Hello, all! I'm posting my sermons from this past Sunday at Bethany Village Retirement Communities in Mechanicsburg, PA. There are four different services that I preached at, each in a different level of care. Sometimes, this means that I will write a different sermon for each, and sometimes it just means that I will preach the same sermon, but with a slightly different twist, relying on context. Well, this particular Sunday was a particularly hard text, so I decided to preach three different sermons, one for the Skilled Nursing facility, one for the Assisted Living and Bethany Towers services, and then one for the "main" worship service at 7:00 in the community room that is also broadcasted throughout the Bethany campus on channel 98. Anyway, I decided to share all three sermons. This sermon is for the Skilled Nursing facility, which includes people of various mental and physical health states.
This is the text: Mark 13.1-8 (called Mark's mini-apocalypse)
1As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
2"Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?"
5Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
Have you ever expected something, hoped for something so much? Maybe in school, you hoped for a good grade. Or you hoped for good test results at a doctor’s appointment.
Have you ever been to a baby shower? I don’t mean like a miniature shower to bathe children in, or that babies came down from the sky like rain. Isn’t that strange that they call it a baby shower? But anyways, a baby shower is a celebration for people who are expecting a baby. People often come and give presents—things like diapers and baby clothes and all sorts of things. It is usually a hopeful time for the family and friends of the future parents.
What are some of the emotions that you think a couple expecting a baby must be feeling?
Hope? Love? Joy? Happiness? Excited? Scared? Fearful? Pain?
A friend of mine recently had her first child. She told me that during her pregnancy, while she was expecting her first baby, she said she was very scared. She was worried, hoping that the baby would be born healthy. She was also worried that she would be a good enough parent. Her pregnancy was a very hard pregnancy; she had a lot of illness that made the doctors’ concerned for her and the baby. So, on the one hand, she was very excited about having her first baby, but on the other hand, she was also very scared.
Well, we talked about some of the emotions that a couple has who are expecting a baby. What about some emotions that someone might feel when their baby is born, and they get to see their baby for the first time?
Joy? Happiness? Love? Maybe be a little scared, too?
Well, when my friend had her baby and got to see her baby for the first time, she said that it did not matter how scared she was, it did not matter how hard her pregnancy was or how painful it was or any of that. When she saw her baby for the first time, she said she was overwhelmed with love and joy. Sure, raising a child can be scary, sometimes, but in those first few moments after she had her baby and saw her child for the first time, all she could feel was love.
In the Bible story today about Jesus, Jesus tells us about all the bad things that happen in the world. Jesus said the temple will be destroyed. Jesus talked about lots of wars, like the wars we are in today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jesus talked about famine, where people go hungry. About sickness, like the H1N1 virus we’ve been hearing in the news that has been taking so many lives of young people, killing over 6,500 people so far worldwide. People we love and care about will get sick and die, and how there will be earthquakes like the one that caused the tsunami in India that killed all those people, over 300,000 people. All these bad things that are going on in our world. Sometimes, it can be scary. Sometimes, we can almost feel hopeless. But, what does Jesus say about all of this?
Jesus says “do not be alarmed.” Jesus says that all things will eventually come to an end, but Jesus’ words will never die (Mark 13.31). Jesus says that all these bad things happening are like the birth pangs. Remember in the beginning of my message I asked you what some of the emotions were? And I told you the story about my friend who was scared when she was pregnant? Jesus said that all these bad things are like that, scary and painful. But, remember the feelings that you have when the baby is born? And how my friend said none of her fears or pains mattered, all she could feel was love? Well, all these bad things can give us fear and pain, just like being in labor. But, Jesus promises that one day all things will be better. That all the bad things I talked about—the H1N1 virus, the famine, the wars, all of that—will go away. And what will be left? The same love that my friend had when she saw her baby for the first time. All the bad things will pass away, but God will create—give birth to, in a sense—a new creation, where nothing bad can happen anymore. Where we will all live together in harmony, where there will be no wars, no sickness, no earthquakes. No fear, no hopelessness. Where all will be well.
Let us pray: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, your sovereign purpose brings salvation to birth. Give us faith to be steadfast amid the tumults of this world, trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.