Disciple – Rumors of Wars
Caleb Campbell

“Rumors of War” – Sermon by Caleb Campbell

We’re continuing in a sermon series called Disciple. We’re looking at the Gospel of Mark. Today we’ll be in the Gospel of Mark Chapter 13. Today I we’re going to look at a really difficult text. And my hope is that by looking and studying this difficult text, we will be encouraged and equipped to engage and navigate difficult times. So, this is a difficult text for difficult times.

In fact, Mark Chapter 13 is kind of notorious in its difficulty — not only the content, but also how we’re supposed to think through it and apply it. And so, we’re going to work together today to think through Mark Chapter 13, and I just want to set expectations, if that’s OK. If you think that we are going to exhaust all of the questions and explore all of the nuances of this chapter in the next 30 minutes, you have way too high of an estimation of my capacities.

There is going to be a ton of unresolved tension and conflict, and that’s just the way we like it. Because we have the rest of our lives to wrestle through and to converse over a text like this as a church family. But I do know that there is some deep and profound truth here in the tension and the difficulty that I believe will help us apply this difficult text to difficult times.

So, this text in Mark, Chapter 13. It’s kind of weird. It sounds a little bit scary, and yet its goal is to bring to us a deep and abiding peace. Mark Chapter 13 is the one of the longest contiguous teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. If you’ve been with us in this journey through Mark, you know that Mark usually likes to keep things short and tight. And yet here in Mark 13 we get a short question with a long answer, so we’re going to look at the text together. I want to invite you to join me, and we’re going to go through verse by verse and just notice some things and tease them out as we go along.

Check this out. This is the Gospel of Mark chapter 13. We’re here at a moment where Jesus has entered Jerusalem. He’s gone to the temple, and, as some of you guys may remember, He kicked out the money changers. Now He’s on His way out of the temple. Just notice here. And then after this you’ll get to the Last Supper and then the crucifixion, death, burial and then resurrection of Jesus. We’re kind of nearing the end of the Gospel of Mark, and 13 is the last along teaching of Jesus in Mark.

He was going where? Out of the temple. Just watch this. Just use your mind’s eye. OK, so Jesus has done all this activity in the temple. He’s engaged with some of the leaders of the temple. He’s had a dialogue with them, wrestled with them, debated them. He’s flipped over money changers. He’s done all this, and now His time at the temple is concluding, so He’s leaving. He’s going out from the temple.

“As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, look what massive stones, what impressive buildings.’” (Verse 1)

In the temple area you had in Jerusalem, this big temple and all the surrounding buildings were really impressive. There were huge stones that were stacked on top of each other. It was ornate. It was beautiful. In fact, if you were a Jew living at that time, the temple would have been the pinnacle of your national pride and national security. If the temple was still standing, our people are still standing. The temple was really important, not only to my national pride if I’m Jewish, but also to my national security. So, if it’s standing, we’re standing. The temple was not only magnificent to look at, but also had a very special place in the lives of the Jewish people.

Oh, and by the way, I wanted to say on the 12th of May, my friend, Rabbi Jeremy Schneider, is going to be joining us for our next “At a Table” gathering. We’re going to talk about how evangelicals and Jews today kind of think differently about faith and the Bible. We’ll do some Q&A, and that’ll be coming up Thursday the 12th of May. There’s more information in your handout. Jeremy is a ton of fun, and we’re going to have a blast. So, if you’ve ever had a question for a rabbi and you wanted to ask it anonymously, this is a great opportunity to do that. I’m excited about that.

For the Jewish people at the time, the temple had a pride of place. It was a was an icon, so to speak. Now you’ve got this unnamed disciple saying, “Look at these, Jesus. Look at this massive building. Look at this wonderful temple. Don’t you think it’s awesome?” And what do you think that the disciples expected in the way of response? Yeah, you’re right guys. Jesus is Jewish. He’s a Jewish teacher. The expectation is that Jesus would look at the temple and would love it, right? Notice what Jesus does.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another. All will be torn down.” (Verse 2)

His response was just completely unexpected, you know. I mean, we’re just shaken awake by the by the terse nature that Jesus uses. But I think that Jesus is prompting us to think a little bit more deeply about our favorite religious institutions, or the places that we look to for safety, security and pride. I think Jesus is shaking us awake because here’s this disciple of Jesus, saying, “Jesus, look. It’s the pinnacle of our faith.” And Jesus says it is coming down — not our faith, but what you think is the pinnacle of our faith. And I’ll just say this right quickly: Just because an institution falls, that does not mean the faith is under threat. I hear a lot of people talking about the greatest threat to the church. There is no threat to the church. Jesus is the Risen King. So, I don’t need to be worried. My faith is not tethered to an institution that may or may not represent Jesus. My faith is in the Risen Savior.

We can be OK if sometimes institutions fall. That happens. In fact, I’m going to push into that as we go along in this text. By the way, I love Desert Springs. And this is not a threat. I love this church. I was baptized here. I met Jesus here. I got married right here. I like this institution. But it is not the center of my faith. Alright, so Jesus says, do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down. Things just serious. Now we get a little fast-forward. We’re zooming forward.

“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John were questioning Him privately.” (Verse 3)

Now where’s He sitting? He’s sitting in the Mount of Olives. Notice this painted in your mind’s eye. He’s sitting now in the Mount of Olives, which is opposite the Temple Mount. Notice that Mark intentionally paints the posture of Jesus now being having left the temple and now being opposite the temple. You guys tracking here? There might be something more than just geography that we’re supposed to see in here. It could be that Mark wants us to see that Jesus is now separating Himself from the temple.

If you want to get real Bible nerdy, this is kind of crazy. There are actually two temples in this picture. There’s the actual physical temple. But maybe some of you remember that Jesus refers to His own self as the true temple. Remember, He says, “Tear this temple down and I’ll raise it again.” And so here you’ve got now two temples, one that’s a source of national pride and national security, and the other that’s a source of security, but in a different way. So it could be that there’s a juxtaposition here. I think it’s intentional.

Across from the temple, are Peter, James, John, and Andrew — four of His named disciples. They want to talk to Him privately.

“You go talk to him.”

“I don’t want to talk to him. You talk to him.”

“Jesus, could you tell us when these things will happen?” Now, is this a legitimate question? Of course, it is. This is the most normal question in the world. “Jesus, I’m a little bit upset by what you said. Maybe this is in the new Kingdom. Maybe this is at the resurrection. Maybe it’s one of those silly parables that He is always telling.”

“’Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?’” (Verse 4)

Jesus, when are these things going to happen? Because I want to know when it’s going to happen. I need to be clued in to know what the sign will be when all these things are about to be accomplished. We need to know so we can be prepared. These are natural question that they could ask.

“And Jesus began to say to him, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He’ and will mislead many.” (Verse 5)

Jesus asked them — l love it –what was the question? When’s the building going to collapse? And how do I know that it started? Notice Jesus does not answer the question in a satisfying way. Jesus told them, “Watch out …” ***

*** TV time out. If you’re tagging along, you got a Bible in front of you, or you see text in front of you watching online, just note how many times language like watch out, be alert, keep your eyes open, be aware shows up in this text. It is all over this text, Chapter 13 with the words be aware, be awake, right? Have a mind that’s awake to the reality of the situation. Keep your eyes out there on the horizon. This is not by the way, be fearful. But it is “be aware, be aware.” Jesus told them, “Watch out. Be aware that no one deceives you.” What is Jesus’s assumption? That His disciples could be what? Deceived. Note that “Many will come in my name saying, “I am he,” and they will deceive many.” ***

OK, what was the question that they asked? “Jesus, you’re saying that our building, our institution of national safety and pride, is going to collapse? We have two important questions. When and how will we know?” And Jesus says, “Watch out that you’re not deceived.” Jesus, we didn’t ask you that question. Jesus, we did not ask for a discussion about deception. We want to know the “when” and the “how.” We want to know now. Why is Jesus saying these things? Let’s just think for a minute why is Jesus saying, “Watch out that you will not be deceived.”

You already know the answer, actually. When you and I, or when we as a community are in a heightened state of fear, we’re afraid, right? There’s something out there that’s a great threat to us, to our well-being, to our livelihood, to things that we hold dear. Are we more or less likely to be deceived? We are more likely to be deceived when we’re in a state of fear, when we think everything is collapsing in, on, or around us. And if a person comes in and says — “I can protect you. I will show you the way. I’m a promised one. I’m a Messiah. I’m a savior. I come in the name of the Lord” –are people more or less likely to say, “OK” when they’re afraid? We are more likely to be deceived when we are overcome with fear. Could you ever imagine a time in human history that would need a message like this? Maybe a time in human history where everything is on fire, and everyone is out to get us. And in the us versus them mindset, the “thems” are going to come destroy us and our things. And so, in order to protect us from the them, donate today.

Am I over here by myself? Like is this not where we’re at? Jesus says to His disciples, “Watch out, be aware so that no one would deceive you. You’re scared of the temple falling down, you’re afraid of things collapsing. Be aware and don’t be deceived. Many will come in my name saying I am he. So, there’s going to be people who come in the name of the Lord. There are even going to be people who say, “I am your Messiah. I am your chosen one. I am your Christ.” And they will deceive how many? So many. But for you, a Jesus follower, watch out, don’t be deceived when you hear this.

Jesus, this temple thing is making us scared. Bring us some comfort. Remember the question that they wanted answered was the when and where of the signs. Because the collapse of the temple meant the end. I want you to see that this is a catastrophic thing to say for Jesus to say: It’s all going to collapse. There won’t be one stone left upon the other. This is catastrophic reality. OK, this is not like some random house burning down, which is catastrophic for the homeowner in the family. This is the complete implosion of our culture, our community, of our nation.

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” (Verse 7)

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be what? Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be alarmed, these things must take place, but it is not yet the end, OK? So when we hear of a war or a rumor of a war — has there ever been a point in time where that’s not actually the case, either wars happening or rumors of wars happening? OK, so when you hear about wars or rumors of wars and you feel it overwhelming you and you feel afraid, and you feel like the whole world is falling apart, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.

Is it the end, Jesus, when we hear about the war? Not the end. It’s not the end. You guys are asking when and what’s the sign. I want you to know when you see wars or rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed. Be aware. Don’t be afraid. These things happen, right?

OK, but Jesus, what about powerful things happening in the global sphere? Jesus, what about nations? Yeah, nation will rise up against nation. Kingdom against kingdom — this is normal. By the way. has there ever been a time where this isn’t going on? So, here’s the deal with Mark. I just want to jump to the chase with Mark 13 here.

A lot of people refer to Mark 13 as an apocalypse. I think it’s wrong, and I think it’s right. Here’s what I mean. They’ll view Mark 13 as a story of the end of the world, and I think it kind of is, especially in the disciples’ minds. It would have been the end of their world as they knew it, and they didn’t feel fine.

So, it’s the end of their world, but it’s not properly a sign of the end of all things properly, although some of the language is there, at least in my reading. Here’s the other thing, too. When we say apocalypse, the word apocalypse does not mean end of the world. This is why I think Mark Chapter 13 actually is an apocalypse. Here’s what apocalypse means. Apocalypse means unveiling the thing that’s hidden. If you go to one of those fancy restaurants in the 1800s and they bring out everything on a platter, and then there’s a silver dome on top, when they remove the silver dome, that’s an apocalypse. It’s revealing what once was hidden. Mark has revealed Jesus here in Mark 13, revealing what once was hidden.

“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning birth pangs. (Verse 8)

We’re seeing wars and rumors of war. We’re seeing famines. We’re seeing nation rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom. These are not necessarily signs of the end, but rather normal things and it’s always happening. And Jesus says, when you see these things — you want to know about the end when you see these things — that’s not a sign of the end. These are normal things. So be aware. Remember that they asked for a sign. Aren’t these like the most ambiguous things you could ever say that are scary? There’s an earthquake. What’s the GPS coordinate of the earthquake, so we know the sign? Various places. Yeah. And famines. Yeah, what kind of famine? Jesus is kind of toying with them.

But Jesus, we want to know right now exactly when and where and how. It’s like in order, and He just says don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid. These are the beginning of birth pangs. But you, disciple of Jesus, be on your guard. Be alert. Be aware. Again, this is not fearful, it’s just being aware, understanding what’s going on.

But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.” (Verse 9)

They will hand you over to local courts and you will be flogged in the synagogues. Are you encouraged yet? So, we’ve gone from global or worldwide catastrophes to personal catastrophes. We might not feel like the end of society as we know it, but here it’s going to feel like the end of me. Do you see it? Jesus here is switching from global stuff, now getting very local.

You will stand before governors and kings because of me. I love this because of me as a what? As a witness, which means that even if you found yourself standing in front of a governor or king because of Jesus, the role that we play is a witness to God’s Kingdom. My role is not a warrior. My role is not dominator. My role is to stand before a governor or king as a witness to the value systems of the Kingdom of God. If you want proof, read through the book of Acts and watch how some of the earliest followers of Jesus got hauled into courts. Got hauled and stood in front of kings, and you’ll notice that what they did was they lovingly proclaimed the good news of the Gospel of Jesus. That’s what they did, and that’s what we’re called to do.

“The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. (Verse 10)

And I love this, too. Let the gospel be preached, to whom? All nations, and that doesn’t mean like nation states. The word there in Greek is ethnos. It’s where we get the word ethnicity. It’s all people groups of the world. And Jesus here seems to be making a connection between standing before governors and kings and the commission that he’s given to all His followers to go and make disciples, to go and be ambassadors of the Kingdom. He seems to connect those two. So, whereas if I stand before a governor or a king on account of Jesus and I feel like everything is falling apart, Jesus seems to be saying it’s part of the plan. Has it ever happened to you? Your world feels like it’s falling apart. Everything feels out of control, and yet you sense the spirit of God saying this is part of the plan.

“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 11)

So, when they arrest you — not if, but but — and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. I think it’s fair to say that a healthy portion of the people who wrote your Bible had a record. A lot of lot of convicts wrote your Bible. Might that shape how we think about people who have done time? Or even how we, as a people, think about incarceration today? Yes.

Now for those of you who hate public speaking, here’s a word of encouragement. When they arrest you and hand you over and make you do public speaking, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. But say whatever is given to you when? At that time. Notice. The comfort comes at the point or the pinnacle of the pain. Nobody goes into that space confident in their own capacities. But, rather, in the moment, being in touch with what the Spirit is saying and doing. As He says, it’s not you speaking. It’s the Holy Spirit speaking.

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” (Verse 12)

Now this is kingdom against kingdom and nation against nation. This is when we get dragged into court. Jesus, what ought we to do? How bad is it going to get? He says brother will betray brother to death, and father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. I think not only is Jesus seeing what’s going to happen to people who follow His way, but also this is another way to describe the absolute degradation of society. If the family is the smallest unit in in civics, so to speak, the smallest unit in society is falling apart. My life is under threat, and even the families are falling apart. Do you see that here? Yeah, this is pretty rough. It’s a difficult text for difficult times.

“You will be hated by all because of My name; but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” (Verse 13)

You will be hated by everyone because of what? My name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. I just wanted to give a note. It’s walking the Jesus way, living according to His path and living according to His way and being ridiculed. This does not mean that if you’re a jerk and people don’t like you for it, you’re being hated in Jesus’s name. If you’re a jerk and you get your just desserts, it’s probably because you’re a jerk. And throwing Jesus’s name in there doesn’t make you not a jerk. This is about being persecuted for walking the Jesus way. Hold on to your hats, because it’s about to get really strange.

“But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be, then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” (Verse 14)

Does anyone have this on a coffee mug? Do you have it like embroidered in your Bible cover? No? Yes? Nothing? A couple of things. Number one, abomination of desolation — excellent name for a heavy metal band. Thank you, thank you. So, if you’re looking at it, you can say to your parents it’s Biblical. What on earth are we talking about here? One of the things we’ve got to remember is we are time-traveling tourists. We are looking at an ancient text in a completely different context and culture, with a working database of words and phrases and theological concepts and ideas. The abomination of desolation phrase is riffing on something that you see back in the book of Daniel. We’re not going to go too deep into it. I just wanted to say that this is likely where it’s we’re to understand this as maybe an icon or even a person. And here’s what it could be. It could be like a Roman general setting up a statue to Zeus within the Jerusalem Temple.

It could be an abomination of sacrilege or desolation, where the Romans put up an icon or a statue to such a degree that they dominate your religious institutions, then it’s going to collapse. Just be aware of that. Just notice when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be, then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Now remember that they asked for a sign. You remember that. And now He gives them a sign. But this is not a like sign that you can see in the future. This is not like he’s not pulling out a chart; he’s not. This is not something you can put on your calendar if you’re the original hearer. Jesus just says, if you see it, run to the hills. If you’re in Judea, do you see it? Watch it. Watch.

“The one who is on the housetop must not go down or go in to get anything out of his house, and the one who is in the field must not run back to get his coat.” (Verse 15-16)

A man on the housetop must not come down or go in to get anything out of his house, and a man in the field must also not go back to get his coat. Right, this is fast. If you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be, go.

“But woe to those who are pregnant and those who are nursing babies in those days. But pray that it may not happen in the winter.” (Verse 17-18)

I think the idea is because they would have an extra burden while they’re trying to run away. Pray that it won’t happen in winter because that would impede our capacity to survive out in the wilderness. Jesus here now is saying that there is coming a time when you will see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be. And when you see that, run to the hills. This is weird. This is a difficult text for difficult times.

“For those days will be a time of tribulation such has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.” (Verse 19)

Here’s the tension. When you see wars and rumors or when you see famines, earthquakes and everything, don’t be afraid. Don’t freak out, this is normal stuff. Be alert, be aware. Don’t be deceived. Don’t allow your fear to open up your heart to deception. But there’s going to be a time when you’re going to see it, and you’re going to know it’s time to go. But seeing it and knowing it, you won’t be able to put it on a calendar. You won’t be able to foresee it, you’re just going to have to react and respond. And on that day, run to the hills.

OK so for those will be the days of will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of creation until now and never will be again. *** TV timeout.

*** Here’s the question that theologians have been wrestling with since pen was first put to paper: Is this an already-happened thing or is this a going-to-happen thing for me, in my moment in space, time, history? Is this something that already happened, or is this something that’s going to happen? I think that the text is intentionally designed to be ambiguous so that we might be aware, which is the consistent call of Jesus in this text that we might be able to look and see what’s going on in the world. We’re going to hold this these two realities in tension – namely, when I see things that seem like they’re out of control, I recognize then not to be afraid. I’m going to stay. I’m going to be aware. I’m going to continue walking the Jesus way. Jesus is going to win. But there’s going to come a day where it’s going to seem like things are catastrophic, and there’s going to be some sort of sign. And then I’m just going to know and I’m going to run now. Did that already happen or is this a call for me? Let’s think about that question for the next 50 years. ***

Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”

If the Lord had not cut those days … it’s like kind of like past tense. So, this is why we think, “Well, maybe this already happened.” If He hadn’t cut those days short, no one else would be saved. But He cut those days short for the sake of the elect, whom He chose.

“And then if anyone says to you ‘Behold, here is the Christ’ or ‘Behold he is here; do not believe him, for false Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (Verse 21-22)

OK, now we’re going to get to it. People coming in Jesus’s name or even claiming to be a God-sent leader who do not exhibit the qualities of Jesus nor walk the Jesus way — we should not allow them to deceive us. To put it another way, just because a person uses God-talk, if their character is not lined up with the character of Jesus and they’re not walking the Jesus way — if they don’t smell like Jesus — I wouldn’t give them a hearing. If you’re going to talk God-talk but not walk God-walk, why would I follow you? And I’ve got to be careful because there’s a lot of God talk that could lead to me being deceived. So, I want to notice the character as well as the content of their speech or their message.

If anyone tells you, see here is the Messiah, do not believe it. But false messiahs or false saviors and false prophets — people who say that they speak for God — will arise, and perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect This is crazy to me. Notice that “if possible.” Do you think Jesus knows or doesn’t know if it’s possible? Notice that “if possible” sounds like He doesn’t know. But here here’s the thing. I think Jesus is doing something. I think this is what he’s doing. Remember who he’s talking to – four named disciples who had asked Him all the way back at the beginning, right? They asked Him, “Jesus, when is this going to happen? What are the signs? “ And Jesus keeps saying to His disciples be alert, be aware. Don’t be afraid these things. It’s not the end, but if the end comes, don’t worry about it. You just go.

“But take heed: behold, I have told you everything in advance.” (Verse 23)

OK, and then Jesus says here’s what’s more important to Him – – that you make sure that you’re watching out so that you are not deceived. And He says this to four people who abandoned Him in the next chapter. So, I think we’re meant to read this, having read all of the Gospel of Mark, I think the reader is meant to see this as Jesus saying they will perform signs and wonders to lead astray if possible. And then He looks at the floor and goes.

We as the reader know that they do get led away. But yet they are elect, meaning they’re chosen by Jesus. OK, so and here’s the other thing, too. For those of us freaking out about this, just notice how Jesus treats them as He invites them all back into communion with Him. So, this idea being led astray does not mean forgotten or left out by God. You see it in the lives of the four that get named here. They all abandoned Him, and yet He reconciles the relationship with all of them. And He does it with us, too, thanks be to God.

“But in those days after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” (Verse 24)

OK, so and you must watch — there’s that word again. Be watchful. Be mindful. I have told you everything in advance. I love this. “No, you didn’t. Homie, you told us all this ambiguous stuff and I don’t even know what a desolation abomination thing is. Jesus, you have not told us everything in advance.” And yet He says we must watch. In those days after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light. I think that now he’s getting into what some might call apocalyptic language. I think this is looking forward to the new heavens and new earth. The stars will be falling from the sky. Is that a catastrophe? Yeah, it’s a big deal, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Yeah, there’s a lot to say about that. Let’s keep going.

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Verse 26)

Then they will see the son of man coming in clouds — which, by the way, being surrounded by clouds and coming in the clouds is “God talk.” God is oftentimes in your Old Testament is represented as coming in the clouds with what? Great power and glory.

So, I just I want to land the plane here. Jesus says to His disciples that the things that we put our safety and security in, they are going to crumble. The temple is going to crumble. Things we care about will crumble. And when that happens, be alert. Don’t be afraid. Just watch, be aware. When you hear about wars or rumors or war, famines, earthquakes, when you hear about nation rising against nation, don’t be afraid. Fear not. And then there’s going to come a point in time when the end does come, and when that happens, flee, right? Just watch out for yourself. When that happens, you will see me. And I will be coming in power. And let me just ask you: From what you know about Jesus, is this good news or bad news? This is such good news, friends. If conversations around the end cause you fear, I don’t think you’ve fully understood what Jesus is getting at. This is a hope.

And I know that there’s all these movies and books and stuff written about the end times and everyone freaking out. And there’s so many bunkers to be built and ammunition to buy so you can protect yourself from whatever The Thing is. I mean, it’s fear, and if there’s one message that Jesus has about His return, it is comfort, not fear. He knows that the fear will lead us to being deceived. And so, He says, “I’m coming back. And how am I coming? I’m coming with great power.”

This is the same Jesus who says I never leave you or forsake you.

This is the same Jesus who says My Spirit dwells within you as you stand before governors and kings.

This is the same Jesus who looks His disciples in the eye and says, come on, follow me.

Don’t be afraid, be alert, be aware, follow me.

Friends, in a moment we’re going to take communion together. Communion is an act of remembrance. Remembering Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. We take of the bread and of the cup as an act of unity, not only with one another, but also with our God. I’m going to ask that you would please grab the elements available in the back of the table or the seat in front of you. For those online, if you would please obtain some elements that represent the body and blood of Jesus. I’m going to pray. And in this prayer will be words of confession and repentance. And if your heart resonates with this, would you just “Amen?”

And then after I’m done praying, we’re going to take a moment to reflect. I encourage you to use that time just to be attentive to the Spirit of God and what God might be speaking to you. Or maybe even to continue to pray. And then after we reflect, my friend, Jocelyn, who is one of our student ministry leaders and graduate from our leadership development program, will be leading us in the taking of communion.

Would you join me as we pray? Lord, in this moment we recognize that the taking of communion is something that we do together as a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and perspectives, unified in You. And that You welcome everyone to Your table. In this act, we recognize that we are called to live as citizens of Your Kingdom, practicing Your values on Earth as it is in heaven. And yet, even now, in this moment, Lord, as we pray in preparation, we recognize we often fall short. And so, we confess that we have not always lived according to Your Kingdom. We have often propagated injustice, pain and evil. We have often fostered disunity by practicing favoritism and elevating our own concerns and preferences over others. We have often failed to show hospitality, love, grace and generosity. We have often not lived the fruit of Your Spirit. We confess this before You now, and we repent. We turn from these sins, and we turn back to You, Jesus, knowing that You will never leave us nor forsake us. And we ask that Your Spirit continue to shape us into Your image. As we take of this communion today, Lord, we proclaim Your finished work on the cross — Your death and Your resurrection. And we cling to You, knowing that You are the one who brings salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation. And in You all things will one day be restored. So, Lord, would You prepare our hearts even now before we take communion.