25th Sunday after Pentecost: Stop, Look, Listen

First Reading: Daniel 12:1-3

1“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Psalm: Psalm 16

1Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;
  I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.”
2All my delight is in the godly that are in the land,
  upon those who are noble among the people.
3But those who run after other gods
  shall have their troubles multiplied.
4I will not pour out drink offerings to such gods,
  never take their names upon my lips. 
5O Lord, you are my portion | and my cup;
  it is you who uphold my lot.
6My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;
  indeed, I have a rich inheritance.
7I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
  my heart teaches me night after night.
8I have set the Lord always before me;
  because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 
9My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
  my body also shall rest in hope.
10For you will not abandon me to the grave,
  nor let your holy one see the pit.
11You will show me the path of life;
  in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are     pleasures forevermore.

Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25

11Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. [15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16“This is the covenant that I will make with them
  after those days, says the Lord:
 I will put my laws in their hearts,
  and I will write them on their minds,”
17he also adds,
 “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]

  19Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Gospel: Mark 13:1-8

1As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
  3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”


Turn to your neighbor and see if you can describe a railroad crossing sign..

What color is it?

Is it round, square, rectangular, circular?

Are there letters on it?

There might be words.  What words do you associate with a railroad crossing sign?

According to the Internet, the sign is rectangular, or round.  It is yellow with a black line around the edge.  There is a circle center to the sign. There is a black crisscross .  There are two big Rs in left and right quadrants.

Under the circle may be the words: STOP AND LOOK BEFORE CROSSING,

“STOP, LOOK both ways, LISTEN” are words our parents taught us when crossing a street and words that help us look at our text today.

LET US PRAY:  Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight for you are my Rock and my Redeemer.


Stop!  Look! Listen!  We are coming to railroad crossing!  Next Sunday, November 21st is Christ the King Sunday and that ends the Pentecost season and year B in the liturgical calendar.  We will change from looking at our faith through the eyes of Mark to looking through the eyes of Luke.  November 28th is the first Sunday of Advent. As we come to the end of the church year, we looked last week at death and resurrection in the raising of Lazarus.  Today’s text attempts to look into the future. The text is called the “Little Apocalypse” because it talks about end times.  Yup, we better Stop, Look, and Listen.  There may be a train coming!

According to the Internet  an anonymous engineer thought about immigrants who did not speak English well and needed a warning at railroad crossings.  Crossbars were put in the shape of an X and the words “stop, look, listen” were posted. Today we have electronic gates and signals to warn us but even as a child I remember being told to take a parent’s hands, stop, look both ways and listen before crossing a street.

         Where are we in this text?  It is the last week of Jesus’ life.  He and the disciples are in Jerusalem and are leaving the Temple. They stop to gaze at the Temple.  It is not the magnificent Temple of Solomon that was destroyed.  This is the temple that was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Simillarly, our world is not the garden of Eden and life as God planned but we love it. To the disciples the temple they were gazing on was magnificent!  They stopped to admire.  Interestingly Jesus admonishes them because like our parents, he knew the events that were to unfold and the disciples’ misplaced trust.

Why stop?

         We stop before potentially dangerous situations to ponder our options and to assess our situation. We need to learn caution.  Caution does not come naturally.  As children we do not know the safe from the dangerous.  Children chase balls into the street.  Children race to catch the school bus, and may well run in front of a car.  The story is told of the secretary of Winston Churchill, thinking about her roommate she had just left in the ER with a severe asthma attack and due to the deep fog that had settled on London. walked right in front of a bus.  She was distracted. She didn’t stop and look both ways.  Like our sly Fox from last week, we need to learn to sit in front of the cave and proceed with caution.  We hear the stories of youth who like to play chicken with the approaching train and challenge death only to have the car stall or a foot get caught in the tracks. Some actions can have very serious consequences.

         How do we stop?  I would suggest prayer slows us down.

   Perhaps seeking peer advice slows our roll.  We are told we need to learn to distinguish between the urgent and the necessary.  The decisions that must be made right now, now, now are seldom wise.  The salesman who tried to sell us new windows to our house finally said, “This super, duper deal ends if I walk out the door!”  We let him walk.

         So what stops you and calls you to reflect?  The railroad tracks are only one situation that holds potential dangers. For Bethany, it may be the storm clouds gathering and drop of temperature that tells us that winter is coming and it is time to close down the growing season.  Perhaps it is a visit to the doctor and that unwanted diagnosis that is given. Perhaps it is a drop in the stock market.  Maybe Covid.  We learn to STOP because we see railroad tracks ahead, potential danger.

We stop to admire.

         In our text the disciples did not stop because they perceived danger but because they were admiring the Temple.  That which dazzles their eyes, calls to their ears and to their appetites distracts the disciples. Jesus knew the disciples were placing their trust in that which would not last.  The temple would be destroyed. Our culture dazzles us with beauty, health, wealth and fame and we tend to trust these things to guarantee a future.  My teenage son was convinced that if we could buy him Nike tennis shoes, he would be a better basketball player and he would be more noticed!  Judging from all the different types of insurance policies for almost any contingency, we too know that these dazzling aspects of life are valued but also can be wiped out in a moment and fade with time.  Not all that glitters is gold. Jesus responds, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”  Jesus knows the fall of Jerusalem is coming.  Jesus knows that at some point in time he will return and there will be an accounting.  He knows that all people must walk into the cave of death the lion guards, hopefully with him, and nothing this world offers can change that journey.

The disciple engages Jesus, “LOOK. Teacher!”  The group stops to admire the Temple.   I am wondering what Bethany would like Jesus to stop and look at today with them?  Do we want him to look at our accomplishments?  Do we want him to look at our problems?  Perhaps we would like him to fix our environment or stop Covid.  For many seeking refuge, they can only worry about getting across the railroad tracks for they know the train of starvation, of homelessness, of addiction, of abuse is barreling down on them. 

         Perhaps looking at the point of pride, the point of pain, the focus of culture is putting our attention in the wrong direction.  We are not seeing the big picture.  Jesus calls the disciples back to the reality that the things of this world will pass away.  That is very hard to say “AMEN” to.  Empires come and go.  Wealth comes and goes.  Health also.  Children come and grow up.  In the end, what is left?

         “Look both ways” is the advise of parents at the railroad tracks.  We do not know if the train is coming to our town or leaving.  So perhaps the advice to look both directions could be interpreted to mean that when we come to points of reflection, when we stop, we need to look to the past and to the future, both directions.  As the Jews look to the past they continually retell the story of the flight from Egypt and God’s faithfulness in the midst of struggle.  As we look to our past, can we identify God’s hand of deliverance in difficult times?  As we look to the future we can anticipate similar presence.  We look to God’s promises. Reading the Bible tells stories of God’s faithfulness and testimonies tell of how God meets us. We read, listen to others and share because it gives us courage to face the future.

         The disciples ask the next question, “When?”  When will all this take place?  Not only which direction is the train coming from but how far down the tracks is the train?  Maybe we can sneak across or circle around the barrier.  I know I have thought about it.  Jesus does not tell the disciples to listen but he does tell them that there will be many voices to listen to.  Many people will come in God’s name with sermons that can lead us astray.  Many will come claiming to be Jesus or at least speaking in his name.  We are not to be deceived.  We will hear rumors of wars.  There will be national conflicts, environmental problems, and famines.  Hhhmmmm.  Sounds like the evening news minus any mention of God.  Like every generation before us we wonder if the social, environmental, economic, psychological and whatever else problems mean we are in end times.  This was popular talk in the 60s and 70s and is out of vogue now but the signs are still there.  We are broken people living in a broken world that needs a savior.  I should hear a loud “AMEN” to that one!  We are broken people in a broken world!

         Jesus speaks:  DO NOT BE DECEIVED and DO NOT BE ALARMED!

         As we come to discussions of end times our text encourages us not to trust in the things of this world like the Temples built with hands, do not trust that people are truly going to do what only God can do, and we must keep our eyes on him.  He knows the times.  He knows the hours. He knows us.  When difficulties come, we must STOP and take his hand.  Seek his advice.  We must LOOK at his faithfulness in the past and his promises to hold the future.  And we must LISTEN to his word – do not be deceived and do not be alarmed.  This is only the beginning of the birth pangs and he will see us through the delivery to a whole new world where God reigns.  That is a beautiful thought.

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