Sermon for the Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Trinity Season - Mark 13:1-8
I ask you, what temple have you built? What stones have you hewn from the rock to construct some monument to whatever? God? Church? Self? Something? Anything? I ask because I know, since I do it all the time. Crafting my own savior, with a small “s”. A little deity to take the place of Jesus. Usually, myself. As a pastor, I get sucked into the realm of thought that I am supposed to make everything better for everyone.
I have seen another temple we have built in the past week or so. This idol goes by the name of politics. The next election. The right guy or gal to be put in office because we know better now. We’ll get it right this time. Everything will work out fine and we will usher in a new age. Only to have that deity crumble under the weight of high expectations and so we build another one. In two years, new election. New work to be done on constructing a new savior. New reality. New utopia. New future. Never learning from past mistakes, never thinking that we are actually insane, and trusting in anything and everything other than God for our goodness and salvation.
Or maybe it is family or dare I say the church. Some other organization. Placing our trust there. Loyalty there. Expecting all goodness to come from there. Even a church. My church. Holding fast to traditions, nostalgia, hopes and past glories, thinking those times will return because church or life was so much better back then.
Imagine the disciples now. Walking out of the temple, Christ having cleansed it of it’s market-places, having prayed and taught. They look up and see this immense structure. It would have been huge. The entrance of Herod’s temple judged at over 100 ft high and 40 ft across. Massive stones as big as a man. It would have looked like an impregnable fortress. Built to capitulate the Jewish populace but with plenty of Roman flair, this place must have seemed indestructible. The same Temple you can go and touch in Jerusalem today. The Western Wall remains of it. A place of pilgrimage for Jews everywhere.
The disciples must have thought. This is awesome. Awe-inspiring. Turning to Jesus, “Look what we built Jesus. What a great job we did here building this temple to God.” This will stand forever. This thing we made. No one can stop us now.
Only to have Jesus burst their bubble, “Yeah. All these buildings. They’re toast. Not one stone will remain.”
This already happened once. Back at the height of the exile. Hebrews sent to the four corners of the world. Carried off to Assyria and to Babylon. Always hoping that they would return to the temple, to Jerusalem. The Promised Land. The City of David. Only to have those hopes crushed as God removed his glory from that place and let Babylon crush the once great city.
Now Christ tells them, “This will happen again.” But in a different way. A tearing down of all the things that take the place of Jesus. A removal of all the stuff we pile up as something holy or god-like, Christ says – that will be gone.
“Do not be deceived,” he says. “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he.’ And they will deceive many.” Many false-Christ’s will come. Many things we think to be our salvation, our god, our savior. These large buildings we build. These huge edifices of virtue, or tradition, or religion, or politics, or sports, or family, or kids, or career, or money. All of it will be torn down, Jesus says. It will be gone. Nothing will be able to get in the way of Christ being Christ. Of God being your God. Of Jesus fulfilling his work of saving us from our sins, not because of them. Saving us from all the falsehoods we allow to take the place of Christ. All the places we try to find our identity or value, Christ comes to knock those down and to give himself to you. The true Temple. The one not made with hands and containing the fullness of the glory of God. He being the presence of God with you. In the cross. In the tomb. On the road. In church. At home. At work. Jesus being your Jesus, your Christ, regardless of any attempt you try to make at replacing him. Trying to remove the nails from his hands, the cross from his back – all for naught. The Crucified Christ is Jesus for you. No temple building, no church building, no politician or party, no career or family or lack thereof. Jesus being who he is for you because no other could do what he does. A job can’t forgive your sins. A politician can’t raise you from the dead. A church building crumbles and falls, but Christ remains forever.
Notice how he says that wars and rumors of wars will come. Famine, earthquake, nation fighting nation. All horrible conflicts and disturbances that wish to keep us from our Jesus. Keep us from believing that he is the one who has come for our redemption. These tangible things, disasters, causing us to fear and to place our trust in the first person who tells us they will save us or stop the disaster from coming. Only to fail and we turn to someone else.
Jesus here telling us that hardship and pain will come, but don’t seek that other Christ. That other Messiah. For no other Messiah exists. No other Savior but Jesus. Telling us that all this pain and hardship and suffering is just the beginning of the birth pains. But I ask you, what comes with birth pains? New life. A birth. For us? Resurrection. New life in Christ. The tearing down of every other vestige of a deity known to man in order to make God the one and only in Jesus.
Imagine Christ here as the little brother who watches the older siblings build a tower of Legos only to have the little brother play Godzilla and smash it to pieces. Biding his time. The right moment. Rawr! Boom! Crash!! Legos everywhere. Down goes the tower. Down goes the idol. Now all the attention is on that little brother.
Christ coming to you to knock down your tower, so you fix your eyes on him, and to pray with the Psalmist – I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord. I have nothing good besides you.” Thanks be to God. Amen.