“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. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
The Word of the Lord.
Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;
I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.”
All my delight is in the godly that are in the land,
upon those who are noble among the people.
But those who run after other gods
shall have their troubles multiplied.
I will not pour out drink offerings to such gods,
never take their names upon my lips.
O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;
it is you who uphold my lot.
My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;
indeed, I have a rich inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me night after night.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the pit.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25
Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. [And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
“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,”
he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let 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. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The Word of the Lord.
As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For 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.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When most folks – especially those of us who are parents or who have ever been in charge of people under the age of 18 – hear the word “provoke” – we get a cold chill down our spines. Because for us the word provoke is not an especially happy word. When we think of provoking – we think of the incredible joys of having to separate the children who are warring with one another yet again.
We think of settling disputes over who touched whom. And negotiating disagreements over just who it was who left that pile of Halloween candy wrappers in the middle of the living room floor – AGAIN! Or who left the front door wide open in August letting every single flying creature in Kentucky into our home – for the 1000th time that month . . .
We think of making less than profound statements like “fine – just don’t touch your brother. Don’t look at your brother ever gain. Actually – don’t even breathe in your brother’s direction.”
Or maybe that’s just me and a problem that I have . . . It is probably just me – isn’t it!?!?
Anyway – the word “provoke” can have very strong connotations.
But did you know the word provoke doesn’t just exist to describe the behavior of annoying siblings?
I know! This particular revelation shocked me too.
I was absolutely – positively floored when the Word of God boldly declared to us today that provoking someone could be a good thing!
Seriously – folks – it is right there in the 10th chapter of Hebrews. Provoking can be a good thing . . . Apparently – provoking can be a really – really good thing!
In fact in our second reading for this week – we are all encouraged to provoke one another as often as possible.
I think some of us are so totally going to rock at this! Because we have been perfecting our “provocation” skills for years!
But regardless of our personal skill sets – we are all called to acts of provocation. We are all called to be provokers! We are all called to boldly provoke others in the name of the Lord no less! (Finally – something for which I seem to have a true talent!?!?!)
Hebrews chapter 10 declares to all of us – “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another.”
We are all supposed to be provoking one another to love and to good deeds! And we are supposed to meet together regularly and to encourage one another too.
Okay so this is probably a twist on those provocation skills we all worked so hard on as kids. Because the provoking we did back then probably tended to look more like torment and torture and treating our siblings to basic acts of terrorism.
So I want you to take a moment and think about someone in your life who was an encourager. Who was a cheerleader. Who was genuinely kind – loving – and helpful. Think about those folks in your life who did exactly what Hebrews calls ALL of us to do.
I know I tend to remember 2 kinds of people most vividly.
Unfortunately I do remember the mean folks. The yucky – awful people who made my life miserable are hard to forget. The folks who hurt us and left scars. The ones who said thoughtless things. Most of us remember the people we wish we had never met because they were filled with meanness and criticism.
But we aren’t going to think about those folks today. Because we know for certain we don’t want to be like them! We know our God doesn’t want us to be like them.
We are called to be encouragers. And I DO remember the encouragers. The people who cheered me on. The people who were helpful and hopeful and loving. The people who made my life easier and better. The gracious folks. The people who made me laugh and smile and thankful to know them.
And this is who our God calls us to be. We are being called to be the loving – gracious – merciful – understanding – thoughtful – compassionate – encouragers our world so desperately needs. We are called to bless others. To spread love rather than hate and negativity. To generously share God’s love and our own love with others. To be helpers and bringers of hope and kindness.
We are called to feed the hungry – to give water to the thirsty – to clothe the naked – to comfort the hurting and the heartbroken and to love one another in God’s name. We do this so others can experience and come to know God and God’s love through us. So others can see our God reflected in us. So others might want to join us in doing these very same things for others.
We are ALL called to share and show God’s love. We are all called to be encouragers and provokers!
We can share and show God’s love by being encouragers and helpers and people who speak encouraging – kind – gracious words.
And often the most powerful way of sharing the Good News of God’s love – is by rolling up our sleeves and serving others in God’s name.
Perhaps you will share God’s love by bringing food for the Fern Creek – Highview United Ministries or by volunteering at the school in your neighborhood or at the hospital that saved your life.
Maybe you will be an encourager by helping at the Ronald McDonald House or by volunteering to help us clean or decorate the church.
Maybe you will be an encourager by calling someone from church to check in with them – or by sending a note to some of the people on our prayer list. We all should be supporting one another through these long – hard days of the pandemic.
Perhaps you will serve by helping a neighbor with some fall yard work or by donating Christmas presents to a family in need.
We have ALL been called. Called to be encouragers and spreaders of God’s love. We are people with a mission. A mission to be kind – gracious – loving – generous people. – Amen.