23 Pentecost, Proper 28 – November 13, 2022
So, this morning we hear that “some were speaking about the temple”. Now, the temple, in Jerusalem, was beautiful. It had recently been refurbished by Herod the Great. And apparently, the work had been done very well. The rebuilding project had taken eighty years to complete and included new foundation walls through which Herod had significantly enlarged the temple. It was huge.
Sparing no expense, he had employed the most talented artisans to use the best materials for the project such as white marble that was up to sixty-seven feet long, twelve feet high and twelve feet wide. Blue, scarlet, and purple Babylonian tapestries made of fine linen formed a veil at the entrance.1 He had installed gold and silver-plated gates and gold-plated doors throughout.
It was truly magnificent. It was the center of the City, the heart of Jerusalem.
And then, according to Luke, Jesus was standing in one of the courtyards watching the people come and go. He overheard those people marveling at the beauty of the Temple. He turned to them and said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down.”
You might imagine their shock, because the Temple was huge. It was massive. These words of Jesus must have sounded strange, even horrible, to those who heard them. The temple appeared so secure. It was a place unlike any other so far as the Jews were concerned. To speak of its destruction while walking its precincts must have been like having somebody stand up at a VFW meeting and announce that flag burning was the wave of the future. Because the temple was not simply a place, even a holy place. It was a way of life, an ideology, to which captive and oppressed people held tight.
So, the disciples point out the beauty of the temple, the seat of power in which they have trusted. As long as the temple stands strong, their hope can be strong. Jesus reminds them that even the most solid elements of our lives will one day fall, will be broken, cracked and ruined. Thinking only of the physical building before them, they ask him when this will happen.
Well, Jesus seems not interested in dates and times; he is interested only in them. Jesus is interested in us. “Beware that you are not led astray,” he says. “Many will come who distract you. Do not follow them. You will hear and see terrifying things, but don’t be terrified. Much devastation lies ahead—wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues. You will be brought up on charges, handed over and persecuted. So many opportunities you will be given to discover in whom you trust, to learn what can be ultimately depended upon, to remember whose you are. To remember whose you are.
As you know, the temple was indeed destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., and neither Judaism nor Christianity was destroyed. Through the Spirit and power of God, Christianity continues to live and grow in new forms and places. Our task, as a church, is to ask for discernment about what God wants us to do and then follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to get it done.
We are near the end of our church season of Pentecost and will be entering into the season of Advent. The scripture is already taking on an apocalyptic tone. An “apocalypse” is an unveiling. A disclosure of something secret and hidden. To experience an apocalypse is to experience fresh sight. Honest disclosure. Accurate revelation. It is to apprehend reality as we’ve never apprehended it before.
That’s what Jesus is giving us today, new sight. New vision. Jesus clearly sees something different than the disciples do when looking at the temple. Jesus begins his teaching today by saying “as for these things that you see”… they were so focused on the grandeur of the temple, seeing only the building, trusting the architecture. Jesus is asking us to see, really see, what isn’t clear and obvious to the world’s eye. Jesus asks us to see, the foundation of the world that is built on faith, on God, on Jesus Christ.
If you focus only on the damaging, the destructive, the hurtful, you just might miss what is affirming, constructive, and encouraging. There is a lot that’s good about this world.
What you see determines what you have chosen to see. This is not an intentional optimism or a glass half full kind of philosophy. It is the true claim of the true hope we have in God — our God who is still present and powerful when it looks like the church is powerless in the face of all that seems to be working against the Kingdom of God.
As Leonard Cohen has said, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” We are called to be the light. The light of Christ in a hurting world.
Jesus begins with: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus ends with, “By your endurance you will gain your souls”.
What things will we see? In our churches? In our nation? In our world? In one another? Because what we see is to what we can testify — to what we will give witness.
Our testimony, our witness, gives voice to what Jesus sees, to whom God sees. God needs us to be the eyes of the Gospel when the world and those who have the loudest voices in it, seem only to see the temples and towers and how they are adorned with beautiful stones.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” So…hold on. Don’t panic. God alone is worthy of hope. The pain of our world is beyond our understanding. This does not mean it is beyond God’s. Be the change you want to see in the world, be the light of Christ in the world….shining through the cracks. Do it with love.
Those who’ve experienced the hardships of life have a witness of faith to share that’s able to weather any storm. Endurance is the key – hanging in there when your world seems to be falling apart – trusting God to give you the strength to persevere and, not only persevere, but prevail – believing with every confidence that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes.” (Rom. 8:28)
Jesus Christ came into the world to save us all. We are all God’s beloved children. God loves us with an everlasting love – his love endures. Amen. _________
1 Darrell Bock, Luke: Volume 2, 9:51-24:53, (Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Academic, 1996), 1661-1665.