Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/18/12 Sermon

Mark 13:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen.


How many of you like to watch Disaster movies? A movie with some impending or ongoing disaster with lots of special effects and people trying to survive.

And they come in a lot of different varieties.

There are the natural disaster movies: Movies about earthquakes (San Francisco). Tornadoes (Twister), tidal waves (Poseidon Adventure).

In fact, the number 2 box office movie of all time is the movie Titanic. The unsinkable ocean liner that met its fate with an iceberg.

Then there are those cataclysmic disaster movies like the 1983 TV movie, “The Day After” which was about the disaster of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war.

And then there are those “end of the world” disaster movies about the invasion of aliens. I’m reminded of the 2005 movie “The War of the Worlds”. Independence Day was another box office smash.
And then recently we’ve seen more and more of these catastrophic movies that have to do with natural disasters in a more astronomical fashion such as comets crashing from space into the earth. (Deep Impact or Armageddon)

All of these kinds of movies have been such big box office draws.

We human beings have always been fascinated with disasters and “end of the world” scenarios.
But why?

Well, psychologists and religious scholars seem to think that it derives from a number of very human urges:

For one we are fascinated with the fear of death as long as we can keep a safe distance from it. Sitting in our theater seats with a bag of popcorn gives us that safety.

Another reason they say we are drawn to these movies is that many people are generally unhappy in their lives. Deep down they want the world to end so they can be free from their unhappiness.

And tied to this is another interesting reason we’re drawn to these movies.

Psychologists and religious scholars say that deep down, human beings long for the end of the world because we have a strong desire for justice and goodness and we know that this world is too broken for this to ever come about by our doing.

So we want the world to end so that something new and better will rise in its place.

Now, of course, the fascination with disaster and end of the world doomsday is nothing new.

For centuries people have been predicting the end of the world and been fascinated with the possibility.

There are many who take it very seriously. There are internet sites and publications out there that offer formulas that interpret every hurricane, war, famine, tornado, and earthquake as part of God’s plan for the second coming of Christ.

Many groups have created end-time clocks that provide a “rapture index,” claiming that Christ’s return is coming very soon.

And then there are those who sell books that tell you everything you need to know to prepare for the end time. For $19.95 we can have some supposed theologian tell us how to survive the coming disaster.

I read where a pastor saw a TV ad for one of these books and decided to have some fun with the operator taking the orders. He asked her “If the preacher who wrote this book was so concerned and saw this book as vital to survival and the end is so near why doesn’t he just give the book away.

I mean he won’t need the money and he won’t need to pay the printer”.

The operator wasn’t amused and said “Sir, I don’t know much about theology”. And the pastor responded, “Neither does the writer of the book you’re selling”…………………….

In our scripture today, Jesus is warning the disciples and us about the end-time fascination.

In fact he specifically warns us about individuals who supposedly come in Jesus’ name talking about when the end will come……………………..

Jesus was sitting with the disciples on the Mount of Olives, opposite of the temple, when he told them that the great temple (which was the center of the universe) would be destroyed and not one stone will be left on another.

And the disciples reacted the way we like to do—they got focused on the when and the signs.

But Jesus told them to not get concerned about the when. In other words, don’t get caught up in the disaster doomsday stuff and make it a part of your faith.

Unfortunately this stuff has become a centerpiece for many people.

And there are consequences that come with this kind of theology.

You see, with this focus on end time disaster at the heart of religion, the understanding of salvation is all flawed.

Many of us know individuals or churches that use a proselytizing method of warning people of a coming doomsday in order to save their souls.

The purpose has been to scare people in order to come to Jesus that they might “obtain” salvation.
This theology is simplistic and incomplete; it also divides and separates people into the saved and the damned.

Salvation as a result is static. It’s some fixed event. And this leads people to not grow at all in their faith.

With end time disaster playing such a central part of their theology, and salvation is some fixed event to obtain to survive disaster, why would anyone take any interest in this world we live in now?
Why bother loving the world? Why bother living faithfully at all?

Still there’s another huge problem that comes as a result of this static salvation theology that focuses on the end times.

And it has to do with the way we handle problems that come along in our lives.
You see when the “when” of the end times becomes central to our way of thinking we can’t help but be focused on AVOIDING bad times when they come in our lives.

You see the disciples asking Jesus when the end was coming was so that they could organize their lives around when things were going to get bad.

They wanted to know when the end was coming in order to prepare and avoid the bad stuff coming.
They were focused on keeping everything smooth and trouble free.
And isn’t that what we all do?

Instead of focusing on being faithful on a journey of salvation, seeing life as series of ups and downs, twists and turns and how we live faithfully thru it, we are people who handle disasters with tragic fatalism.  

We get paralyzed and live in fear and hunker down.

We stop living and see the tragedy that happens to us as some end time disaster.

But Jesus told the disciples to not get obsessed with the “when” so that they wouldn’t be looking to avoid difficulties and hunker down in the midst of them.
Instead he wanted them to focus on being faithful when the going gets tough as it surely would for them……….as well as it will for us.
This is the true understanding of salvation.

Salvation is not some thing we obtain to save us from the upcoming end time disasters or the disaster of death.

Instead, salvation is alive now in our lives. Salvation is a way of life that carries us in the midst of the disasters that come.

Jesus actually pointed the disciples past the “when of the disaster” to focus on something else.

And we see it in the last verse.

Jesus said there will be wars and earthquakes and famines BUT these are only the beginnings of birth pangs.

In other words, don’t get stuck in the end times--- There is another day---the next day.----the day after the disaster.
And that changes everything for us as people of faith.

You see, to be focused on the day after disaster is a call to be mature followers of Christ growing in our faith, growing to be more like Christ.

Instead of being shallow followers of a bad theology that throws away this world in order to get out of being like Christ in this world, we are continuing to grow in our faith.

In the midst of tragedy and disasters we persevere since our focus is on the day after disaster, not on avoiding the difficulties and therefore faltering when problems come.

And that’s what Jesus was pointing to.

You know, none of us are going to go unscathed in life, free from disasters.

Some of us have already experienced or will eventually experience natural disasters.

I think of towns hit by tornadoes. Anytime dark clouds come and a tornado alarm goes off there is a fear that it can indeed happen again because it’s happened before.

They have lost that innocence that they are safe. They live in fear.

And the same can be said for people who have faced disasters of health in their lives.
Those who have heart disease or have had cancer live in fear of another heart attack or finding another lump. You can live in fear; is this the end time for me?
And then there are those who have gone thru the disaster of a loss loved one?

Their innocence is gone as a result of the tragedy that has struck their lives. They live in fear of the loss of another.

But Jesus’ message to the disciples and to us reminds us that even as there will be disasters in our lives and that they are difficult and painful we don’t need to lose hope.
There is a day after the disaster.
Birth pangs are not all there is. There is hope ahead.

For as we follow Christ, we have the assurance that even when all falls apart that we are not alone. Christ will be there to rescue us no matter what.

And that is the kind of witness that Jesus called the disciples as well as us to be to the world.
Christians are those who live in hope.

We aren’t people who get stuck in the when of the disaster---- we see beyond the disasters.

We see light in the darkness of a broken world and we persevere.
People see us as those who are living in salvation who trust, believe and follow the One who overcame the greatest disaster of all: death.
That is the faithfulness that Jesus calls us to: A lived out Gospel with an assurance that no disaster or tragedy will ever cause us to live in despair.
In fact the tragedies can actually become blessings…….
Kathleen Norris tells the story of a brilliant young scholar, stricken with cancer, who over the course of several years came close to dying three times.

But after extensive radiation and chemo, came a welcome remission.

Her prognosis was uncertain, but she was again able to teach, and to write.
She told the department head, an older woman who had been with her thru this difficult time, “I’d never want to go back, because now I know what each morning means, and I am so grateful just to be alive.

When the other woman said to her, “We’ve been through so much together in the last few years,” the younger woman nodded, and smiled. “Yes,” she said, emphatically. “Yes! And hasn’t it been a blessing!”2    RODGER Y. NISHIOKA

When we have faith in the day after the disaster, our tragedies are turned into blessings on the journey.
Not that we’d want to go thru them again, but they do draw us ever closer and ever dependent on the one who is to come—the one who enables us to look up after tragedies and claim the certainty of blessing in the midst of fit all………………
In closing this morning, Jesus calls us to look beyond the end times and the disasters that will come and focus on a life of faithful living.
For that’s the true witness of the Gospel. Not some static salvation of warning others to be safe when Jesus comes ….but a way of salvation in the journey of ups and downs that prepares us and forms us to live in the present as well as in the eternal days to come as one of Christ’s true followers.
Today you may find yourself in a disaster zone.
If so, Jesus calls you to keep looking ahead.

While the pain is real, for followers of Christ, those pains are not the end.

There is a pathway thru the rubble and the devastation……….. It is known as the way of salvation, and Jesus is there… to lead us.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen