The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - November 20, 2016
Scripture Reading: Luke 21:5-19
Sermon Title:
ďStanding StrongĒ

The Rev. Robert Vodra


     Last week I brought Keri, Glenn and Collin to Disney World in Florida.  I think that everyone should have the opportunity to do that at least once in their lives.  If you have never been, they work so hard to make the experience special.  It is not a particularly spectacular piece of land; it was mostly swamp and land used to graze cattle before being purchased by Disney.  As a kid, it is spectacular, and exciting.  There are cool rides, and things to see everywhere you look.  As an adult, you start to notice all the little things they do to make it special.  The buildings are smaller the higher they go, so they look much taller than they are.  Almost all the lines to get into attractions have ways in which crowds are controlled, close to the ride there are permanent divisions, but outside the rides are holes in the ground where they can install posts and ropes or chain in a matter of minutes.  There is a network of tunnels running below the park so that you rarely see food deliveries, trash removal or all the other traveling that needs to happen in a park.  I noticed on this visit that almost all the employees you see are carrying trash picking up grippers, even the hotel staff were carrying these as they went from one area to another.  And because of this, you rarely saw any trash on the ground.  Anything dropped was quickly picked up and thrown away. 

     We were able to spend one day in each of the parks, would arrive shortly after the gates opened, and stay most nights almost until the park closed.  The 1 am late closing of Magic Kingdom we didnít make, were tired by 11:00 and decided to head back to our rooms so we could get up early the next morning for the next adventure.  Tuesday we were at Epcot, which was a great place to be.  Of course I knew people were voting, I had done it before I left, but really didnít think much about it.  That night we flipped on the weather channel, which had election free TV.  No mention of the election, just happy weather stuff.  After the kids were asleep I did peak at my phone.  Oh, Trump is ahead, but mostly the states he was expected to win, no big deal, slept well that night.  Next morning I opened up my phone to see the news of who the president elect was. 

     Wow.  Didnít see that coming.  But we were off to the Magical Kingdom.  If I were home, I admit that I probably would have stayed up late on Tuesday night to watch all the results coming in, and probably would have watched all day Wednesday to see what others were saying.  It was good to be in the happiest place on earth. 

     So when I got back to New Hampshire and started to look at what I was going to preach on this week, I came across this passage, which was actually last weekís lectionary.  You may have had this last week for a scripture, and if you did, I apologize.  But it fits so well that I felt it was speaking to me this past week. 

This passage is one of the Apocalyptic stories.  What is going to happen in the end time.  I have spoken about the temple before.  This was the place to be in Jerusalem.  This was Cinderellaís castle; you could see it from everywhere.  But more than that, it was where God lived.  God lived in the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was housed, the center of the temple.  Those tablets in the ark were Godís own words so it is as close to God as you can possibly get.  And the temple was an old building.  In the United States we donít have old buildings.  Oldest buildings in most towns are 1800ís, maybe a few from the late 1700, even those built in the early 1900ís are considered historic.  The temple that Jesus saw was about 500 years old.  Herod was doing some work on it, expanding it, improving it, but much of the building was 500 years old.  And before that temple, the first temple stood on the exact same spot, for about 500 years.  It was destroyed when the Babylonians came in, but we donít really know how much.  It needed to be rebuilt, but parts of it could have been standing for 1,000 years. 

     And Jesus tells his disciples that not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down.  Remember that this was written by Luke about 15 years after the temple had been destroyed.  Not disputing what Jesus said, but it was not written to tell us that Jesus can predict the future.  And honestly, that kind of prediction is not hard to make.  I can make a prediction that in the future a great hurricane will come into the state of Florida causing great destruction.  Now in 3 or 5 or 10 years from now, when that happens, you can tell everyone that it was just like your interim pastor predicted just before Thanksgiving in 2016.  The temple had stood for a very long time, but it had been destroyed in the past, and a closer history examination shows that in the life of both the first and the second temple, things happened.  Not destroyed like it was around 500 BCE, but needed major repairs from time to time.  So, to predict that it would at some point it would be destroyed was hard to imagine, but probably would happen. 

     But I believe that Jesus used this, and Luke wrote it to say that there is something more important.  Just before this, he was telling about the widow in the temple.  Remember that story?  Jesus sees all the rich putting their offering into the temple treasury, and then a widow comes up and puts in two small copper coins.  Jesus said that she is blessed because she gave out of her poverty rather than those who gave out of their wealth. 

     I think it is too bad that the reading this week didnít start with the first part of that chapter because it helps to frame what we hear next.  The widow is blessed.  The temple, all those beautiful things can be destroyed, the widow is still blessed.  And you, who preach in my name, may try to be knocked down like the temple.  There will be false gods who come and try to fool you, people will reject you, you may end up in prison, or even face death. 

     If you have seen any news in the past week or so, you have seen the protests against the president elect.  Some of you probably voted for Trump, some of you probably voted for Clinton, some may have chosen a third party candidate, or wrote in someone.  Thankfully the wait is over, there are no more attack ads, the volume of junk mail at our house has decreased a lot.  The only ones knocking at my door are driving a Fed Ex or UPS truck.  Some of us were happy with the outcome, some of us were disappointed.  There are protests, but honestly they are not going to change the outcome.  For the second time in recent history, one candidate gets more votes from people and the other gets more electoral votes, and the person with more electoral votes gets to be president.  I donít agree with that part, but that is the way that it is right now. 

     So my call to you this morning is the same as it would be regardless of who got elected, which I believe is really the root of the gospel.  This passage says that when all this is happening, we are being persecuted, or thrown in jail, or rejected by our families, we should see this as an opportunity to testify.  You see, when the temple is destroyed, when we feel like the world is crumbling all around us, God is still close to us.  God does not desert us, and I believe points us back to the widow.  What is important in this chapter is not the temple, is not those things built by human hands, but one marginalized person who is faithful. 

     If you turn on the TV, the threats of doom are all around us.  If Clinton were elected, those threats would be different, coming from the other side, but they would still be there.  There was a lot of fear on both sides, and there still is a lot of fear which is feeding the acts we are seeing now.  But rather than focus on what has been done I think we need to look to the future.  Who is the widow that God is calling us to recognize?  I believe it is all the marginalized. 

     These marginalized are our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.  These are those who look different from us.  These are those who worship in a different way, but are searching for the same God that we are. 

     It is important that we act out of faith, not out of fear.  I have heard recently about some real fear held by our brothers and sisters.  Many of you have seen or heard about people wearing a safety pin.  This is a visible way to tell others that you will stand with them if something happens.  If you are attacked because of your faith, or the color of your skin, or your gender, it is saying that I will stand up for you.  In hearing from some marginalized groups, when they look around and see someone wearing a safety pin, it makes them feel a little safer.  But, this is 2016 in the United States.  I had honestly hoped that at this point in our history that we would not feel a need to show that you will stand with someone who is different than you are, and stand up for them if needed.  I also think that, while a powerful statement, it is often done out of fear than out of faith. 

     As a faithful person, we are called to testify.  My God is a God that loves all of us.  This is a love that is beyond description.  It is like the love that you might feel for your children, but much stronger. It is like those hypothetical questions you probably were asked at some point in your life.  Your child is standing in front of a train, if you do nothing they will die, if you push them out of the way you will die, but they will live, what do you do?  The answer that most of us give is that we push them out of the way so that they can live, even if we die.  Godís love is much stronger than that.  Jesus died on a cross so that we may live.

     And because God loves each of us that way, we are called to listen to each other and listen for God.  This listening may cause us to take action.  Democracy works best when everyone is involved.  We need to listen, not only to those we agree with, but also those who we do not agree with.  And then we are called back to the faithfulness of the widow, and our call to stand with all of Godís children. 

     I am glad the election is over.  As you know, not the way I hoped the vote would come out, but no matter which person would become our next president, it is a hard time in our country now, in many ways.  Some days I feel like the world is crumbing around me.  The temple is being knocked down.  I need to remember that in those times, God is still with me.  When you feel that, God is still with you.  And we are invited to tell others about our God.  Not easy.  Result will not always be like we would hope, but remember that God is with you and will give you the words that you need.