Wait With Hope – November 17, 2013 – Luke 21: 5 – 19

The Temple was a sight to behold. It was stunning and the center of Jewish worship and ritual. King Solomon had built it. It had been destroyed once but rebuilt when the Israelites returned from Exile in the 5th century BC. Scholars believe that just the outer courts alone held 400,000 people. It was the center of the city and massive as should be the case of a building that honored God.

Though, the Temple wasn’t without mar. Part of its beauty was from the investment King Herod had made. He wanted the Temple in his dominion to be more beautiful than pagan temples in other areas of the Roman empire. Jews may have been thankful for the Temple’s beautification project, but knew well that Herod intended the glory for himself, not God.

Now, Jesus tells the crowd that the day will come when the beautiful Temple, the place where they worship God, will be destroyed. In a world dominated by Roman authority, the threat of destruction was real. The crowd didn’t ask Jesus, “why?” They asked, “when?”

Jesus tells them not to worry about any of it. He not only tells them not to worry about; He tells them not to plan for it. Sure, He tells them of things to come before the final destruction. Then, He goes on to say that they don’t need to prepare for the day because He will give them words, irrefutable words, to defend when the day comes.

I imagine they were quite confused. Jesus didn’t tell them what to do in the meantime. They weren’t supposed to try to guard against it. They weren’t supposed to prepare for the day to come. They weren’t supposed to prepare for their response. It seems He said to simply wait, but not a passive waiting. They were to wait with hope. The day would come when they would be arrested and persecuted for their faith. They didn’t need to worry for He would be there on that day. For now, they need only persevere in their faith.

I think this text needs to be considered in the context in which it was written. The Gospel writer was addressing the crisis of the Christian church at the time he wrote it. The Gospel writer was not dictating the Gospel while following Jesus around the mission field. Luke wrote his Gospel at a later time and wrote what he thought would be important to the Christian community at the time he was writing. This memory of Jesus’ teaching seemed important to Luke, to the community.

Luke was writing at a time when Christians were being persecuted and the Temple had been destroyed. He needed to tell this story to encourage the Christians to know that this was all to be expected. Their faith may have been waning or a spirit of fear and doubt may have entered the community. This story would remind them that they needn’t worry and only have hope. Even in an uncertain world, Luke encourages the community with this story to wait on the resurrection. In this time, they should wait with continued hope.

The greatest challenge of hope is to live in a balance between the present and the future. They were, and we are, to wait with hope for the resurrection and not give into the threat of the coming end. We should not prepare for the end, but prepare for the present. This story invites us to hope and it is “one that we can respond to most faithfully not by predicting the end but by seizing the present moment in which to share our faith and confidence in Christ.”

Hope is both fragile and powerful. Rev. David Lose says this about hope. “Hope is fragile because it exists against all odds in the face of much that seems hopeless; powerful because it creates new possibilities and in being shared, multiplies.” Hope is not to be confused with optimism. Optimism looks to day when things will be better with the assumption that the current situation is not the end. Hope assumes nothing. Hope is the sense that whether things remain the same or get worse ultimately God’s good will will supersede everything.

Hope is trusting in the resurrection to come. There may be death before, but resurrection will be sure to follow. There may be destruction or persecution, but there will be resurrection. We are a people of the resurrection and we can hope in all things that God’s good will will transcend even death. The promise of resurrection invites us to live today without fear of tomorrow. Even in the most difficult times, we have hope because we know resurrection will come.

I want to tell you the story of New Hope Baptist Church. Rev. Larry Roseboro is the pastor there. He had become frustrated with the church and was feeling burnt out. Pastor Roseboro called in consultants to help him realize his dream.

Pastor Roseboro had one goal with the consultants and that was for them to help build a new church. Pastor Roseboro wanted to build a new building for his church. Pastor Roseboro had dreamed with his wife about building a bigger sanctuary with classrooms and a large fellowship hall. He had a drawing done of what he wanted and it was estimated to cost $1.7 million dollars for a church of 50 people. Pastor Roseboro had the single-mind that he could grow his church if they built a new building.

New Hope Baptist Church is different from this church. New Hope had one pastor, but no elders or deacons or board or trustees. The pastor was responsible for everything. In some ways, New Hope is similar to this church. It exists in a town with plenty of churches and is about the same size as us.

Now, there worship is completely different. They have what is referred to as a spirit-filled worship service. They experience being slain by the Spirit. They sing, dance and have a band. There worship service is typically 4 hours long and the pastor preaches for about 3 of those hours. (Who’s up for a 3 hour sermon this morning?)

The consultants saw three problems where Pastor Roseboro saw one. Pastor Roseboro wanted a new church so he could grow his church. The consultants suggested three things: update the current building, recruit some help, and get your message across in less than 3 hours.

It took a lot of encouragement for Pastor Roseboro to get on board with the plan. He went to an old friend and former church member and invited him to be a deacon who would help with pastoral care and church administration. He gave some effort to preaching a more succinct message and started a second worship service to grow the church.

Then, he agreed to invest the $40,000 they had saved toward a new building in the current building. They put in air conditioning, replaced the torn and stain carpet in the sanctuary, re-landscaped the side yard to prevent the fellowship hall from flooding every time it rained, and gave the church some curb appeal.

The problem with Pastor Roseboro was that he was stuck between the past and the future and not rooted in the present. He had dreamed with his wife of building a new church. It was a dream that carried on long after his wife died and he felt he owed it to her legacy to realize their dream. He was holding on to the past with his wife and dreaming of a future that wasn’t possible. It wasn’t possible, right now, because it wasn’t God’s vision.

The thing that Pastor Roseboro needed to realize was that he was neglecting the present. He had lost focus on the opportunity to save souls now, because he thought he had to wait for a new building to grow the church. He had allowed the current building to become dilapidated to save money for the new church. He hadn’t invited anyone to help him now, because he people had failed him in the past. And, of course, people weren’t lining up at the door for a 4 hour worship experience.

Pastor Roseboro needed to focus on his present opportunities and what God was doing in this moment. God was in the past, God is in the present, and God will be in the future. Pastor Roseboro needed to trust God in the present in order to realize what God had for the future.

I think that’s an important lesson for us. God has been in our past for 132 years. God is with us in the present and God will be with us in our future. We can’t live in our past, but we honor our legacy by seeking to do God’s will in the present. We prepare for what God is doing and partner with Him now. We trust that God will bring our future to fruition through our commitment to what God is doing.

The prophet Isaiah told Israel that God is about to do a new thing. That is a truth that remains constant. God is right now about to do a new thing. We push forward to whatever God has in store for us knowing that if God called us to it, God will bring us through it. Through it all, we wait with hope in the resurrection.

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