St Stephen Lewisham

33rd Sunday Year B

17th November 1991

Daniel 12: 1-13
Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18
Mark 13: 24-32

All three of today's readings were written at times of great anxiety, and they bear the hallmarks of this in what they have to say.

The first lesson, written at a time when the whole Jewish religion seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up in a tide of what we would call "Secularism" talks of there being "a time of great distress unparalleled since nations first came into existence".

The gospel, written by St Mark either just before or after the Great Fire of Rome when Christians were being arrested and executed left to right and centre, also speaks of the time of distress, followed by a time of spiritual and moral darkness only to be relieved at by the coming of the Messiah in glory, and records the words of Jesus just prior to his own last journey to Jerusalem to make the perfect sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world upon the cross.

The second lesson, whilst affirming on the one hand efficacy of that perfect offering reminds the hearers that Justice and Judgement will be just as surely meted out to those who refuse God's offer of a truce.

All three readings have a particular relevance to the present day world.

Firstly we are witnessing a deliberate attempt to destabilise everyone and everything. It doesn't matter whether you are thinking of the IRA bombers in St Albans or the insurrectionists in Haiti or the Philippines, or some of the people claiming to be Christians today. The purpose is one and the same: destabilise people and you can then do more or less what you like with them.

But for us to whom God has committed his truth revealed once and for all to the Saints and most particularly in the Living Word, God Incarnate, Jesus Christ our Lord, these three lessons have a message of encouragement.

The first lesson tells us we are not fighting this battle alone. Angels, Archangels, the faithful departed are all fighting on our side. That is why we, though few in number, are able to achieve so much in fact.

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we are working towards an appointed end. God's plan is to save the world of through Jesus Christ and he has entrusted to us the message that it is only through him that the world can be saved. So don't listen to anyone or who urges you to take part in multi-faith services or any nonsense like that. Be polite to them of course in your refusal, but point out that there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ and that he himself said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me".

And thirdly, remember our Lord's command that when these things come to pass we are to rejoice and lift up our heads because our salvation is near at hand. Precisely when it will happen we don't know; that it will happen we do know. And when it happens we shall have achieved the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.

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