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Isaiah 65:17-25; 12:2-6; 2Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19

I’ve had a song in my head for a while now. And in truth I am not sure how it got there. Sometimes you hear a song somewhere, unconsciously, and it stays. Who knows when or why? My song was persistent enough I had to look it up. It is by the group, “Matchbox Twenty,” the song is their 2003 hit titled “Unwell.” The chorus is: “But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell; but stay a while and maybe you’ll see, a different side of me. I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired, I know right now you don’t care, but soon enough you’re gonna think of me, and how I used to be.” Lead singer and songwriter, Rob Thomas, said he wrote the song as a metaphor for humanity in general, “a song for people who are messed up and feel alone like that. We all feel a little messed up at times… you’re not alone.” I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell,.. sounds like a pandemic description of me, a metaphor of humanity in general. Unwell for all kinds of reasons, for us and this world, for so many, so many hurting, suffering, struggling including at the hands or words or structures of one over another. Is there a promise that we are not alone, and being unwell is not all there is, “stay a while and maybe you’ll see, a different side of me.”        

         It is a Sunday of contrasting visions. The vision from Isaiah seems the opposite to the vision of Jesus. A new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem and people that are a joy and delight. No more weeping, no cries of distress. No infant mortality, all live to a great age. People build homes and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit, not build or plant for others. Like the days of a tree will be the lives of the people, enjoying the work of their hands, not labouring in vain, and their children shall be blessed. Before they call, God will answer, speak and God will hear. God’s creatures will live in harmony, but the evil serpent will eat dust. None shall hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain, says the Creator. 

         Isaiah’s vision is a longing, if not a hope we dare to hold. A blessed vision of shalom, harmony in all creation, the peace and wellbeing of all humanity and all creatures together.

         In contrast, Jesus speaks of not one stone of the temple remaining, of wars and insurrections, nations fighting nations, natural disasters, and cosmic signs. Persecution, arrests and trials, divisions within families and communities, and death, all because of Jesus’ name.

         Jesus’ vision of this world, humanity, the earth and all its creatures hits close to home, to the circumstances of too much and too many in our world, humanity, for the earth, crazy unwell, and sometimes it seems, getting more so, day by day.

         Contrasting visions of a broken self-destructing world and at times, our own broken lives and of those we love, and of hope or at least longing, for the great shalom of God’s making. “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell; but stay a while and maybe you’ll see, a different side of me,” of this world and all creation.    

         In the video Revelation course this past Tuesday, Dr. Craig Koester presented a lecture on the 12th chapter of Revelation titled, “The Dragon and the Problem of Evil.” He noted a key theme near the end of the previous chapter, “for your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead… and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” He presented a contrast in apocalyptic writing of God’s giving life to all, and agents of evil taking life, of God giving life to the earth, and evil seeking to destroy the earth. In the vision of Revelation, Satan, the personification of evil, is thrown out of heaven. And now confined to earth as a great dragon/serpent, seeks to destroy the earth, and specifically a woman about to give birth, who based on a popular Greek myth turned on its head, symbolizes God’s people and their future. But as much as the dragon’s power seems relentless and unstoppable, with the empire as its ally, evil is instead desperate and losing, and cannot win. Evil’s forces of deception, brutality, arrogance, and injustice appear to run the world, but in truth, power belongs to God. The woman and her child are protected in the wilderness as the dragon rages. And the response of God’s people, Koester suggests, in seeing that evil is not all powerful, will not destroy the earth, is to resist! resist evil and its false power, trusting in God, in good.

         Similarly, Jesus’ apocalyptic vision concludes, “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain  your souls.” Resist evil and its false power, trust in God. Resist.

         This Revelation vision, this apocalyptic vision of the false power of evil raging on the earth, and seeing instead, God’s power for good and the call to resist! resonates with other times, maybe every time in human history, including our time. The feeling that the power of evil is all around us, its deception, brutality, arrogance, and injustice everywhere, causing the suffering of so many, destroying the earth, pervasive and unstoppable; but God’s vision offering an alternative view, a different perspective, a theology of the cross we would say as Lutherans, a way of seeing realized in the world and evil, God’s redemption, God’s saving power in life rising out of death in Christ Jesus the lamb who was slain, in good triumphing over evil, in hope of God’s shalom and not a hair of your or my head ultimately perishing, and a renewed path of resistance, of good over evil, of faith and hope, restored. “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell; but stay a while and maybe you’ll see, a different side of me, of us, of this world.”

         Another Remembrance Day, this year, a return to full gatherings and seeing again those who fought in wars and survived, those wounded in body and mind and spirit, those who lost loved ones to war in the recent and distant past, those serving now and their families, all gathered and surrounded by crowds of people again, to remember and honour and give thanks for their lives of service and sacrifice. And so also, in their memory, in their honour, that their sacrifice not be in vain, to resist evil, especially the evils of war raging in and threatening our world once again, believing in, trusting in, hoping in the power of God over evil, Satan raging in desperation, but God’s love and the hope of eternal shalom triumphing over death and destruction of this world for good. It seems crazy, and I even feel crazy sometimes believing it in the face of so much evil, destruction and death. But we have been given a gracious vision in contrast to this evil, a theology for just this struggle, a faith for living resistance and hope, to live and work for the great shalom in love and justice and peacemaking with and for all creation. Today and each day, resist! and have faith and a gracious hope in Christ Jesus, by God’s Spirit, and in all our relations. Amen.