the grace, mercy and peace of God our father
be with us, in the name of his son, our risen
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.
As the joke goes, do you know the most important
thing in comedy? Timing! (said way too fast
to be timed well) We have heard scripture
today which speaks about timing and the importance
of being able to discern the signs around
us to know when it is time for things to happen.
In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the lesson
of the fig tree; you know that summertime
is coming when the branch becomes tender and
puts forth leaves. Solomon, in the words from
Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time
for every matter under heaven, no matter how
good or bad it may seem. Not only is there
a time for laughing, building up and for peace,
but there is a time for mourning, hating and
war. The challenge that Solomon does not address
is knowing when it is time for one and when
it is time for the other.
It is rather easy to know when it is time
for some things to happen. It is time to take
the chicken off the grill when the internal
temperature is 165 degrees. Now, how to you
know when chicken has reached this temperature?
Well, you can either use an internal thermometer,
or you can cut it open and make sure there
is no red flesh to be seen … but the
first way is far more reliable!
Other questions on timing usually take more
thought and conversation: When is it time
to ask that person for a date? When is it
time to tell that person that you love them?
When is it time to break up with that person?
When is it time to ask that person to marry
you? When is it time to have children? When
is it time to move, to change jobs, to ask
for a raise, to retire? When is it time to
treat that disease aggressively, and when
is it time to enter into hospice care?
Sometimes we get stymied or paralyzed by the
uncertainty of things to the point where we
find it easier to reside in the current state
of our being rather than take a risk and try
something new. When Martin Luther said the
words, “Sin Boldly,” he didn’t
say it in order to give us free license to
do whatever we want in life, knowing that
God will forgive us. He followed those words,
“Sin boldly,” with this, “but
let your trust in Christ be stronger, and
rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin,
death and the world.” In other words,
sometimes you just have to take a chance in
the face of changes, trusting God to be with
There will always be change happening in the
world and in our lives. As we see the dry
leaves falling off the trees, we know that
the growing season is coming to an end in
our part of the world. Soon the trees will
be bare, the grass brown and the crops empty;
the ground covered in snow and the air much
colder. This is the reality that we call the
changes of the seasons. Those who are able
will escape it by going south, but most of
us will stay here and endure a different kind
of life for the next 5-6 months. The grass
withers and the flower fades when the breath
of the Lord blows upon it. This much is true.
We cannot deny it.
But in the midst of that truth, we have the
promise of a faithful God that even though
the grass withers and the flower fades, the
word of the Lord will stand forever. We have
the promised gift of the unchangeable character
of Gods purpose. As the author to the Hebrews
said in our second lesson, that unchangeable
character of God’s purpose is our hope;
that is the steadfast anchor of the soul.
Life is full of change; God’s love and
presence is unchangeable. Change requires
decisions, and decisions require us to discern
what time it is, whether it is a time to throw
away stones or to gather stones together.
And inherent in that discernment process is
the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us.
And when the process is unpleasant, the Holy
Spirit promises to comfort and encourage us.
And when we mistakenly make decisions which
are selfish or hurtful, the Holy Spirit is
there to knock us down, pick us up, and set
us on a new course. That is the promise that
anchors our soul!
So, what is it time for? Can you point to
the presence of the faithful, generous God
in your life? Can you remember how the Holy
Spirit has been with you during those difficult
times of discernment to help you get through?
How have you been able to make it through
the changes in life that you may at one time
been dreading? Is it time for you to give
a little more of your time or offerings to
God’s mission here or in your community?
As we consider our future as a Christian community,
we know that it is time for something, something
that will definitely involve change; something
that the unchangeable character of God’s
purpose will certainly bless.
Lutherans’ resistance toward change
is well documented and joked about. How many
Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?
None – we don’t like change! But
it is inevitable that change will happen in
our lives. The only way we can face it is
to discern together what God is calling us
to do – how God is calling us to be
part of the future of God’s mission
here. To that end, I want to end my message
with a good Lutheran prayer for courage in
the face of an unknown future. In this prayer,
we confess our hope, based in the faithfulness
of God’s promises, for our future. Lord
God, you have called your servants to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending, by paths
as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go, but only that your
hand is leading us and your love supporting
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.