The struggle of trust

A person has to be discerning. A person has to sift through all the information, conflicting reports, and opinions that are foisted upon us -- news, social media.

Mark 13: 1-8 click for reading


When out and about in the big city, you might come out from a great edifice and marvel at the architecture all around. What elaborate buildings and creative construction methods with modern materials of glass and steel that reflect the sky-scape. “Look, Teacher (Rabbi), what large stones and what large buildings!”


And then if you heard a response such as “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down,” it might get you thinking. What possibly could this mean and where did that comment come from?


And so if you went over to a park across from the great building and sat down, you might have running through your mind what all this meant. What does he mean? There are already fires raging that are wreaking havoc on communities as reported almost hourly in the news. You hear of earthquakes and tsunamis often. Wars are being waged every day. Famine holds nations of people in its grasp. You hear politicians speaking and you wonder what is the truth anymore. Some of them even invoke the name of the Rabbi himself or they most certainly allude to him. So no doubt the words of the Rabbi would be bouncing around in your mind and you might well ask – if you could – what he meant by his prediction.


“ ‘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.’ ”


It seems to me that we face struggles in our world and in our life in the world. If you think about it, there’s always a struggle of good over evil. It certainly seems that way. There’s a struggle between light and darkness. Philosophers, since the earliest of times, have expounded on these classic problems. Writers and dramatists have used the plot of good over evil, light over darkness as the framework of great stories from the time of Greek myths to the days of Star Wars. It all touches a chord deep within the human heart.


We do know about struggles. At times they may even feel like birth-pangs or what some of us would imagine birth-pangs to be.


There is also, it seems to me, a struggle between trust and distrust. “Many will be there to lead you astray.” What do you trust? Who do you trust? When it turns out who you trusted does not speak truth or what you trusted is no longer true, what do you do with trust? It is a struggle, it seems to me. And I think Jesus knew that.

A person of faith, a person with an outlook of faith sees, in the midst of all the evil and darkness in the world, more good than evil, more light than darkness. Having that perspective is a venture of faith. The darkness does not overshadow the light nor does evil overpower good.

This is a statement of faith. It is not naïve.

It’s similar, it seems to me, with trust and distrust.


These days a person has to be wary. A person has to be discerning. A person has to sift through all the information, conflicting reports, and opinions that are foisted upon us -- news, social media.


In some parts of the world, it is only a cell phone that allows a person to have any connection with the wider world. Do you trust what a recognized journalist or commentator says in the report from a global network such as the BBC or are his (or her) words being twisted on the screen through artificial intelligence? If altered, the impact is significant in the process of leading masses of people astray especially during certain moments that could be crucial.


You and I need to be discerning. We need to have a mind of our own to ponder and assess. This also is a responsibility of faith. Do you become paranoid and distrust everything and everyone? That would be letting evil overpower good and darkness overcome light.


There is a struggle of trust versus distrust in our world these days. Perhaps it has always been so and that’s what Jesus knew and that’s what he was warning his disciples about. There are things that can lead you off the path. There are people who can lead you off the path. Beware. Be discerning. Think.


These are but signs of the struggles of faith.


And in the midst of those struggles, there is Good News. The Good News is that love helps break down barriers. Forgiveness helps overcome estrangement. Compassion helps heal brokenness. And that’s not being naïve nor falling prey to idealism. It is all tempered by discernment: perceiving the way things actually are and figuring out how to bring the Good News into action. Taking Jesus’ over all teachings into account, I think that’s the message in this Gospel passage.


There’s much about which to be wary. It is wise to be vigilant and discerning. “Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves,” Jesus says on another occasion.


Over all, your outlook is one of faith. You see the world through the eyes of faith. The struggle and the challenge is to discern how to bring that sense of faith into action in ones own life and, from there, how to bring it into the world. In this, there is a call to accountability for those who lead others off the path but it’s love, forgiveness, and compassion that bring healing and wholeness.


This is the response for a person of faith in the midst of the birth-pangs of the kingdom.


Do not be alarmed. Have faith.

A  prayer

O Lord, help us to see through the eyes of faith. Help us to recognize what is really going on. Help us to be discerning. Enable us in our own ways to speak truth to power – for the homeless, for those oppressed, for those who suffer. Help us to speak in ways that offer healing in the midst of brokenness. Help us to have courage and to persist in these challenges. And help us to hold fast to a sense of realistic and discerning trust that empowers us to practise love, forgiveness and compassion in your world. Let us each take steps always in the direction of the Good News and toward what you teach us, as best we are able, each in our own way, through your Grace. Amen

Homily- 26th Sunday after Pentecost (c) 2018 The Rev'd W Glenn Empey


  1. Doug Woods on 16 December 2018 at 2:40 PM

    Isn’t it funny! We see both extremes daily: some who trust too easily—just look at what goes onto some people’s Facebook pages!—and some who NEVER trust—not every stranger is a serial killer!

    We live in an age of higher education, and more people than ever are getting university degrees. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t get a university degree so that you can get a job. A university degree is to train you in CRITICAL REASONING—to help you answer the question “Is it likely true?” For many of life’s common situations, critical reasoning will go a long way for you.

    But critical reasoning doesn’t work in today’s gospel reading; faith does. Faith is a matter of heart, and it helps us to know when the head can’t.

    • Father Glenn on 16 December 2018 at 3:13 PM

      Very astute observations, Doug!

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