Proper 28 (RCL) Your Honor, what my client is TRYING to say is...
Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
So make 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 Luke 21:14-15
The readings today speak of people starting over again. The old earth will pass away, a new one will emerge.
God's new people will be inventive, industrious and employed. They will live full lives. God will be so intimate in their lives that He will be in their midst, even before being summoned. The people will acknowledge that God alone saves their lives. Surrendering their wills and hopes to God will blot out fear. There will be no question that the God of Israel has done great, marvelous and wonderful things. He is worthy to be praised and worshipped.
The people in Thessaloniki had become a bit lazy. They weren't all contributing, all pitching in. The right thing to do - in the new Creation that God had set out and the example Jesus embodied was to work and earn your keep. Jesus taught and preached and earned his keep that way. Paul made sure it be known that he was not adverse to labor - in fact, he labored in order to be a good example, as Jesus had been, of 'doing the right thing', earning your keep.
Shifting to Luke, Jesus is withing the Temple itself when he began making the comments we have now read. Remember, in the new world that God creates, this Temple may just become a thing of the past. Just rubble. All the precious metals, the fine linens, the velvet curtains and marble of the altar -- just rubble, rubbish.
The disciples were more than merely curious when they asked the question about the timing of the fall of the Temple. After all the Temple was the heart where Jews worshiped, Jerusalem was the Holy City and the center of their world. If everything was going to be turned on its ear, the disciples wanted to be prepared, ready, disaster plans in place. Jesus tries putting the timing of things into perspective. Prophets will come and go, local power struggles will come and go. Eventually there will be (as there has been in the past) wars between nations and natural catastrophes. Between the local unrest and the greater unrest and ruin,you will be tested. You will be judged because you have known me and lived and taught in my name and all that I stand for.
I count on you to make a decision and take a stand. Don't prepare for this test. Don't assume what they will ask or have a prepared strategy on how to respond. By becoming my disciples, you have already put your lives in my hands. When the time comes to reply to their accusations, let me speak on your behalf. Trust me. I will give you the words and the wisdom with which to use them. They won't have a comeback. I am your Advocate, I will speak for you.
Mind you, truth is powerful. At times, the power of truth is so intimidating to others that they will go out of their way to silence you - temporarily or permanently - rather than let anyone else hear the truth. There may be laws in this day and age in our country that (in theory)protect 'whistle blowers' against physical harm or the loss of a job. There are NO protections against insidious character assassination, unfounded accusations and insinuations. If we go back to Biblical times, speaking truth WOULD cost you life, physical injury, emotional abandonment, societal rejection, becoming disowned by family and friends alike.
The one thing Jesus promises is that if we speak and live his truth our inmost self would be saved, whole and justified. The truth would indeed set us free. No earthly judge or jury could condemn us for living truth and loving with our whole heart, mind and strength. Based on the testimony given by the Holy Spirit, our souls will not be condemned. Case closed. Amen and Amen