Lift Up Your Heads
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It never ceases to amaze me how the readings in the lectionary for a given Sunday match up with what goes on in our daily lives. Just think: the signs that Our Lord speaks of are all over today’s news. Uncommonly powerful hurricanes, unseasonable blizzards, and other strange weather occurrences happen with alarming frequency. Are they not “the sea and the waves roaring”? Terrorist attacks and mass shootings; political speech that become more impassioned than reasonable—do these things not show “the distress of nations”? Human hearts fail because of these and many other things and what it all means. These are the signs of the end—not signs that announce that something has to change, but signs that demonstrate that things are winding down, that the earth and universe is dying.
Our Lord Jesus tells us about these signs in order to restrain us from loving this world and the things we think matter so much. Our Lord tells us about the approaching end so that we will look not to our goals, but to Him and His heavenly kingdom. Our Lord makes known these great disruptions because He wants us to be ready for Him and His coming. You could easily dismiss these words as alarmist. Every generation has heard preachers warn about how close the end is, and how these signs are even now being fulfilled. And so you could dismiss these words by thinking that the end will not come in your life. And perhaps that is true. But the point is not to attempt to discern when the Last Day will occur. The point is that we ought not fall in love with, and become attached to, and find meaning for life in a world that is driving to its grave just as surely as we are.
For, you see, what is happening to our world happens to each of us. Here we have no abiding and permanent life. Here, no matter how hard we work, we’ll do nothing to keep us from the grave. And here, no matter how well we eat and how well we behave, we cannot outrun death. Our Lord tells us the obvious: the world, the universe, all of creation is slowly and loudly grinding to a halt. You can hear it in the signs Jesus mentions. The death that Adam’s sin introduced is having its effect.
But I don’t tell you this to scare you. Rather, I tell you this for the same reason Our Blessed Lord does—so that you are not disappointed; so that you hold the things you prize at arm’s length; so that you see the big picture; so that you know the truth. And I remind you of what Our Lord tells you so that you are watchful—so that you fix your eyes and ears and your full attention solely and most surely on Our Lord, His promises, and His coming kingdom. But most of all, Our Lord tells you these things so that you do not lose heart; so that you don’t give up; so that you don’t believe that this is all life has to offer. Jesus is the Lord of life, and He shows you how all things will end. He does so because He knows that you are prone to look only at what you know and feel now, and to forget what lies ahead.
When the disasters of the world become more frequent, when the actions of men attempt to cause terror, do not be afraid. Instead, hear the Word of Life: “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” The world and all that it has to offer will grind to a halt. But even then He will neither abandon nor forsake His creation. Instead, in mercy, He will take all that He made—beginning with His children, the crown of His creation—and He will recreate it. You will see a new heaven and a new earth. Soon—very soon—we will have the fullness of Him whom we have loved. Soon—very soon—we will have life as Life Himself intended us to live.
So these signs of the end which our news casts report? Do not let them scare you. Do not let them cause you to lose heart. Instead, hear the news and rejoice. Rejoice not in people’s tragedy, but that such awful news announces that your prayer is being answered; that Our Lord’s kingdom surely comes. And with His coming and His kingdom, our Lord brings the promise of Life as Life was meant to be—in full and earnest communion with the Father, by the power of the Spirit, through Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to whom belong all glory, honor and worship. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.