First Lesson: Isaiah 2: 1-5
Responsive Reading: Psalm 122
Second Lesson: Romans 13: 11-14
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 24: 36-44
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”-Matthew 24:42
Let me begin this morning with a story told by Tim Zingale. There once was a school superintendent inspecting one of the district’s high school classrooms. The room was a mess! Desks were unorganized! Stray papers lay all over the room! The Superintendent was going to take action to remedy the situation. The Superintendent stands before the classroom with the following promise: “I want each of you to keep your desks clean throughout this school year. One day, I will come back to your classroom. When I do come back, the person with the neatest desk will receive this as he held up a hundred dollar bill. The kids all gasped. Here’s the thing the Superintendent said: “You will not know the day, your teacher will not know the day, nor will your principal know the day.”
The children hear the Superintendent’s promise and get excited. They immediately get to work cleaning out their desks. The Superintendent’s offer was the talk of the lunch room for the next week. When will he come back? The excitement of the Superintendent’s return did not last. Pretty soon, a few boys were getting frustrated. They had already spent the hundred dollars in their minds several times over. The Superintendent never came. These boys then figured the effort of keeping their desks clean wasn’t worth it. Week by week, student after student was gradually losing faith in the Superintendent’s return. Pretty soon, things in this classroom were pretty much back to the way they were before the Superintendent’s visit except for one girl that we’ll call Amanda.
Amanda day after day kept straightening her desk before going home for the night. If she had a few minutes before lunch, she would tidy up a bit. When Amanda’s classmates would make fun of her for her obsessive ways, she would just proclaim “He’s coming back.” Amanda’s classmates thought that if the Superintendent hadn’t come back by now that he was never coming back. He probably forgot about his promise they said. Amanda believed that the Superintendent would keep his word when no one else would.
The school year had eight days left; then there was a knock on the door. The Superintendent barges into the classroom. The kids are shocked. He starts inspecting the desks with seemingly each one just as messy as upon his previous visit. Finally, the Superintendent comes upon Amanda’s desk in spotless condition and into Amanda’s hand he places a hundred dollar bill.
Picture the story of Amanda and the Superintendent this morning. Now let’s talk about Today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 24. Jesus was talking to his followers about his upcoming exit from this world before his eventual return. Here is why Jesus gives his followers a sermon about the end of the world.
Jesus knew the people would be fickle. Jesus knew that they would be like Amanda’s classmates in that they would quickly give up hope when he didn’t immediately return. People reacting this way was going to be easy as they were probably going to witness all kinds of nasty things in their lifetime: violence, sin, and ultimately death.
Here’s the point in our lesson that Jesus is seeking to remind his closest of followers. You have/will see me come through in the Resurrection, I do keep my promises. I will return at My Second Coming and it will change everything.
In 2011, The Chicago Cubs finished at 71-91. The Cubs were twenty-five games out of first place. The Cubs were in a 103-year drought without a World Series Championship. Cubs’ fans were like Amanda’s classmates and had every reason to doubt that the Cubs just like the Superintendent would ever come through. The Cubs hire a new Club President in Theo Epstein. Here’s the thing that you should know about Theo Epstein, Epstein’s previous job was the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. Epstein had put together a Red Sox team that won a World Series after a mere 86-year drought. What does Theo Epstein first do as he takes over the Chicago Cubs? He decides the team needs to trade some of their better players, to get younger ones. Epstein knew that the Cubs needed to sacrifice short-term success to achieve victory in the long run. In Epstein’s first season in 2012, The Cubs lose 101 games, finishing 36 games out of first place. Theo Epstein and owner Tom Ricketts kept preaching patience. You would think the fans would be irritated at Theo Epstein for losing so many games then demanding patience; only they weren’t.
Ricketts described Cubs fans as such “honestly, 19 out of like 20 people were just supportive…What I realized through the process was, those types of people that I talked to in the crowd, they were giving me support and helping me stick to the plan. …The fans staying with the team through some pretty lean years deserve all the credit.”
We know the rest of Theo Epstein’s story, 2016 Chicago Cubs win 101 games, the best team in baseball and after 108 years win the World Series.
The point Jesus is making to his earliest of followers today is much like the point that Theo Epstein was making to Cubs’ fans that no matter how many games that you’ve lost, I have a plan, and I have come through before and I will come through again.
Being able to see the world regarding God’s long-range vision for the world can ultimately change how you see even the seemingly most hopeless circumstances of your life.
John Zahl tells the following story. Zahl belonged to a Bible Study in New York. Every week the group would pray for each other. One of the members of the group was named Tom. Tom had the same prayer request every week. Tom hated his job and wanted prayers that God would give him a new one. So week after week for two years, the group would pray that Tom would find a new job. One day, everything would change for Tom as a new member Dan joined the group. Dan gets up to pray for Tom and prays the following.
“Dear Lord, we thank you for Tom’s current job. Help him to accept that this is the place You have currently chosen for him. Show him how he can be helpful there and, if it be Your will, provide him with a new opportunity when the time is right. Amen.”
The room was silent. Everyone in the Bible study knew that Dan’s words were what Tom needed to hear. A few weeks later, Tom’s life would change! Tom’s boss calls desperately needing his help with an emergency presentation. Tom helps, his boss is grateful for his assistance. Tom’s boss begins to open up to him about some concerns within his life; Tom is able to be a supportive listener. His boss then thanks Tom for his presence on that night. Tom through this encounter begins to feel for the first time in a long time that his current station in life might, in fact, be a part of God’s plan for him. A few months later, possessing a new spiritual perspective Tom receives an offer for a new job.
Here’s why situations like Tom’s are so difficult for us as people. We want clear answers every day of our life. To hear that our situations require faith isn’t easy. A man one day went to see Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Mother Theresa asked if she could do anything for him. The man requested that Mother Theresa pray for him just like the Bible Study group would pray for Tom. His prayer request wasn’t a new job but rather clarity or clear answers regarding God’s purpose and plan for his life. Mother Theresa said she couldn’t pray for clarity as she never had it, Mother Theresa could only pray for trust that no matter what storms surrounded this man that he had trust that his God would come through for him in the end.
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”- Romans 8:25
The Prayer of Mother Theresa is by no means an easy one to pray. Let me close by telling you the story of a person who knew this prayer like no one else in Martin Rinkert. Rinkert was raised in the German town of Eislenberg nearly four-hundred years ago as the son of a poor coopersmith. Young Martin though sought a different career path as a minister. In 1617, Rinkert received an appointment to be Minister in his hometown. But soon “All Hell broke loose around Him” as the Thirty Years War began. The Thirty Years War brought all sorts of bloodshed to Europe especially Germany. German cities would see 90% of their population die as a result of either war or plague. In the thirty years of Martin Rinkert’s Ministry, he would end up burying 8000 people including his wife. Everywhere Martin Rinkert looked he could see nothing but horror around him. How did Martin Rinkert respond to this destruction? Did he curse the Spanish every day? Did he lose his faith? No, Martin Rinkert became a hymn writer. Rinkert penned perhaps the most famous Thanksgiving hymn ever in “Now Thank We All Our God.” What exactly did Martin Rinkert have to be thankful? How could Martin Rinkert preserve in the face of such circumstances?
Martin Rinkert was able to be guided in life by a vision. Rinkert was able to distinguish from the present age of death from the age of resurrection that was to come. Martin Rinkert, like Amanda, was able to cling to the hope of return no matter what everyone else around them thought. Martin Rinkert, like Chicago Cubs fans, believed that the guy in charge had come through before and would soon come through again no matter how painful the present might be. Martin Rinkert, like Tom who hated his job, was able to see that his present circumstances would not define the future reality of the resurrection. Martin Rinkert, like Mother Theresa, would never receive total clarity in this life, but could go forth with trust in God’s plan in even the midst of despair. The key ingredient in all these stories is that patience does indeed pay off. Jesus’ point to his followers today is there will be times when it will be easy to lose faith. You might indeed wonder whether the apocalypse will ever come. What Jesus is telling his Disciples is that your now will not define your not yet. Christmas is four weeks from Today! Gifts will soon be opened! These gifts will include forgiveness, eternal life, and maybe even a hundred dollar bill! Amen
 Zingale, Tim. “Be Ready”. Sermon Central.com. November 2007. Web. 16.Nov.2016.
 Zingale, Tim. “Be Ready”.
 Zingale, Tim. “Be Ready”.
 Matthew 24:36-44.
 Allen, Ron. “Commentary on Matthew 24:36-44.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 27. Nov.2016. Web. Nov.16.2016..
 CBS 2 Chicago. “Tom Ricketts Recalls Why He Hired Theo Epstein Originally: ‘Living Year To Year Wasn’t Going To Change The Prospects.” Taken from interview on Mully and Hanley show airing on 670 The Score out of Chicago. 29.Sept.2016. Web. Nov.18.2016.
 Zahl, John. “Brand New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl.” MBIRD (Mockingbird Ministries).02.Dec.2015. Web. Nov.18.2016.
 Zahl, John. “Brand New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl.”
 Zahl, John. “Brand New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl.”
 Davis, Kevin. “#692 Behind the Song With Kevin Davis:’ Trust in You’ by Lauren Daigle.” New Release Today. Web. Nov.22.2016.