Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 26th Sunday after Pentecost, 12 Nov. 2016
RCL Year C Isaiah 65:17-25; Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6); 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
What time is it? [Answers differed between our 8:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. worship.]
Eastern Standard Time, right?
Samples of fortune cookies distributed to the congregation.

When we adjust our clocks for time change twice a year [as we did last week], we say we gain an hour or lose an hour. Yet we still have 24-hours each day. Our clocks keep ticking despite our arbitrary changes.
Our scriptures today have at least 34 words or phrases referring to time.
Most refer to “chronological” time.
I remember time ticking by as a high school student baby sitting for our next-door neighbors. I love spending time with their baby, so the first part of the evening goes fast as we play. On time, I settle him down to sleep. His parents will come home late. With nothing fun on TV to watch, the night creeps by tick by tick.
I can count each minute – literally.
The parents collect clocks.
I sit, surrounded by clocks, mostly pendulum clocks, coo-coo clocks. The clocks are not synchronized. 9 o'clock. 10. 11. Midnight. How well I know it is midnight. By the time the 7th coo-coo starts its 12 coo-coos, I am coo-coo!
We can have too much time or not enough time [such as preparing for the hurricane]. We can get impatient & confused when things don't happen with the timing we expect. We know, as Bob Dylan's song reminds us,
The Times They Are A-Changing'1.
We need each other, especially when things are a-changin', when things seem to happen so fast or so slow, or when they seem to take forever.
For my friend, whose husband died almost instantly of a stroke several years ago, time with him was too short. Their time together changed in the blink of an eye. Since her dad's death 3 years ago in his late 80s, she has a new view of time: he died after a long series of strokes.

Now she sees her husband's quick death differently. She so wishes this blessing had been granted to her dad & all the family who suffered with him through his long journey to death & new life.

A trusting Christian, who chose to be baptized & dedicated her life to God, she expresses deep trust in God in all circumstances of her life, however unexpected they are.

As we hear in our Gospel today, some folk want accurate predictions of what to expect, what's going to happen,. Yet we know “the times they are a-changin'”. We know about trusting God.

We know not to take a fortune cookie seriously, if for no other reason than the recent fortune cookie note my husband received. It says "Ignore previous cookie."2  
This reminds me of what Jesus tells us in our Gospel about not being led astray. Jesus warns the people & us about impostors who want to seize an opportune time to lead us away from God for their own interests.3

Much of what Jesus speaks of in Luke has come to pass:
  • Faithful witnesses will be brought before synagogues & rulers; this is fulfilled in Acts 4-5 & 24-26.
  • Wisdom which will silence opponents is fulfilled in Acts 4:8-13 & 6:10.
  • Destruction of the beautifully adorned Temple dedicated to God is fulfilled by Roman troops between 66 & 72 A.D.4
Jesus says we are not to fret when we see upheavals, wars, conflicts, natural disasters. Jesus says, “do not be terrified...the end will not follow immediately.” Final outcome & timing are in God's hands.

Jesus focuses our attention “on the importance of day-to-day following of Jesus.”5   We are to trust God & use the time we have to witness God's Good News to people who do not know God & to minister to all sorts & conditions of people, including each other.

Although we are dedicated to God through baptism, we are not perfect. By your baptism, you are dedicated to God.
You are the beautifully adorned temple where God dwells.
You are adorned with God's radiant beauty.
You shine forth Christ's light.

Whether the end of time is near or just the end of our own life is near, we have time to make a positive difference. This is the lesson an older man in prison for life teaches a young fellow inmate in the movie Brother's Keeper.6
The young death row inmate has despaired of life. The old lifer says:

As long as you can breathe air into your lungs you have life, & you can make a positive difference to someone.

As long as you can breathe air into your lungs you have life,
& you can make a positive difference
to someone.

What can you do – what can WE do – to work with the Holy Spirit to make our scripture's vision of wholeness & peace reality?
What difference can you make now?

Jesus says: Do not worry about what is to come. Speak as God guides you. Witness God's great love when the opportunity comes.

What can you do now to encourage the wolf & the lamb to feed together?

What can you do now to encourage the wolf & the lamb & the elephant & the donkey to feed & work together?

The American College Dictionary. ED-in-Chief: C.L. Barnhart. New York: Random House. 1966.
American Expressions. ED: Robert B. Costello. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. 1981.
Grenz, Stanley J. David Guretzki. Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers Grive, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1999.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed: James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985. p. 851
He Holds the Future”. Accessed” 8 Nov. 2016.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc. 1992.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1970.

2 Fortune cookie idea is inspired from “He Holds the Future”.
3 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 1039.
4 Ibid.
5 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1127.

6 Some of the church & seminary scenes were shot at St. John's Episcopal Church in Bainbridge, GA. Some friends are in some crowd scenes.

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