In God We Trust?
a homily based on Luke 21:5-19
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Could you to help me out this
morning? Take out a coin. Any coin will do. Now what do you see under
George Washington's chin, over Abe Lincoln's hair, and in front of
Jefferson's nose? No, it's not E pluribus Unum. If you look closely,
you'll find the words In God We Trust, etched. Those four words mark all
of our money-coin and greenbacks. In God we trust.
So there they are, the words "in God we trust" reminding us that there are some
things worth trusting in. What would happen if some Sunday morning, we would just tape a dollar
bill inside the bulletin under the "Preparation for Worship" and ask
worshipers to meditate on those four words during the prelude. Or maybe
when it came time for the sermon we could all just pullout our greens
and just read our money: in God we trust. In a sense that's what the
Good News of the Gospel is all about. Our faith in Jesus Christ enables
us to proclaim that in God do we truly trust, that those words-as well
as the stuff they're printed on are quite welcome here.
Of course, there are a lot of other places where we can place our
trust in today. Depending on who we're talking to, we are going to have
to change the words slightly to say-in job security we trust, in tenure
we trust, in 401 K's we trust, in human goodness we trust, in a strong
military we trust, in affirmative action we trust, in relationships we
trust, in Amway we trust, in Rush we trust, in our bodies we trust, in
Wall Street, and education we trust.
But suicide bombers and bio-terrorism has made most of us down-size
our "trust" list considerably. Wall Streetís definitely off the list.
Job security is shaky. We canít even trust our delivered mail anymore.
Most of us have been around long enough to know that there isn't a
government that's republican enough, a friendship that lasts long
enough, a Congress that's bi-partisan enough, a job that's secure
enough, a relationship that's safe enough, a dollar that's stable
enough, a courtroom that's fair enough, a weight-loss program that's
effective enough, or an automobile that's satisfying enough for us to
place our deepest trust in.
Trust requires stability. Something that'll be there for us for the
long-haul. And there's just not a whole lot of that kind of stability
going around of recent. Haven't we discovered that our world just
changes too much to place much trust in it. Wouldn't it be great if we
could actually go through just one week without anything changing on us.
Something that we could actually count on. But just when we've gotten
used to the carpet being in the Refreshment Hall downstairs, a closet
mysteriously appears on the other end of the room; and when we just get
used to that closet and catch our breath, an orchestra shows up one
Sunday, and when we finally sit back to enjoy the string section-it
happens again, right in the middle of joyful, Joyful-the front pews show
up missing! Dynamic change is a fact of life in our church and in our
world. And when our confidence lies in these things, well, the house
eventually comes a tumblin' down.
Our first lesson is a story told best by some old-timers. The year is
586 BCE and as little tikes they had played in Jerusalem. Almost all of
their families were devout in their faith. After all, the Temple was
high on the mountain in their city. There, in that place, was where God
lived; as long as the Temple remained up on Mount Zion and as long as
they lived a devout life, no enemy could ever hurt them. God, guns, and
guts--that's what made Jerusalem impregnable.
These old-timers could still remember the day that the Babylonians
broke through their thirty-foot walls; the first minutes of shrieks and
screams, the pillaging and plunder, the stupid violent acts against men
and women. Attractive women and their children were snatched away as
booty, while their men were chained like pit bulls and carted back to
Babylon. How could these old-timers forget the humiliating marathon-a
seven hundred mile trek on foot around the Fertile Crescent. The crack
of a leather whip which would sound for a quarter mile as commanders
whipped stragglers back into line.
The perplexing question surfaced day after day along their journey:
How could a nation that God had chosen to live among be defeated? How
could a nation that had such a magnificent Temple-the place where God
lived-be destroyed? Could it be that they had forgotten what was written
on their coins? That maybe their money said "in Temple we Trust?" It was
a long walk to Babylon.
They now stand seventy years later old men and women in Jerusalem.
They stand amidst rubble and dust. The Temple lies in a heap like giant
tinker toys broken and discarded. Jerusalem is a ghost town right out of
the old westerns; sage brush tumbles across the streets, saloon doors
creaking in the wind. The city is all but deserted. Everything worth
value is gone, defaced, or destroyed. It's too much for the old-timers;
they'd seen Jerusalem in its hey day. They reel and stagger in
disbelief; they weep and tear their tattered clothes. They have traveled
almost 1,000 miles for this-a ghost town, an old relic of a once great
city and nation. So they lose heart, can't go on with their life. What
they had placed their trust in lies in the dust.
It is to these beleaguered Jews that Isaiah's prophecy comes:
I am about to make a new earth and new heavens. The events of the
past will be completely forgotten. The new Jerusalem I will make
will be full of joy and her people will be happy . . . there will be
no weeping or cries for help . . .
. . . youíll live long lives, live in your own houses, eat your
own turkeys at thanksgiving, and before prayers escape your mouth,
Iíll be there to give you a speedy answer. Even the wild wolves and
lions will be renewed so that they will eat grass with the lambs.
Yes! I will make all things new.
So there in the dust of Jerusalem, the returning Jews place their
faith in God and begin to rebuild their city . And true to the prophecy,
Jerusalem once again grows to become a beautiful city with a beautiful
Four hundred years pass between the prophecy of our first lesson and
the time of our gospel lesson in Luke 21. Tourists are again in
Jerusalem milling around the rebuilt Temple. They admire its massive
beauty. In recent years under Herod the Great, the Temple had doubled in
size. The sides of the building were covered with massive plates of
gold. And when the sun light struck its gold, the Temple radiated such a
blinding flash that people could not even look up at it. From a distance
it looked like a snow-clad mountain, for the stone work was pure white.
Grape clusters the size of a human being hung from the Temple gates and
inside were the finest of Babylonian tapestries. Jesus, unlike the
normal Jewish tour guide, interrupts their gawking. Says, "The days are
coming when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that
will not be thrown down."
Torn down? Herod's Temple? Impossible! Josephus informs us that this
temple which took almost fifty years to construct would be torn down
block by block after standing completed for only seven years. And he
goes on to tell us that Herod's Temple was destroyed on exactly the same
day as the first Temple was destroyed over 400 years earlier.
Maybe Jesus knew something we don't. That faith placed in any
building, friend, democracy, self-help group or idea will ultimately
disappoint us because the only one who stands outside of our world, who
moves purposefully toward the End is God. And when in God we trust, our
souls and bodies are connected to a God who stretches throughout history
past and into history future as a strong cable that is un-trustable,
unbreakable, unbendable, but completely and utterly reliable. Everything
will be shaken in our world--the earth, the heavens, politics, even our
very lives. Nobody gets out of here alive. We believe in something
better than survival. We believe in the power of God in Christ to make
all things new--even us. That's where our trust is. That's who our trust
During the tough days of World War II, a man emerged from a bomb
shelter in London and saw an old newspaper vendor, selling his papers
amid the rubble. "Who won the battle last night," he asked the old man,
half in jest. "1 don't know ," the old man said. "1 don't read the
papers. I don't have to worry about who wins the battles because I
already know who has won the war. " We have hope this morning, not in
the Temples that our world places their trust in, but in the God who is
the master of the future. We know in the midst of present battles in our
struggle , who shall finally win the war.
Can we truly entrust our lives and future to this God who is
un-trustable, unbreakable, unbendable and completely dependable? How do
we know that God won't begin to get wrinkles like us? Begin to peel? Or
rust out on us? How do we know that God won't go flat, dry up, blow up,
or disappear on us like everything else that we've placed our trust in.
That's the risk we take. We must first dare to entrust our lives
completely to him, and then we'll make the delightful discovery that God
can truly be trusted. I've made that discovery . Many of us sitting here
this morning have too. Just let God move into the driver's seat and
discover the joy of trusting in someone who will be with you forever. So
do yourself a favor this week. Every time you pullout your pocket change
take a moment to read those words under George's chin, over Abe's head,
and staring Jefferson in the face. Read those words carefully,
thoughtfully--in God I trust. Just do it. Amen.