Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost November 12 and 13, 2022
“Truth or Lies” Luke 21:5-28
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Have you ever been caught in a lie? It is a terrible thing, isn’t it? It’s embarrassing. It can be crushing to everyone who is infected by it. You – when you lie. And then all the others who had their eyes opened and lost trust in the liar.
Telling the truth actually makes life simpler. When we lie, we have to tell another one to cover up for the first lie and then we have to add many more to make the lie believable.
In a letter to the editor last Sunday Peter Hulac spoke about the negative political ads that flooded the TV, Internet, radio and print, the last few months. He writes, “Even with Nov. 8 now so close, many electoral outcomes are still uncertain. Anyone who watches television, though, knows that we can already count on one thing: those who are elected, no matter their political party, will be extreme, radical, unfit for office, and heartless. That is, at least, the message of those terrible, distorted campaign ads.” (Denver Post, D-3, November 6, 2022)
I hope you know that what you saw in those ads weren’t true – no matter what side you voted on. Lies seem to be more powerful than truth – sometimes, for a short time. But eventually truth – especially God’s truth prevails.
Today, in this sermon, concerning end of world events, Jesus addresses truth and lies. Jesus speaks about events that would happen in the world at His time – the upcoming fall of Jerusalem and what would happen much later – the end of the world.
There are a bunch of lies that people share about the end of the world. Every-so-often somebody gives a prediction saying they have been told the exact day when the end of the world in going to come. They try to get a large number of people to believe that they only have been told the right date. Then, every-so-often somebody gathers a group of people in some remote part of the world, and they camp there for many months waiting for Jesus to come and camp with them. People become disillusioned with the lies and sometimes lose faith that Jesus is ever going to return when He doesn’t show up when they were told He was going to return.
Here’s the truth – there will be a day when Jesus Christ returns. This is what our reading from Luke says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27) As Paul says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
What a day that will be. That’s the final day. That is the day of the resurrection of all flesh. When you confess in the Creed that “we believe in the resurrection of the body”, that is the day when that happens. Scriptures say of this, “Listen, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:51-52)
So, are we close to that day? Jesus warned His followers that hard days will lead up to that greatest of days. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” Paul when he writes to Timothy says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love – and on and on and on. (See II Timothy 3:1-5)
The truth is that there is an end to this world. The truth is that it is coming soon. The truth is life as a Christian and life for those without faith, as well, will be hard. Our planet will be in distress. The increase of evil and sin will only grow within our society.
The lie? Unbelief is centered upon a lie. False faiths and false leaders will pull people away from God’s truth in Jesus. In this chapter, where Jesus first addresses the fall of Jerusalem, which would happen about 40 years after He spoke of it, Jesus addresses the lies, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” (Luke 21:8)
Do you ever wonder why Jesus would spend so much time speaking about end of the world stuff? Why does He spend the first half of this chapter talking about the awful end of Jerusalem, which happened in 70 AD? You may know that over a million Jews were starved to death in Jerusalem by the Romans. Almost 100,000 were exiled to other countries. That is why He said, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.” (Luke 21:20-21) Why does He say it? Jesus loves people and cares for their safety and care.
To every lie that sin doesn’t matter or that having a living relationship of faith to God isn’t important, Jesus speaks the truth. To every person who procrastinates about preparing their soul for eternity, Jesus addresses the truth of repenting of self and standing in faith in Christ.
The Broncos didn’t play last Sunday so I had more time to really read the paper. I read an article about Matthew Perry’s book, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing”. Matthew Perry is known for his years as Chandler Bing in the TV series, “Friends”. Matthew Perry has had many addictions in his life, what he calls “The Big Terrible Thing”. At 14 he began drinking Budweiser and Andres Baby Duck wine. Later it grew to vodka by the quart, followed by the abuse of Vicodin, Xanax and OxyContin.
Matthew, now 53, has spent about half of his life in treatment centers or sober-living facilities. He made a ton of money when he was doing “Friends”, a million dollars an episode for some of those years, but he said that he has spent about $9 million trying to get sober. In his book he writes, “There is a hell. Don’t let anyone tell you different. I’ve been there; it exists; end of discussion.” He hasn’t been to Thee Hell – the eternal one – and hopefully he never will, but he has been to the earthly one, the one that too many people are caught in daily. That is the one we go to when we live a lie and cover up the truth and won’t let God into our lives to do His work.
Jesus, addressing the worries that people would naturally have when they are told that their temple, their city and their heritage was coming to end, speaks His truth. Jesus, addressing the Day of the Lord, the end of all life upon earth and in our universe, speaks His truth. His truth is quite encouraging. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27-28) Isn’t that something? We don’t hide our heads, we don’t look for a hole, we stand up and lift up our heads and confidently see the Lord and Master of all things – our Lord Jesus Christ coming. Finally, our faith will have eyes. It is like Paul says in Romans 8, that great chapter in the Bible, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Have you ever got caught in a lie? I hope so – because I don’t want you to continue to live in that lie. More than that – I hope you get caught in the truth – in Jesus – who is the truth – now and even then. Amen!!