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The Long Haul

Luke 21:25-36

The Rev. Jon Roberts

28 November


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; 35 for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. 36 But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.”


Jesus Teaching in the Temple, Willem van Herp 1614-1677

No matter what you heard,
No matter what you saw,
You may need to prepare
For the long haul. [1]

In 1910 John Banner was born to Jewish parents in Austria. He grew up there and loved his country. He went to school in Vienna. Little did he know he would need to prepare for the long haul. He was a part of a traveling actor’s troupe and in 1938, called to perform in Switzerland. It was on that night that the news came. Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany annexed his country Austria. What was heard and what was seen, indicated that war was on the way. That night, John left his family and found his way to America, the home of the free. He enlisted in 1942 in the United States Air Force, trained in Atlantic City and became a supply sergeant. The irony, that years after the devastating war, that left 85 million people dead, he would play the part of Sergeant Schultz, the Nazi POW guard on “Hogan’s Heroes.” Furthermore, his secret to surviving under the tyranny of the German Reich was his calling card slogan, “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing.” Members of his crew knew that John had more to tell than the simpleton character, who in real life lost almost every one of his Jewish relatives to the holocaust.

The war to end all wars was a long haul and there was great despair. Those who are still alive to talk about it will say there were many signs, foreboding signs that warned the world what was going to happen. Too much power and resource in a concentrated number of leaders. An attack on freedom. Control over education. It begs the question, will there be another war like that one? Will we see signs? What do you hear? What do you see? Should we prepare for the long haul?

The Danish theologian, philosopher and poet, Soren Kierkegaard once explained, “There is a certain amount of despair needed for a kind of hope that will not betray us. When these things begin to take place, look up!”[2] When we despair over things heard and seen it is our hope in God that takes us to a place, a kingdom if you will, that allows us to overcome the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. [3]

Cold and dark winters will lead to warm and bright summers, whereas what appeared to be dead, springs out new life. It is the appearance of each season that makes us suspect both the apocalypse and the resurrection of life. There are signs of this course, says the prophet Jeremiah, as the long haul of God’s plan of succession is seen from the branch of David to Jesus.[4] This is what Jesus alluded to in his teaching to the disciples, when he said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”[5] Is this what we heard? Is this what we saw? If so, should we not also prepare for the long haul?

The long haul of Christ redemption in the world has been everlasting, ongoing and is perpetual, since the beginning of time. When we are imprisoned in the fear of this present time, wondering what may happen to our nation, what may happen to our church, what may happen to our family, and what may happen to us, are we looking at it through the context of God’s plan for salvation? What have you heard? What have you seen? Are you prepared?

Jesus takes a step back to calm the raging seas and the waves around us by likening us to a fig tree. He looks at the whole plant just as he looks at the whole community. He sees it in due season. He is aware and prepared for the course of winter and summer, spring and fall. Do you not know that when the leaves begin to wilt, summer is not far from being over? God will see the fig bear fruit and be content if it withers and goes dormant. God knows that the creation yearns to live another season, and it will, but it is a long haul from one to the other.

Our course is not linear, where humanity evolves in a straight line upwards. Instead, in due season, means that our course is in the form of a circle. Afterall, God is the Alpha and the Omega and even along a circle there are constant points of beginnings and endings. We are comfortable in seeing our lives in the context of two-to-three generations, but God sees the full round over thousands of years. Often, I have shared this cycle of life with our church leaders whereas we follow the four “C’s” when we may begin in the Consistent, then over time we move into Challenge, that may result in Conflict, and then ultimately Change. This starts back all over again. You have seen this and there are some seasons you don’t want to live in. You may say this is the season to end it all, but that is not true.

What we have seen and what we may know may not be the full story. God wants us to know He has this all under control. In those moments when things seem apocalyptic, we are not comfortable but somewhere in the human economy, God knows where this will take us. Jesus knew the road ahead for his disciples would not be easy. For those twelve, all but one would be martyred. He was teaching them how to keep God’s commands. We are called to keep God’s commands. When we keep His commands, we can stay in this restorative cycle of creation. It was never promised to be easy, but it was promised to be just in due season. We continue to call upon God and to ask for His help to bring in the harvest and to go through the times of great fasting. Advent is a time of a little “winteriness”. We are going to be looking at our sins and to call upon God’s mercy to give us strength and courage. Continue to follow God’s commands, that you are set here for a purpose, for such a time as this, with the right type of hope to overcome the worst of despair.

May we always be reminded that no matter what we have heard and no matter what we have seen, incline your words, be prepared for the long haul.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Soren Kierkegaard
[3] Collect, 1st Sunday in Advent, Year C
[4] Jeremiah 33:14-16
[5] Luke 21:25-36

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