Venite, Psalm 95:1-7
1 Come, let us sing to the Lord;*
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
Psalms 66 and 67
The Book of Common Prayer, p. 673-675
A Reading from the Book of Daniel (12:1-3)
At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; *
I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord,
my good above all other.”
2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, *
upon those who are noble among the people.
3 But those who run after other gods *
shall have their troubles multiplied.
4 Their libations of blood I will not offer, *
nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; *
it is you who uphold my lot.
6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; *
my heart teaches me, night after night.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; *
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *
my body also shall rest in hope.
10 For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
nor let your holy one see the Pit.
11 You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore
A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (10:11-25)
Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
A Reading from the Gospel according to Mark (13:1-8)
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”
by the Rev. Deacon George Snyder
MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION IN ALL OF OUR HEARTS BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR SIGHT, O LORD! YOU ARE OUR STRENGTH! YOU ARE OUR REDEEMER!
“As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asking him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
If I had a list of passages in the Bible that I never wanted to preach on—other than the Book of Revelations—this passage would be near the top of that list. It is a frightening passage. Jesus tells his disciples what will happen before the end of the world, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.”
Mankind will have a great deal to go through before God delivers His new kingdom; and, man will have a great deal of misery to undergo until the labor ends and a new world is born.
The current generation has already seen war upon war, famine in one place, and then famine in another. We have been enough earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and snow storms—enough natural disasters as far as I am concerned. However, this passage indicates to me that what we have seen in the last few years will be nothing compared to the calamities of the end of time. That though sends chills up and down my spine; I am frightened for us, for our children and grandchildren; indeed, for any future generations that pay witness to that pain. Such an uplifting topic—a topic that any minister would love to preach on!
Do you remember where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001? Like most of you, I can remember exactly where I was. I was teaching that day, and had just started my planning period. I headed for the teachers’ lounge to get something to drink like I usually did. It was strange, though, the room was completely empty; there were usually 6 to 8 other teachers in there at that time. Leaving the break room, I went to the library and found a group of teachers gathered around a television. The north tower of the World Trade Center had already been hit by one airliner. I stared in silence, saying to myself, “What a horrible accident!” I stood there almost fifteen minutes, and was even more shocked when the second airliner hit the south tower. Then one of the teachers, yelled out, “That can’t be a second accident. It must be terrorists!” Less than an hour later, the south tower collapsed. “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Huge buildings are not supposed to collapse. Not the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Not the Temple in Jerusalem. We know of the profound sense of loss filling people after the collapse of the twin towers; you did not have to lose a family member or a friend that day. I think most—if not all Americans—felt a profound sense of loss that day; the feeling had to have been the same for those who lived and either saw or were told of the destruction of the Temple. Not only did Americans loose family and friends, many lost property and livelihoods. But, America lost something else that day—Americans, in some ways, lost its innocence. Then they knew that something they once believed to be sure—that a towering structure would stand forever—was no longer something they could believe in. Americans had known that never was the United States invaded by foreign troops; they lost that secure feeling.
The Jews of Jerusalem and all of Judea had to have felt the same way. No longer could they trust what they had believed to the depth of their souls. The Temple was the center of their worship, the center of their lives, the center of their culture, the center of their connection to God. All at once that was gone. What was to be the focus of their attention in their efforts to be Jews? The future was suddenly different than what they had ever expected. Who would lead them?
Jesus tells his disciples to be wary—not to be led astray. Others would come after Him and try to lead the Jewish people in other directions—in directions contrary to where God wanted them to go. The Jews were at a point where they were vulnerable; the Son of God that they believed in was gone. The Temple that was a symbol of their belief in God—the very center of their culture and their lives was gone. The people had to have been searching for someone to follow—someone to lead them out of the miasma that they fell into.
Many people who undergo a great loss that those 1st century Jews had inflected upon them, lose all of their direction and end up standing, spinning their wheels in the sand. I find the reaction of Jesus’s disciples strange, knowing that they seemed to never understand what Jesus was telling; they often argued with him, trying to lead him into another direction. They seldom wanted to do what he wanted them to do. What do they do with Jesus dead on that cross on Calvary, with Jesus having ascending to the father? Who becomes their leader?
They follow Jesus. They go forth to the corners of their known world proclaiming the love of God as Jesus had taught them. This passage doesn’t tell us that, but we know that they traveled anywhere people would listen. Just think of the letters that Paul wrote to the Church from Rome, Corinth, Philippi, Galatia and Ephesus. All the time through Jesus’s ministry it looked as if Jesus failed when he choose his disciples because they never understood. But here at the end we see that they do understand what their Master was telling them. They could have sat and waited until the end of time; indeed, most people then thought that the end of time was imminent. There were small sects who did just that—sitting around and waiting. But Jesus’s disciples went about teaching about Jesus and the Father’s love. Why waste their time waiting when there was work to be done to help bring about God’s kingdom.
Even today we have groups that are proclaiming the end time is near; many such dates have come and gone. And, the world, as we know it is still here—this imperfect world because it is controlled by men, controlled contrary to the plans of God. However, there are billions of Christians throughout the world who are not waiting; there are Christians who daily use their skills, their talents, their money to continue to work for coming of His kingdom.
That is what stewardship is all about—using our time, our talents, and our treasure to preach to the world about the love of God, to help prepare them to be ready for the kingdom.
The first couple of years that I was a member of the Episcopal Church I was a non-pledger. I wrote checks almost every week, but I did not pledge. I kept increasing the money I gave each year, but I did not pledge. Part of the reason I did not pledge was the feeling that once I pledged, my putting my check in the plate was an obligation; giving the money lost some of the feeling of my freely giving to God some of what He had given me. That was part of the reason; I never really determined what the rest of my reasoning was. But I recognize that I was wrong in not pledging.
For those of us who believe with deep faith, it is imperative that we support the efforts of the Church in the diocese, in the Anglican Communion, in the whole world. The Church must continue to live and thrive if we want to work for the coming of the Kingdom of God. St. Mark’s must continue to thrive to feed us so that we are both ready for the coming of the Kingdom, and we are ready to be a presence of Christ in this part of the Miami Valley. All of the outreach projects that we do, t touch many lives in Montgomery and Greene Counties. For many of the people who lives we touch, the people of St. Mark’s serve as the hands, the feet, the very face of Christ himself. We embody Christ; some of the people we serve, never see the face of Jesus, never feel the love of Jesus, except through our action.
I cannot imagine anything worse than these people not seeing and loving God as much as we do. That would leave a hole in their lives bigger than the destruction of Temple in Jerusalem or the toppling of both towers of the World Trade Center. Giving our time, talents and treasures to St. Mark’s not just for individual families, or for this entire church family that we call a parish. It goes far out into this world—doing exactly what Jesus told of to do.
I pray that over the next two weeks, each of us give more thought to our pledge, knowing that the money that give to St. Mark’s is given in an effort to build the Kingdom of God. I urge you to pray about what you can give to the church, and I pray that the Holy Spirit moves your heart to increase the amount that you have given in the past. Loving God and knowing about His kingdom is enough reason!