The Sunday Sermon: November 13, 2016 – God is still God…
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I woke up Wednesday morning after a late Tuesday night watching the election returns to discover in my Facebook News Feed half of my friends in a state of great anxiety that the end of the world was near and the other half in joyful jubilation as though the Parousia, that is Jesus’ return, had occurred.
I was grateful for two things. One, that my news feed was 50/50 on the matter. It tells me I have the right balance of people in my life. And secondly, something I was confident would be the case long before and regardless of the outcome of the election process: As my friend Father Griswold-Kuhn is wont to say, “God is still God, and Jesus and still on the throne.”
There’s an irony, of course, that today’s Gospel Lesson is taken from the passage which introduces what biblical scholars might call the section of apocalyptic teachings of Jesus. That’s a fancy way of saying that for the rest of the 21st chapter, Luke put together the things which Jesus had to say about the end of this world as we know it and the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Our little section this morning focuses on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And it is important that we note how very important the temple was to the life of the Jewish people.
Way back in the Book of Exodus, after God had brought his people out into the Desert, to the foot of Mount Sinai, he gave them directions on how to build the Tabernacle. The details of how it was to be built were very specific: the dimensions were given, the type of fabrics which were to be used. How its furnishings were to be built.
First, in this tabernacle, and then finally, during the reign of Solomon, when the first permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem, God and his People would meet. The temple was the place where God and his people were to meet. It was literally the place where heaven and earth met. And here, Jesus tells his audience, that some day, and someday soon, this temple, adorned with glimmering gold and built of massive stones would be reduced to a pile of rubble.
Can you imagine how you might have felt about that if you were hearing Jesus say that? How might you react?
First, you might laugh. The destruction of the Temple would take a huge cataclysmic event. The act of moving those stones would require so much force, so much energy, that the very thought of it would seem preposterous. Like many, you may think he was out of his mind to suggest something so ridiculous.
But what if you did believe that what he was saying was possible? What would that mean for your Jewish Faith? What would it mean that there would be no more temple at which to come and worship?
Spoiler alert. In the year 66 AD. About 33 years after our Lord’s death and Resurrection, there was a rebellion in Judea. The Emperor Nero sent an army to restore order. In the year 70, after seiging the city of Jerusalem, the Roman army captured the city and burned the Temple to the ground. All that remains of the structure is the retaining wall that held up the soil on which the temple was built. We call that the wailing wall or the western wall.
But that was 30 years down the road. What would it mean to the Jews of Jesus’ time? To put it in perspective, it wouldn’t be like tearing down this church. If this church were torn down tomorrow, we’d still be the Church of the Holy Cross. I’m not sure there’s a straight analogy. Perhaps it would be like taking away the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Those two rituals are so central to our life a Christians, that every Christian denomination has them. If we were to no longer have those in our religion, the very fabric and nature of Christianity would change, instantly.
For us, the tearing down of this beautiful building built by our ancestors in the faith, while tragic and while sad, would not change one tiny iota of the practice of our faith. We’d still gather and we’d still be the Church of the Holy Cross.
Why? Because the core fabric of our faith is not found in buildings made of stone and covered in gold. It’s not in beautiful ceremonies, or silver chalices. The very essence of our faith, as holy scripture tells us is the Word of God, with a capital W. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That word, is our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so long as we cling to that truth, so long as we cling to that cross, nothing shall be able to shake us.
In short, God is still God, and Jesus is still on the throne, sometimes despite our best efforts to displace him. And the temple in which he wishes to dwell is not one made of stone and gold, but of flesh. The temple where he wishes now to come and tabernacle, to dwell, is in our hearts.
The rest of our Gospel this morning, frankly, its pretty scary, if you really pay attention to what our Lord said was coming. Wars and rumors of wars. Betrayals. Persecutions. Even for some, death. Things, he says are going to get worse before they get better, but in a real way isn’t that always the case?
Despite all that may happen. Despite all that we may face, we are called to embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which he has given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.
This is our hope, this is our calling. And for that we give thanks to our God, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen