Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breaking Down Our Temples

Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Temple.
Some people, Luke doesn’t tell us who they are, start talking about what a great mighty thing this temple is.
I have seen only recreated pictures of this temple, because it no longer exists, it was destroyed by the Romans before Luke would start writing his Gospel.
But it was magnificent.
Built by Herod the great it was huge and ornate.
It was a marvel.
If it still existed today I think we would still say what a magnificent building it was.
And the people thought it was a testament to God’s power and might.
It was a testament to religion and how it made us feel safe and secure.
And here is Jesus tearing it down.
Here he is saying that the temple wasn’t that great, saying that it wouldn’t last forever.
It must have been a shock to the people.
No one could have imagined that this strong, fortified, beautiful structure would ever fall.

One of the tricks to preaching is to find connections to the world of the text and us here this morning.
It would seem that we wouldn’t really have any connection to a structure that was destroyed a long time ago.
We have all moved on from that temple.
But I was thinking this week about the structures we build up to protect ourselves, walls we build to remain safe and secure.

We build up all kinds of defenses don’t we?
Sometimes out of mere survival.
We know that things are uncertain, but we don’t want to face those things so we create things that are there to protect us.
We might build up lots of money in a bank account and believe that will keep us safe and secure.
We might build the “perfect family” and think that will help us get through life.
We might create a church with rituals and traditions that make us feel that the world around us doesn’t change.
We might create a fake outside facade of toughness or beauty so that people cannot see what lies beneath.
 Whatever it is we all build walls that are there to keep people out, to make sure that no one knows what is lurking inside of us.
But we also do it to make sure that life is secure.

And then well here comes Jesus to unsettle us this morning, and Jesus starts to talk about the uncertainty of everything.
You think that this temple is great and grand, a monument to God, well that will go away too.
And not only that we won’t know when it will all fall down.
We won’t know when the walls will fall.

That is our experience sometimes isn’t it.
We just don’t know when the next thing will hit.
We don’t know when there will be calamity.
When will our family betray us?
When will we lose all our money?
When will we suddenly find out that we, or someone we love, has an illness that will take their life?
We don’t know when the next war will be or when the next natural disaster will strike?
We don’t know when the structures will fail, when the walls will fall and we are left without our defenses.

Perhaps during these times we look for saviors.
We look for people that have answers, because life seems too uncertain.
We look for someone to make sense out of the chaos.
And that is why Jesus tells us not to follow the people who tell us that they can fix everything or they have some great answer.

Our Gospel for this morning is about the end of all things the time when this world will be transformed into God’s world.
Lots of times we here in these messages warnings about getting our life in order, or behaving for when God returns.
But I don’t here that in Jesus message.
What I hear is a call to have faith during such times.
Not faith in leaders or our own schemes to keep things from falling apart, not in the structures we have built to feel secure, but faith in God.

Jesus tells the crowd; don’t worry when these fall apart.
Don’t prepare for that day with words of defense.
Don’t prepare your testimony, instead live for today.
Live in faith today.
Put down your defenses, tear down your walls, and be present fully today for the world and those around you.

I was watching something this week, I think it was the American Experience documentary about JFK, and someone said that people are more motivated by negative emotions than positive.
So politicians and preachers pry on our fears in order to motivate us to do things.
Sometimes religion has used the negative side to motivate us.
Our fears have been used against us, and we have been told that this thing or that thing is to blame for why life is the way it is.
The Christian message has been portrayed as you better believe the right thing or you will fall into the pits of hell.

I think that Jesus message is much different than this.
Jesus tells us that we cannot build a wall that keeps us safe.
That our behavior however good will not save us.
Jesus tells us that we cannot construct a way to keep away the evil of the world, the unpredictability of it all.
All that is left is to have faith in God.
What is left is not a negative but a positive.
We can live each day in faith.
We can wake up each morning and ask God to be with us as we go out into what is an unpredictable world.
I know that many of you have had these moments when everything just seems to be coming apart.
That it seems that all you have built your life on was a lie, or wasn’t good enough.
Moments when it just seems like the sky is falling, that things are out of place, that we have lost our balance.
I have had some of those moments too.

The day I found out that my Dad died was one of those moments for me.
It was a normal day.
I was getting ready to go on a field trip with the kids from our Congregations summer camp.
I was on the bus taking attendance.
I was living my life, doing what I would normally do.
And then I got a phone call that just made it seem like the world was ending.
In some ways it was for me.
That is the way things happen out of the blue.
There is no warning.
And there is no protection against it.
There is no defense, because the walls are coming down.

Jesus tells us this morning that this is life filled with wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, betrayal of family, death and destruction.
But that we should not prepare our defenses in advance.
Instead we should live in faith.
We should have faith that Jesus will come to us in those times.
Jesus will give us the “words and wisdom” to stand and witness.

So as we go back into our lives.
We go without a defense, but instead with God, and in God we know we will have the endurance to withstand all these things and witness to God’s saving power.

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