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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 Temple.

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 is in.

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.