Neither Flight Nor Fight But Faith

Text: Luke 21:25-36

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 


Whether you and I like it or not, there has always been and always be signs around us. Yes, there will be signs in the universe, in nature, and amid our lives.  


But what is specifically meant by signs? 


In our reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus does not preach about signs but simply points out that there will be signs. All of us will see and experience things in the universe, on the earth, and in our lives that will be out of control. Storms, eclipses, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, war, riots, death, and things that defy the laws of nature will come upon us and make us feel very out of control, very tiny, and very helpless.  


Simply stated, Jesus said that there would be signs that create chaos and hardship. And the world? Well, Jesus said that the world would be confused and perplexed with these signs. When the signs happen, the world will not know what to do or which way to turn. The signs will put the world into an embarrassing and difficult place of uncertainty. But after some time, Jesus says that the world will move not from confusion to certainty but from confusion to fear.   


Keep in mind that what the actual sign is, is not the point. The point is that when signs do happen, the world will respond two ways. First, the world will stop in its tracks and scratch its head. And second, when the world realizes that it is out of its depths – that the signs are unpredictable and uncontrollable – well, the world will run for the hills in fainting fear.  


Isn’t that the way that it goes, though? If you think about it, it is quite typical. These signs happen. Mankind cannot believe what it is seeing. And then, once mankind begins to realize that these signs are bigger and more powerful than our little determined wills, then security falls out of our hearts, and fear sets in. And once fear sets in? Well, with fear, all sorts of crazy things happen.  


Now, as we have heard in our Gospel reading, Jesus tells us exactly what will happen. He says that our hearts – your innermost being – will become depressed and heavy. This is not just a feeling of heaviness, but Jesus says that your innermost being will be heavy with a divided mind, a sense of being paralyzed, or numbed with pain. It will be like you are trapped and cannot escape a mind that is racing to all sorts of irrational thoughts while feeling paralyzed in your heart and perhaps numb in your joints and nerves. Indeed, when these uncontrollable signs happen, and after the shock has – perhaps - worn off, hearts become weighed down. People’s innermost being becomes trapped with frantic disconnected thoughts, crippled emotions, and numbness. 


Now, it will not be popular to say this right now, but we need to admit that we have seen much of this in the last 11 months. I am certainly not saying this to be self-righteous or cruel. I am not trying to score any political points either. But rather, the Gospel reading from Luke fits our present context to a T. The reason why the Gospel reading is so applicable is that Holy Scripture interprets mankind and understands how it is. In His teaching, Jesus understands how you, me, and our culture respond to uncontrollable signs. Remember, friends, that there is nothing new under the sun. We respond to powerful signs just as everyone else has responded before us. 

And everyone else after us? They will respond the same as well. We are predictable because we are the same. Do not believe the myth that we are somehow more superior - emotionally and mentally - than those who have come before us. Theologically there is no such thing as a sophisticated modern man that is invincible and sturdy amid the uncontrollable signs that we see and experience.  


We must also pause and address something else that will not be popular to talk about. There are some who like to play the Rambo card. You know what I mean. There are those in our culture that see the signs, and instead of being burdened with irrational racing thoughts, paralyzed feelings, and numbness, well… they go the way of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps to defy the signs. Like a spiritual Rambo or a religious muscle head, they gear up and say with defiance, 


“Signs, I am your worst nightmare!”  


Friends, let me be as blunt as possible. Right now, in our culture, we have what can only be described as a war between those who are fighting the signs of 2020 and those who are in flight away from the signs in 2020. Some are running away from the signs, and some are running right at the signs. 


Those who are more cautious with all the signs of 2020 are pointing fingers at everyone else with a shameful shaking head saying, 


“You are deniers. You are reckless and unloving.”  


And those who are more aggressive with the signs of 2020 are snubbing their noises while looking down on everyone else saying, 


“You are fearful. You are weak and crazy.”


But dear friends, hear me loud and clear. Both of these are wrong. They are not only wrong, but they are also caught in a vicious cycle of blame, self-righteousness, and arrogance. And to make things even more damning, they do not go the way of faith. Lord, have mercy on you, and especially me! 


Jesus, though, tells you and me to be on guard so that our hearts may not be weighed down with racing thoughts, crippled minds, and numb feelings, for this is not the way of faith. But instead, Jesus tells us that when we see and experience these uncontrollable and powerful signs that we should stand up and raise our heads.  


Now, stop right there. Those of you who tend to be spiritual Rambos – spiritual muscles heads – do not think for a minute that Jesus is affirming you. When Jesus says to stand up and raise your heads, He is not telling you and me to raise up in our own strength to fight the signs. When we see these uncontrollable signs, we are indeed to stand up and kick aside the racing thoughts and toss aside the paralyzed feelings. We are to stand and raise our heads but not to fight but to look outside our puny power to Redemption that draws near. Friends, it is not about fleeing or fighting the signs, but the signs are meant to drive us to see Christ.  


What this means is that there is no division in Christ’s church. If you are trapped in fear of the uncontrollable signs, stand up and confidentially lift up your head – Jesus has and will draw near to you. And if you have fooled yourself into believing that you are a spiritual Rambo, look away from your small spiritual biceps. Yes, lift up your heads and stand up – Jesus has and will draw near to you.  


And when we all stand and lift our heads together, what we find is that we – as Christians – are all united. Running away from the signs in fear is not faith. Running towards the signs with aggression is not faith as well. But standing together, with lifted chins, gazing up Christ – that is faith. That is unity. Faith clings to Christ. It does not run to the hills or to self-sufficiency.  


And as we stand in faith together, this faith looks away from the uncontrollable signs to hope. Yes, we stand together with hope, knowing that Jesus is coming back again to make all things new. Even if the world comes completely apart at the seams due to uncontrollable signs, you shall not fear or fight, for the Lord is with you.  


And so, with lifted heads, hear and receive Jesus in His Word and Sacraments today. That is right; despite of all the sin, calamity, terror, and fear – stand, hear, and receive Christ who draws near to you in the Word and Sacraments! Regardless of good times, bad times, sickness, or health - know that Christ is here for you in His Word and Sacraments! Know that Christ is coming back to take you home someday to make all things right. 


Dear Baptized Saints! Lift up your heads this day! Do not fear the uncontrollable signs. Do not fight the uncontrollable signs. Rest in Christ with confidence. Trust in Jesus.  


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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