Text: Mark 13:1-8
“As he was leaving the Temple one of his disciples said to him, ‘Master, look at the size of those stones! Look at the size of those buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be pulled down.’”
May the words of mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
When I was a little girl I would occasionally have what my father referred to as “daddy dates.” He, my twin sister and myself would do something together. My father was a salesman with a large territory to cover and he was often away, so Donna and I lived for this time with him.
One time daddy took us out to lunch and then to a park with a large lake and my sister and I rowed him around the lake. Donna and I sat together in the middle and she held one oar and I held the other and daddy was in the bow. The only problem was that we dropped both oars into the water and then we just had to sit there and drift along until someone came in another boat and was able to throw us a tow line and get us back to shore.
I remember the first time I went into New York City with my father. It was quite the adventure. Daddy took Donna and me into New York City to see Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus! We not only got to take a train into Hoboken, but we also got to take a tube from Hoboken to Thirty-third Street and then we walked to Madison Square Garden.
I remember coming up from the underground Path Station on 33rd street and being awed as well as scared and excited all at the same time. I had never seen such bustle and busyness. I had never seen so many people and such tall buildings. I held onto my father’s hand for dear life, because I just knew if we ever got separated I would never find him again. I didn’t know what could or would happen to me, but I knew in my heart of hearts that whatever that was, it wasn’t going to be good.
And then we got into Madison Square Garden. There were tigers, and lions, and elephants! There was cotton candy and midgets on bikes. And I never have figured out how they got all those clowns into one little car! I thought I was in another world! Imagine the awe and the excitement!
Now imagine yourself two thousand years ago. You are one the disciples that goes to Jerusalem with Jesus. You are just a country kid who lives by a lake and who helps your father in the family fishing business. Perhaps you have never left your home town of Galilee.
Imagine walking into Jerusalem and seeing the Temple for the first time. You would have seen it from afar because it was perched on a hill and gleamed in the sunshine. And it was massive-900 feet wide and 1500 feet long and over 150 feet high. The foundation was made of white stone and the walls were covered in so much gold and silver that when the sun shone on it, it was said to blind anyone who looked at it. It was the engineering marvel of its day and was thought to be indestructible.
Imagine your awe, your excitement at seeing something so immense and so amazing.
“Look, Jesus! What huge stones! What amazing buildings!” And then imagine your shock when Jesus says to you, “You think these buildings are so great? Not one stone will be left on top of another. All of this is going to come tumbling down.”
Forty years later, in the year 70 AD, Jesus’ prediction would come true. The Roman army, quelling a Jewish uprising, would destroy the Temple and the massive stones would lie in ruins.
In this reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem where in just a few days’ time he will be tried, sentenced and condemned to death.
What Jesus is trying to tell the disciples and to tell us, is that all things will come to an end. The grandest human plans, the most impressive human efforts will not last, whether they are religious or secular in nature. Even those things built to glorify God will come to an end.
Herod knew he would die, but he thought his greatest legacy would be this indestructible Temple. The Romans thought their empire would transcend time and last forever yet that too would crumble.
We tend to put our trust and security in our institutions, our governments, our military might, our religion, our loved ones. Yet all of these things will fail us…every single one of them. Our institutions will let us down, our government will make mistakes and at times not be able protect us, our military will lose wars, our religion will disappoint us and our loved ones, being only human, will at times turn from us. There is no security in human built entities, whether those entities are structural, religious, or romantic.
Terrible things happen. Normal days are shattered by terrorist bombs, gun violence, car accidents and terminal illnesses. Things we thought we knew and could take for granted are up-ended and we are left reeling. That is the bad news.
But Jesus came to share God’s good news! Yes, terrible things happen, but so does grace. So does compassion. So does generosity. We cannot and should not put our faith or rely on security comes from another institution or human being. There is only one entity that deserves our faith, our attention, our praise and our worship and that is God.
God will never disappoint. God will never be destroyed. God will always be there, will always be what we need. Everything we know and love will pass away. But the good news is that God and God’s love for you and me and all of creation is everlasting. Is eternal. And is really all we could ever need.