhetoric of civil war.

In the face of all this. Jesus pleads with us to endure. Truthfully. I wish Jesus had some better word of promise for us. I wish he would assure us that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” I wish he could promise us that things will get better soon.suspect the disciples felt the same way. They were all starry eyed over theTemple. That is hardly surprising. If it were still standing, the Jerusalem temple constructed by Herod the Great would doubtless be one of the world’s architectural wonders. The disciples could no more imagine it in ruins than I could have imagined the Twin Towers in ruins the day back in 1994 when I first visitedNew York City and stood under them. gawking like a typical tourist. I suspect, too that most of us find it hard to imagine the United States of America in ruins-or so drastically changed that we no longer recognize it as the country we have known.

But Jesus seems to be warning us that we might well be called upon to live in and give testimony under drastically different conditions than we take for granted today. 

The road from where we are today leading to God’s reign of justice and peace is along one with ups and downs. hills, valleys and plenty of formidable obstacles. Endurance, not speed enables one to finish the race.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have sections where Jesus makes dramatic predictions about things that will happen in the future. Because these things seem to be hidden from general knowledge and are being revealed as special information to Jesus’ followers, they are called “apocalyptic” sayings.These terms “apocalypse” and “apocalyptic” are Greek words meaning”uncovering” or “revealing.”

The way they get used now, they often imply mass destruction or catastrophic changes in the world (like large-scale nuclear war), mainly because the Book ofRevelation (“Apocalypse”) in the Bible contains such scenes of cosmic devastation. These sections that we hear today of the gospels are often called”Little Apocalypses” because they are much shorter than the whole book ofRevelation, but still match its tone, depicting sometimes terrifying events, in contrast to much of the rest of Jesus’ teachings.

The bottom line of the Bible’s apocalyptic passages is not just a call to be alert to big powerful changes on earth and in heaven, and certainly not to wield private information as if it were a tool to use against those we consider unfaithful. Rather, they provide all people with promises of hope, justice, and God’s steady presence-in the face of frightening historical events. 


The Gospel story starts innocently enough. Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem, being followed about by a large crowd made up in equal parts of admirers and the merely curious. Someone made an offhand remark about how beautiful the temple was. I’m sure everyone was a bit surprised when Jesus “went dark,’talking about natural disasters, political intrigue, and international violence assigns of the end of time.

Probably not a few started thinking something like, “Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” But, Jesus was not preaching gloom and doom; Jesus was preaching life in the real world. Jesus was not predicting some far-off day of ultimate battle; Jesus was talking about how real life was in Israel on that very day, as they stood in that very temple, surrounded by streets full of Roman soldiers. Israel was an occupied country, ruled over by the distant and cruelRoman Empire. It was inevitable that bad things were going to eventually happen to God’s people and very, very soon. At moments like that the questions boil down to two: 1) Where is God in the midst of our trouble? And 2) What are we to do?

Jesus answers the first question “Where is God?” with the promise that God is where God always has been and always will be – in the midst of our life and our trouble with us. In answer to the second question – “What are we to do?” – Jesus says that the faithful life is about trusting God and daily doing that which God places directly in front of us.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified.”, “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, for I will give you words and a wisdom.”; “Not a hair of your head will perish.”; “By your endurance, you will gain your souls”.


Just like the people of Israel at the time of Jesus, worrying about destruction by the Romans, we have plenty of things to worry about. The ridiculous mess inWashington, the ongoing and war in Ukraine, global warming, school shootings, inflation, Covid, and on and on… One of the real problems we have is that all these things that worry and frighten us seem so large and global and intractable and unmanageable; while we feel so very small and limited, and ultimately powerless to do anything about anything, that we begin to feel as though nothing we do matters – and we are tempted to throw our hands up in despair, bury our heads in the sand, and hope against hope that it all turns out all right.

When I was in college I saw a spiritual bumper sticker that: “VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE!” One morning I was driving and saw a different bumper sticker that expressed my frustration perfectly: FORGET WORLD PEACE: VISUALIZE USING YOUR TURN SIGNAL!

I thought to myself, “That’s right “Visualizing World Peace,” is too hard, and too unlikely, to spend a lot of energy on. But I can use my turn signal. “Who knows?” I thought to myself, “Maybe if everybody in Columbus – and Ohio – and the US -would use their turn signals properly, it might be a real start toward World Peace. I know it would reduce my animosity toward my neighbors.


Jesus’ words in our Gospel lesson call us to a life of endurance, patience and faith, in the midst of a world that is often very, very difficult, and very, very frightening. Jesus words invite us to a faith that looks above and beyond our current, temporary circumstances to the promise of God to hold us and keep us forever. 

Jesus’ words remind us to do each day the little things, the seemingly unimportant things, that may mean nothing in the moment, but turn out to mean everything for eternity. 

In “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, Unitarian Minister Robert Fulghum tells the story of a medieval stonecutter who was working on a Cathedral. An interested bystander saw the man working day after day, carefully cutting and shaping and polishing one small piece of stone. Finally, the watcher said to the cutter “This stone must be very important. Is it a part of the baptismal font? Is it the base of the pulpit? Is it the front of the altar?” The cutter got up from his knees and wiped his hands and led the man around the scaffolding and pointed out a very obscure corner of the building. “It goes there,” he said. The onlooker was astounded, “Really, you’re working so hard on something nobody will ever see?” The stonecutter smiled and said, “God will see it. We’re not building this cathedral for nobody; we’re building it for God.”

My friends let us remember why we do what we do in this world. It is not to feel better or look better than somebody. we doing it because we love our Lord and that’s what our Lord asks of us. To be good people, treat other people right, and make this world a better place than we received it while we’re here.