Matthew 24:15-28 – CAMEO Sermon
I know that many of you watch the television news.
You will have been shocked, as I was, by the horrible scenes from Syria in recent months culminating in the siege of Madaya, near Damascus; the destruction of towns and villages, the starvation of the people, caught up in it all.
Every bombed out building, the end of a family home, or the end of a business, lovingly nurtured over decades. Every dead or injured body a stab in the heart for a mother or father, a brother or sister, a daughter or a son.
You will have seen also television footage of the migrants, desperate to escape Syria; fleeing from the ruins of their homes and businesses, some carrying their grandparents on their backs, flocking towards Europe; through the snow of the Balkans, and In the freezing waters of the Mediterranean, as the flimsy craft, in which they are seeking to escape,this seeming apocalypse, sink, many going to their deaths.
Terrible scenes, so reminiscent of this passage of Matthew, which I have just read to you:
‘Woe to those who are pregnant and those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight will not be in winter or on a sabbath. For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now”
Theologians think that Jesus was predicting both the fall of Jerusalem, which happened about 35 years after his death in AD70, and the end of the world and his return.
And it would not surprise me, if some of us wonder whether we are approaching
this apocalypse now…
Certainly we seem to be being goaded towards sending soldiers to fight on the ground in Syria. And as financial markets collapse, all over the world and as global warming seems to spell disaster for us all.
But some of us here today must have felt that we were facing apocalypse at many stages in our lives: the Battle of Britain; the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example.
And of course the black clouds on the horizon, may just be a passing storm,
we don’t know…
But if times do continue to get difficult, we can easily imagine that, a time could come, as the passage suggests, when it will be tempting to believe anything, to believe whatever anyone who seems strong says, just to have a rock to cling to…
As Jesus said in the passage I read, people will say ‘look here is the Messiah’ and it will be very tempting to be led astray, to be led away from following Jesus. Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, all messiahs in their way, who distracted people led them astray when times were tough.
But Jesus is telling us, we should expect chaos, we should expect terrible suffering as a sign of the end times; it doesn’t mean that God has deserted us.
Things may get so bad that even we may have to flee our homes for the mountains.
But the biggest danger of all is that we stray from our focus on Jesus
We should expect the temptation to turn to those other than Jesus to politicians and other leaders who promise to provide security and hope.
But at the end of all the suffering, and we don’t know when that will be, not even Jesus knew when it would be, but only the Father knows. At the end of all the chaos, all the suffering, Jesus himself assures us that he will return ‘with power and great glory’ that Love will triumph in the end.
It will be so obvious when he has returned that no one will be able to deny it.
He came first in obscurity, in a stable, in poverty but he will return with a thunder clap like lightning across the sky.
History will ultimately be seen to be ‘His Story’; that He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega.
And when that end comes, whenever that is, sooner or later, he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect – his disciples, his followers from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
But we must remain focused on him, not be led astray, whatever the emergency.
And if we do not know him yet, we can choose to be part of that elect, that group of disciples who will be gathered from every corner of the world; if we open our hearts to Jesus now, while we still can, we can choose to follow the Way the Truth and the Life.
If we are already a disciple and we do do stick to his path or if we are not and choose to become one of his disciples, we really have nothing to worry about, even if society collapses, whatever those who want to fight us do, despite any financial crash and the consequences of global warming.
God has it under control and at the end He will draw us to Him and we will be
safe in his warm embrace.