Tuesday, November 20, 2012

God Has Bigger Dreams for You!

This week I attend a community discussion about New Americans who have come to call Concord their home.
There was a panel with many people who told their stories of how they came to be here in Concord.
All of their stories were a combination of heroism and tragedy.
For example, on the panel there was a woman who came here from Sudan.
She told us a harrowing story.
She was with her family sitting in their home.
Over the ridge came a raid by military.
She heard gun shots and people screaming.
She fled and hid with her family.
When she came out her home and school were totally destroyed.
They had to flee.
She ended up her in Concord, learned English, and now wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon.
She said that even though her life was totally destroyed when she was a kid even then she believed that, “God had bigger dreams for her life.”
Today in our Gospel Jesus is talking about the world coming to an end.
Most of the time when we talk about the end of the world we think about death and destruction we think about earthquakes, wars, and people being whisked away to some heavenly place.
To view the end of the world in this way is to misunderstand the nature of apocalyptic literature and its place in the Biblical witness.

When people in the Bible talk about the end of the world it is from the perspective of a people in the midst of great tumult.
Their lives are being invaded and taken over.
Our first reading from Daniel is a perfect case.
At that time the Emperor had declared Judaism a crime, he had desecrated the temple, and co-opted the leadership of Israel.
This sent people into a panic.
What did it mean?
All the things that people had relied on for security, spiritual support, and stability,  had been taken away.
To talk about the end of the world was a way to make sense of what was happening in the world.
To tell what God was up to in uncertain times.
And a couple of things are consistent in this type of literature.
One, God is always in control.
Two, it is not the end but the beginning of something new and better.
Three, be ready because God is up to something.

In our culture apocalyptic movies, books, and theology is often used to scare us.
We better shape up or else God will really get us.
You better believe in God or else you will have to suffer throw a horrible future.
This morning I want to recapture the tradition of this type of literature as a way to see a better tomorrow and to have faith that God is in control of that better tomorrow.
So that we can have the same faith as that woman from Sudan, and we can believe that God has bigger dreams in store for us.

Where do we turn when our life has ended?
When we experience a horrible event?
When our lives are turned upside down where do we turn?
Often times we look to leaders to solve our problems.
We want our leaders to tell us that we are safe and that nothing is really wrong.
I was surprised in this last presidential election how much we were promised by both candidates.
We were told that we could have everything that we wanted without any sacrifice on our part.
We were told that we would always be kept safe and secure.
Jesus warns us this morning about finding our security in anything but God.

In today’s Gospel the disciples are impressed with the size of the buildings.
Jesus warns them not to be too impressed.
The buildings are not as great as they seem, they too like all human endeavors are fleeting.
Jesus also warns them not to be taken in by leaders who say that they can do it all and save them.
Our hope as Christians, as people of faith, does not belong in our institutions, our buildings, or even our leaders; it is always based on God.
For only God can truly help us.
God is the only one who is there for us no matter what.

I have sat with many people whose world was coming to an end.
Most of the time it is because someone they trusted let them down, or an institution they believed was always there for them failed them.
And my message is always the same in those circumstances trust God.
God is up to something even when things are falling apart.

God is usually creating something new out of those horrible situations.
God is birthing new things to life.
No wonder Jesus describes the end as birth pangs.
In our lives all the time God is starting new things.
The woman from Sudan’s faith told her that this was not the end for her and her family.
God had bigger dreams for her.
God has bigger dreams for us too.
What new things is God birthing for you?

When we are ready for God to act then we can better understand the new way we are being led.
This is Jesus advice to his disciples.
If we take out all the stuff about wars, famines, and earthquakes we see Jesus advice to his disciples.
Don’t be lead astray.
Do not be alarmed.
Beware of when people tell you they can solve all the problems of the world.
Do not be lead astray to think that every little thing is the end of the world.
I was amazed that after the election so many people wrote on Facebook and twitter that this was the end of the world.
(I am sure that if the election would have turned out the other way that people who didn’t get what they wanted would have also written that it was the end of the world.)
Let us be clear that it was one election among many.
It is not the end of the world, it is only the start of another four or two years.
Which leads us to Jesus last piece of advice to us don’t be alarmed.
Perhaps we all need to calm down a bit.
Is the world a scary place?
Is the world difficult and complicated?
But I believe that God is ultimately in control.
That even though we humans are trying our best to destroy the world God is up to something even beyond our wildest dreams.

I think this morning about the Pilgrims who came to this country because they wanted something more.
They wanted religious freedom, they wanted a better life.
They fled the comforts of their home to find that.
They traveled across the seas and endured a life threatening year in a new world.
Because they had faith that God had something better in store for them.
And amidst the crumbling of their life something new and better came out of it.

Still today New Americans are coming here looking for that same new start.
One person at the event told this story about a New American who told him at an ESL class that USA stood for You Start Again.
If your life feels like it is coming to end God is saying that there is new things coming and you can start again.
Today God is offering us to start again.

If your world feels like it is coming to end.
If you feel that there is nothing but death and destruction all around.
Be ready because God is in control and birthing new things to life so that you can start again.
Because God has bigger dreams for you! Amen

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