Homily preached by Jordan Haynie, Seminarian
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – November 18, 2012
So, how many of you have heard that the world is going to end on December 21? Raise your hands – a few? A few of you have heard the rumor going around that the Mayan calendar (which has somehow become the only one that matters) ends, which therefore foretells the end of the world.
Well, let me set your mind at ease. The Mayan calendar does not end this December. Rather, one of the larger measurements of time they created will reset from 7 back to 0, exactly like the end of a week. This is not the largest measurement in the Mayan calendar, and it has turned over before in human history. Some Mayans in Mexico even think that we’ve calculated it wrong, and that the shift we expect, took place in the mid-20th century. But still, everywhere I go, people are whispering, “It’s 2012. The world is ending.”
And when we look around us, it’s not hard to understand why. Wars and rumors of wars abound in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Gaza. We’ve seen natural disasters destroy what many of us believed was safe in Hurricane Sandy and the recent winter storms. We’ve seen bitter partisanship pit brother against sister, wife against husband, neighbor against neighbor, as two of our political parties fought for our votes in the recent election. While we may not trust the accuracy of the Mayan calendar, many of us feel that calamity surrounds us, that the stones of our Temples, of all that we hold dear are tumbling down around us.
But Jesus tells us not to listen to those who proclaim the end is nigh – those doom & gloom preachers, who insist that our way of life has angered God somehow, and so we are being punished with destruction. No. Jesus says, “This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” This is not destruction – but salvation. This is not the end of the world, but the beginning of the kingdom of God. This is not the loss of all we hold dear, but liberation from the things that bind us and keep us away from God.
It will not happen quickly. From what I’ve seen, though I am not a mother myself, birth never does. It is a process. It takes awhile. It’s painful. It feels like, and for much of history has in fact been, destruction. The end. But in order for the woman to be freed from her burden (that’s what “delivery” means, after all) and in order for the newest human being to be given life, she has to go through it.
And so we need not be afraid, no matter the disaster we find ourselves in. Jesus does not promise us that our liberation will not be painful, but that He will be with us through all of it. It may feel like destruction at times, and we may want to give up. Christians have been feeling the birthpangs since just after Jesus’ death. The destruction of the Temple. Martyrdom in the Coliseum. Religious war after religious war, burning at the stake after burning at the stake. This is a long process we’re in, but it is not destruction. And if we push through, and hold to our hope of heaven, then whether it happens this year, or next year, or thousands of years from now, we shall meet God with confidence as we are born into the new world of God’s kingdom.