Monday, November 19, 2007

Sermon Notes on Proper 28c

The first time I visited Washington DC, I remember the awe I felt at the grandeur of the city. The Capitol building, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial cast long shadows that embodied history and the greatness of this country for me. I couldn’t but feel pride in our nation, surrounded by those structures. Those structures were more that architectural feats. It seemed impossible to separate from democracy itself.

As I have matured, I have recognized my own proclivity toward romanticism. It has meant recognizing that a beautiful building is just that, and no matter the motivation of the ones that designed and built it, a building is not as important as living up to the principles a structure is intended to express. It is to easy too be swept away by the beauty of the Lincoln Memorial, and forget that for which Lincoln stood and stands. If you loose that connection, then the Memorial is just a tomb.

Jesus and his disciples perused the the Second Temple of Israel. The Twelve are quite properly awed by the scope and beauty of the place. It was not anything like the First Temple, but it still had a commanding presence. Jesus let them soak it all up for a few moments, and then he delivered the bad news. This Second Temple would not last. It would face the same fate of the First Temple. It would be destroyed, as much of the city of Jerusalem would be. Israel would be left with no site of religious focus. The question is what then?

Jesus warns them of the chaos that ensued in the year 70. He warns then of the false options that arose in that year. There were various figures and parties that came to the fore, claiming be have the answers, but none endured.

Jesus warns them that in the midst of all of this, they will be singled out and persecuted. All will seem lost, but it won’t be. Through, endurance and reliance upon the ongoing presence of the Spirit, all will be gained.

Some have heard these words of Jesus, and have extrapolated a curious interpretation, and have even set their hopes upon their interpretation. You see some have accepted the chaos and turmoil that Jesus spoke of as part of God’s plan. They have taken Jesus’ words, and developed a theology that looks ahead for the end of time. They want to interpret world events, as signs of the end, and they are even somewhat giddy about it.

This interpretation, I believe completely misses the point Jesus is making to his disciples. You see Jesus isn’t functioning as a fortune teller. The very Gospel we are reflecting upon was most likely written 10-20 years after the Temple was destroyed. This Gospel of Luke most likely represents its author remembering words of hope that Jesus offered them, during his ministry. Jesus wasn’t telling them an unforeseen plan of God. He was telling them that the conflicts they were experiencing, during their present, would escalate and that the Temple, the sign of God’s presence, could be destroyed as the previous Temple had. The assurance that he offers is that the Temple points to God’s presence, but is not the sole repository of God’s presence. He assure them that if that sign ceases, God will still be. While he is with them, Jesus is God’s presence. When he appears to be gone, they need not worry. Through the Spirit, Jesus will be with them.

The Good News is that Jesus message is just as much for us, as it was his first disciples. There is no shortage of chaos and turmoil in our world. Yet, Jesus words to us are the same. This is not God’s plan. Jesus promise is the same as well. We need not worry. Through the presence of the Spirit, Jesus is with us, and will give us what we need. Structures may crumble, nations may rise and fall, but as long as faith and endurance live, all will be gained.

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