Hebrews 10:11-2511And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16“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,” 17he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let 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. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Mark 13:1-813As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For 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 birthpangs. **************************************** "This is but the beginning of the birth pangs..." Yikes! The temple being torn down! What a passage in the middle of a stewardship campaign!
Last week we witnessed Jesus in the temple... people watching, lamenting, as a poor widow dropped all she had into a coin box- hoping against hope that the institution she believed in was worth investing in. Now that makes for a good stewardship sermon. But this one? And don't you feel a little bit bad for the poor disciple who pointed out how big and beautiful the stones were? 'WOW! Look at these stones!' He is dazzled by the the shear magnitude of the structure, pretty darned impressive, as Tammy described. Did you know that it's said that there was so much gold on the outside, that if you looking at it in the sun was blinding! But remember too, what the temple represented to the Jews. The temple was more than just the institution worth saving- it was God's home. The temple represented a permanency and a security in God to an occupied and colonized people. To the Jews, the temple was their most sacred place. So the awe factor is not just about size and structure here. The disciple is pointing Jesus to the permanency their faith.
Jesus responds sharply- "Do you see these stones?" Now, obviously he did, but apparently Jesus and the disciple are seeing two different things. Jesus adds, "not one stone will be left on another, the whole things will turn to rubble." Ouch! That's harsh, Jesus! This is the disciple's holy place, the symbol built to be seen all over Jerusalem to scream, 'nothing can shake our faith!'- it's about as good as it gets for the disciple- why answer him like that? Where's the Jesus of compassion and kindness? (Hang on- he's there, just wait for it)
To the disciples witnessing this conversation, the news had to be devastating- and frankly, had I been one of the 12 who had given up everything I had to follow Jesus, hearing those words of Jesus might have caused me to question what I'm doing with such a man. Does Jesus mean to say that the the symbols and center of our faith mean nothing? That he is out to destroy the foundations of what we believe?
Quite the contrary. The disciple perhaps needed a reminder that though the symbols of our faith are important, they are not in fact, the center of our faith. That the biggest, most permanent thing you can think of that symbolizes 'God" to you, is not in fact, God, at all. We sit in this beautiful room every week to worship, but if this place is just a symbol of our faith- if we woke up tomorrow and it was turned to rubble, we would still be first baptist church. The building is wonderful, even awe inspiring, a holy place and place of security, but it is in the end, just a place to gather. (As I said, not the best stewardship sermon).
But the building isn't the only thing in my life that makes me say "WOW!" and reeks of permanency. There are many parts of my life that have lured me into thinking that they (and I) will be around forever- or are indestructible- There are parts of my life that demand so much of my attention that I see them from 'all over Jerusalem'- so big and bright that if I dare to look at them too long they threaten to strike me blind. We can look to the headlines, fires in California, another shooting, politics, environmental issues, justice issues, racism, gender and women's issues, health care, economy, the list is endless- and some of these 'temples' that demand our attention are so formidable they can not just distract us, but cause us to feel powerless next to them- "Wow- Look at these stones!"
And they don't really have to be huge disastrous events do they? For some of us, our life situations can be just as daunting and attention consuming- even the good things in our lives can become temples that take our focus from the source, from God- our families, friends, our finances, our jobs, our hobbies, our addictions (our passions) we can slip into those temples and not come out for weeks! Look at these stones!
And I'll tell you from my perspective, that at that moment, is sometimes takes a sharp response from Jesus, standing next to me (praise God) knocking me back to my senses- do you see these stones- calling me to look deeper. It takes Jesus to remind us that though they may seem consuming, and permanent, these are things and situations that are temporary, as all things are. The temples of our lives are no match for God's power. Do you see these stones?
Now if you are having trouble getting this, you're not alone. The disciples didn't understand it either, and so when they are hanging around later at the Mount of Olives, they approach Jesus- and ask- when will these things happen? And Jesus begins to speak in what scholars call, apocalyptic language- about "the end times" but what we miss about the word apocalypse, is that it means to be revealed. So Jesus tells them what it will look like- not in a chronological order, or as a timeline, but so they can know how to act during the time of revelation- when the false things of the world, or our lives, get stripped away, and the truth and power of God are "revealed." He says many will come in my name, and in our english translation it says"many will come in my name and say, I am He- be careful not to be led astray." And that makes sense to us- there is no other Jesus but the Christ- but looking deeper, as Jesus calls us to do- in the greek this sentence just says "Many will come in my name saying I AM- the name of God. Many will come in the name of Jesus and telling us look- that's God- look over there- that's God- look at these stones! But do not be led into thinking that these things, these stones are worth all of your time, attention, devotion and energy. They are not God. God is God. So do not be afraid. God is bringing about a new thing- and God will stop at nothing to get what God wants- and to reveal who God is.
“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” Khalil Gibran writes.