Ecumenical Worship at LSTC on Texts: Malachi 4:1-2a; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13; Luke 21: 5-19
The following sermon was preached by Barnabas Pusnur, Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago Divinity School, spouse of LSTC M.A. student Padmaragan Vundi, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
Malachi 4:1-2a; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13; Luke 21: 5-19
Greetings to everyone in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank the Graduate Student Association of LSTC for inviting me to be a part of this ecumenical worship service. I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity to share some reflections from the Bible with the LSTC community. I, along with my family, can testify that we’ve been truly blessed by the ministry of LSTC.
Today, based on the lessons for this Service, I wish to dwell upon three reflections one each from the three texts that were read for us.
Malachi, talking about the eschatological hope, writes, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”
From the context of the verse we see that this refers to the promise that God will consider and have mercy on the faithful in the day of the Lord. In spite of the fact that it seemed that the faithful were abandoned, God promises that this will not always be so. There will be an end.
God will certainly make things right.
Friends, like the Israelites at that time, we live in a world where evil often triumphs. Where goodness is trampled by wickedness. The presence and power of evil is seen both outside and within ourselves. We see evil and suffering and hear cries of pain from outside of us. So, also, our own heart is affected by evil, does evil, suffers pain and cries out every once in a while.
Yet, we who revere the name of the Lord, we who are called by the name of Jesus Christ, we who live by faith must not lose hope. We must not forget that God will make things right.
How will he make things right for the faithful? The text says that this rising sun will bring healing in its rays. God will bring healing. Why healing? Because we need healing. At some level each of us is a broken person, who lives in a broken world. Each of us is an example of the frailty of human life. The messiness of life is such that some of us are hurt, some hurt others, some suffer guilt, some hide in pride. Pushed to the edge, each of us is fragile.
As we are fast approaching winter, we can recognize the value of the warmth of the sun on a cold day. Who wouldn’t love the rays of the sun, brightening up a gloomy mood?
God promises the sun which will heal our brokenness. Let’s not lose hope that God will strengthen our frailty. That God will mend our world.
And what will be the result of that? We’ll go out and frolic like a well-fed calf. We’ll play, we’ll be happy, we’ll jump around, we’ll be excited.
God is promising us healing and happiness.
Some are already having a foretaste of that healing and happiness because of the inauguration of the eschatological age by Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This foretaste might be very incomplete and not constant. But God promises one day it will be complete. We’ll be healed and be happy.
This world will be a better place. The conflicts within us will be healed.
What ought we to do until the fulfillment of that hope?
Our God does not expect from us a passive waiting for this utopia. He wants us to be actively living until then.
In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 we find reference to people who in this expectation of the hope, decide to passively wait. They stop working. And St. Paul admonishes them -- do not be idle but be busy. Live your lives to the best of your ability.
Our hope must neither produce resignation nor complacency in the present. Our hope must arouse work in us. That work which is possible for us now, and is in line with our hope.
St. Paul says that we must not get tired of doing good. “Brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”
Do we see ourselves or our world broken? Do not lose hope things will be set right by God.
There will ultimately be complete healing and happiness for all. Until then let us work. Let us make ourselves productive in the effort to realize that hope. Let us work, let us do good. If you can sense brokenness in you or in your relationships, work on it. If you see brokenness in the world, in people in structures, never tire from doing good to mend this brokenness. Even if you feel nothing is going to change until the end, do not stop from doing good each day.
St. Paul says “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
Let’s live with the perseverance of Christ. Did Christ stop doing good in the sure hope of the justifying end? No. Even on the cross, while he was losing his life, he didn’t stop doing good. He didn’t stop doing the work he came to do. He was proclaiming forgiveness and salvation. Let’s draw strength from Christ, to do good.
We need strength to keep pushing ourselves to do good. We further need strength because it’s not going to be easy in this endeavor to do good.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples about the end times, he told them that the end will be preceded by intense suffering and persecution. He told them they will have to bear testimony in the most difficult of times. But his promise to them is: “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of our adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
The going will get tough. But Jesus promises words and wisdom. It is neither in our strength to do good, nor in our strength to persevere when things are simply going bad. Only in Christ are we able to live a life of testimony until the end.
In the courage from Christ let us face the challenges that lie ahead. Do we feel like giving up when faced by these challenges of a broken world? Jesus says: Stand firm, and you will win life.
This is that life that will be healed and will go out in happiness. This is the life where God makes things right. This is the life where our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world is mended.
Dear friends let us hold on to that eschatological hope. Even when it looks that things will never get better, let’s firmly hold to the promise of God that he will make the sun of righteousness to rise so as to bring healing and happiness in our world.
With that hope in place, let us work, let us do good. Let’s do all that we can, drawing strength from the perseverance of Christ, until the very end. Like Christ, let us continue to forgive, build others up and fundamentally love. Let love and goodness never stop.
And when the going gets tough before this end, God will give us the wisdom and strength to continue in the most difficult of times. Let’s not worry, God will provide the necessary means so that our life continues to be a testimony till the end. Let’s stand firm and win life, for ourselves and others.
May the lord bless us this week and in the days to come.