This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached on Sunday, November 13, 2016. It was the first Sunday after the 2016 presidential election, and I tried to address some election-related concerns without being partisan or inflammatory. The gospel reading for the day was Luke 21:5-19.
“Vince said it would be like this.” When I was growing up, that was an ad campaign for channel 28 news. The weatherman on channel 28 was named Vince Sweeney. I can remember many commercials with people standing outside in the sunshine, or in the rain, saying, “Vince said it would be like this!” It was a way of saying, “Our forecasts are reliable. You can trust what Vince says. He said it would be like this.”
Finding a reliable weather forecast is really important. I used to do a lot of hiking. But it’s no fun to walk in the woods if it’s pouring. It’s no fun to walk in the woods if it’s 104 degrees with 104 percent humidity. It’s no fun to walk in the woods through lightning and hail. At least not for me. So I would always check a weather forecast I trust before I went. If the forecast was bad, what seemed fun becomes miserable or even dangerous. And I wouldn’t go.
Well, what about walking with Jesus? Walking with Jesus is a very different sort of hike. It’s a walk that is more of a way of life. A way of discipleship marked by prayer and scripture reading, by acts of kindness and generous giving, and most of all, by trust in God.
And just like walking in the woods, walking with Jesus can seem different depending on the forecast. If the forecast is good, it’s easy to trust in God, and walk the way he’s calling us. But when the forecast is bad, when there are storms around us and more on the horizon, it’s hard. Trust is hard. Following is hard.
And right now the forecast for many people is bad. How is it for you? Where are the storms in your life? Near, or far? Are you walking through one now? Well, here’s the interesting thing. Jesus said it would be like this.
Jesus said: “The stones on the temple will all fall down.” He said: “There will be wars and insurrections,” “earthquakes and famines and plagues.” “They will persecute you.” “You will be betrayed.” “There will be great distress.” Just like Vince Sweeney, Jesus said it would be like this. He knew. And he wasn’t just talking about 2016. The forecast has been bleak many times before. The forecast was bleak in 1931, as the Great Depression deepened. The forecast was bleak in 1863, as brother killed brother at Gettysburg. The forecast was bleak in 1349, as the Black Death was killing 50% of Europe. Jesus said it would be like that. And he said it would be like this.
But that’s not all he said.
Jesus said, “Not a hair of your head will perish.”
Jesus said, “By your endurance you will find life.”
Jesus said, “Do not be led astray.”
And Jesus said, “Do not be terrified.”
The people who first heard these words soon became the leaders of the early church. And they would understand suffering. Their temple was destroyed. They were persecuted by religious and military leaders. Throughout the book of Acts and other early church writings, we see people who suffer. And yet we see people who endure suffering with heads held high, because they knew that Jesus said it would be like this. And even more, they believed they would endure it, because Jesus himself endured death, yet he was alive. Jesus promised to be with them, and they believed that with him at their side, they could do anything. And they did.
And now it’s our time. Imagine I’m getting ready for a nice long hike. As I lace my boots, I’m watching the weather forecast. And the weather forecaster says, “Today’s forecast is bad. Really bad. The high is 150, there’s a tornado warning for our whole area, and a 75% chance of frogs falling from the sky.” I start to take my boots off, but he continues. “Michael,” he says, “put your boots back on. I want you to take that walk, because I will walk with you. I will protect you. I will keep you safe. Not a hair on your head will be harmed. And together, you and I will change the world through this walk.” I would tell him, “Sorry, Vince, you’re crazy,” turn the TV off, and go back to bed.
But it’s not a weather forecaster saying that to us. It’s Jesus, the King of Creation, the Son of God, the Lord of Lords. And he says to us, “I know the forecast is bleak. But I tell you, walk with me, even now, especially now. I will be with you. I will walk with you every step of the way. You have nothing to fear. Walk with me. Together, you and I have amazing work to do.”
If you are in the midst of a storm right now, keep walking. Keep walking, with your head held high, and hear Jesus’ voice over the wind. His voice is saying, “I am with you. You are safe. You will survive this. Keep walking faithfully.”
And if you know someone in the midst of a storm right now, be the voice of Jesus in their life. Be the church that we are called to be, that we were made to be, the hands and voice of Jesus in a world full of storms, and tell them, “You are safe.” Show them that they are safe. Be that safety.