Sermon 25 Pentecost Yr C

25 Pentecost Yr C, 14/11/2010

Lk 21:5-19

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Enduring to the end”

As the church year winds down, the passages of Scripture focus more on the end times. Many people are filled with fear when they read passages like our gospel today. There are certainly a lot of scary things described about the end times in today’s gospel.

   For starters, Jesus predicts that the symbol of stability and security in Jerusalem; the temple will be destroyed. Temple stones that were up to forty feet long and weighed as much as one hundred tons were going to come tumbling down. The Romans would destroy the temple and all that would remain is what you can see today in Jerusalem, known as “the wailing wall.”

   Jesus goes on to provide several other events that usher in the end times. False Messiahs will claim that they are Jesus, and lead people astray. This has happened in every century since Jesus’ time and continues to happen even in our age; whenever a crackpot charlatan comes along and makes outlandish claims to hoodwink the public into believing that they are the Messiah.

   Jesus goes on to say that there will be wars and insurrections; nations and kingdoms will rise up against each other. Well, ever since the time of Jesus, history has been full of wars and conflicts. In fact, there are some historians who have claimed that war claimed the lives of more people in the last century—the twentieth century—than in all the other centuries combined.

   Added to this list of apocalyptic events are earthquakes, famines and plagues. Once again, ever since the time of Jesus the history of the world has seen earthquakes, famines and plagues.

   Jesus continues with his predictions that his followers could expect difficult times ahead—they would be arrested, persecuted and imprisoned. Moreover, parents, brothers, relatives and friends will betray Jesus’ followers and even put some of them to death. As we know, such predictions have come true in the history of the Church—countless Christians down through the ages and even today have been, and in some cases still are, persecuted and martyred solely because of their faithfulness to Christ.

   Yet, even though this long apocalyptic list of things may seem scary; Jesus admonishes us not to live in fear of such things. Rather, such events give us the opportunity to testify to the world our faith in Christ. Furthermore, under such conditions of persecution, Jesus promises to be with us and give us words and a wisdom that none of our opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. And, says Jesus: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

   I know this may sound offensive or scandalous, but it has been a truism that the persecuted Church has actually strengthened the faith of Christians. Some of you may know that during times of drought bees produce better quality honey; even though there is less honey. Since the quality of honey is related to moisture content; so during a drought there is less moisture in the honey to begin with. In times of persecution the quality of Christian faith has often been stronger than in times of prosperity. As the apostle Paul once said, suffering is very productive: “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Rom 5:4-5)

   Here is a story of one follower of Jesus as told by his son, Michael (Mihai) Wurmbrand, who was strengthened in his faith by enduring persecution.

   In December 1965, my father, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand…was freshly ransomed from communist Romania for $10,000 by Scandinavian Christians after 14 years of torture in prisons there.

   His worldwide bestseller, Tortured for Christ, appeared and was translated into more than 85 languages. We started a worldwide missionary organization to help the persecuted Christians in communist countries, called today The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). My father’s message was the biblical message: Hate sin but redeem in love the sinner, redeem through Christian love the persecutors by changing their heart with Christian love.

   God granted that Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, after 1989, was able to personally visit and preach to large audiences in many countries behind the former Iron Curtain. Richard Wurmbrand died just shy of his 92nd birthday, which would have been on March 24, 2001.

   In 2006, the Romanian government-owned TV Broadcasting station (TVR), in cooperation with one of the largest newspapers of the country (Evenimentul Zilei, “The Daily Event”), started a poll among readers and viewers as to who were or are the greatest, most admired Romanian personalities throughout history. The television station promised to prepare one-hour TV documentaries about each of the top ten finalists. These secular promoters were flabbergasted to find out that nearly 400,000 random participants chose, right behind the top three most-known kings of Romania and Romania’s national poet, as the fifth most admired Romanian personality of all times, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. All the other personalities were part of Romanian history, even during more than 40 years of communism, while nothing could be publicized about Richard Wurmbrand during the communist regime. Christians in Romania rose as one to name their brother who had made their persecution at the hands of communists known worldwide and as a praise to God for His everlasting love.1

   Pastor Wurmbrand’s story is a living testimony of how, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” He was able to endure the persecution and grew much stronger in his faith because of it—not that he, or for that matter any of us, go looking to be persecuted. However, when persecution comes, we can let faith rather than fear prevail. Why? Because we trust and know that Jesus is with us; he will walk through it with us; he will provide us with whatever we require to endure it. So, don’t be afraid of all the apocalyptic gloom and doom. Rather, continue to live a life of faith in Jesus from day to day; in so doing, you shall be able, with his presence and help, to endure anything; that’s his GOOD NEWS promise for you today. 

1 Cited from, and edited for this sermon: Michael (Mihai) Wurmbrand, SNAPSHOTS: A SON REMEMBERS HIS FATHER, at <http://torturedforchrist.com/remember/>, © 2009 The Voice of the Martyrs.

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

3 Responses to Sermon 25 Pentecost Yr C

  1. I particularly like when Jesus tells us, “not to meditate beforehand how to answer”. This is maybe one of the hardest things not to do (at least for someone that has ‘difficulty thinking on their feet’… like me); that we should completely trust in Him to give us the words when the time is right. But, as you go on to point out that is when..’none of our opponents will be able to withstand or contradict’.
    And I would add when we trust in Him to give us the words many will be surprised how great an impact they will have (c.f.Rev. Richard Wurmbrand)
    Great stuff,
    Peace

  2. DimLamp says:

    Thank you Gene and Dr. Hal for your comments. I too am inspired by Jesus’ words and also the life and witness of Rev. Richard Wurmbrand. Like you Dr. Hal, I think I’d find it difficult thinking on my feet too, yet, I think that’s where faith in Christ, trusting him with our all takes hold of us. Blessings and peace. 🙂

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