Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 10 November 2019.
Old Testament: Haggai 1: 15b – 2: 9 (Take courage, all you people of the land)
Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17 (God chose you as the first fruits for salvation)
Gospel: Luke 20: 27-38 (The resurrection – God is not God of the dead but of the living)
I expect that every service person or civilian, when faced with watching out on a cold and dark night, or marching endlessly to some obscure position, or tending to the wounded and dying, must have wondered what it was all for.
Oh yes, King or Queen and country, the defence of liberty, the rule of law and the safety of friends and family may well have been more important than the denial of a position or resources to the enemy, but for much of the time this explanation would have sounded more like a cliché or an excuse put together by those not actually engaged in the discomfort or fear of the moment.
And especially so when under fire and comrades were being killed or injured, and memories, responses and emotions were being progressively shredded.
Perhaps this is why the lessons today are so pointed.
Haggai says ‘Take courage … I am with you … My spirit abides among you do not fear.’
In due season, ‘I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.’
Not only them but the institutions in which people set so much store, the relations between people, the things that they value and the priorities of their lives. These too will be shaken and a new thing will come to be.
This will be a thing of God’s own devising, and not just a contrivance of the convenience of powerful people.
To a people in exile, God’s promise was glorious and would not be denied and in this sense the Messianic promise still awaits its final fulfilment, for Jesus did indeed promise that He would be coming back.
Paul also looks for a Day of Fulfilment, the Day of the Lord, when the sacrifices of faithful people down the ages would be vindicated, and when it would be the penetrating gaze of the King of Kings that would bring judgment to the world.
Then all its pretensions and self-regard would be revealed for what they are.
All the excuses for doing nothing, for manipulating and abusing the innocent, for twisting the law to favour whoever was the establishment of the time would be revealed as empty verbiage.
The wars that we fight to secure our way of life would be overtaken by a final reckoning, so Paul says to the church in Salonica and everywhere else,
‘Stand firm and hold fast’. Stand in the victory already won by Jesus on the cross, when He took on Himself every aspect of human evil so that we might dare to approach the throne of God under His personal word.
What was always going to be unobtainable in ourselves would be wholly obtainable through His sacrifice and His personal endorsement of who we are and what He wants us to become.
To stand firm is not to be passive in a sense of helplessness or victimhood.
It is to take a stand in a position already prepared by Jesus Christ Himself. It is to receive His covering in our lives, for the things we have done amiss and for the situations we are now in.
More than that it is to take a stand in the plans that He has for us, even and especially when we do not know that they are.
The stand we are taking is not in the propaganda of our own side but in the assurance and promise that Jesus has already made to us and which He wants us to receive and to grow into.