Pentecost 25 Year B

Mark 13:1-8
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large
stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not
one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and
Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these
things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one
leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end
is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be
earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth
pangs.”

Sermon

Good to be back!
While Dan and I were travelling,
I realized that I’m pretty sick of COVID.
I’m sick of trying to function in the COVID universe,
where so many folks expect things to be the way they were,
but 1 of 4 jobs is unfilled,
and stuff we actually need – let alone stuff we merely want –
is either unavailable or is twice the price!

I checked the history books, and guess what?
This isn’t the 1 st time. Or the 2 nd or even the 3 rd .
Stuff happens!

Even without wars and famines 1 , suffering, hunger and loss,
are every day elements of the human condition.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus told his disciples,
“…nation will rise against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom;
there will be earthquakes … [and] there will be famines.”
“And that’s just the beginning!”, Jesus said.

Jesus knew that from the days of Adam there had been
“wars and rumors of wars”,
famines, and earthquakes and hurricanes.

Neither Peace Concerts nor “love-ins”,
nor rifles, nor bombs nor clever politicians,
can change what God has decreed.

Stuff happens.

Jesus said that “wars and rumors of wars”,

famines, and earthquakes and hurricanes,
was just the “beginning”.

If that’s just the beginning…. Oh Wow!
Does anyone remember the 1960’s play ,
“Stop the world! I want to get off !!” 2

In Mark’s Gospel the Greek word for “beginning”
can be used to describe a small critical part a big object,
like “… like the corners of a sail” 3 that becomes an
irresistibly force.

A small event. A little thing… that we hardly notice.
Which catches the turbulence of the moment,
and pulls so hard, that we almost – and sometimes do –
lose control.

We are all caught in these windy, crazy, turbulent times.
Now, surely, these times are not as turbulent and scary,
as many other eras have been,
but they are definitely more of a pain in the neck
then any of us want to deal with. 4

A tiny virus can pull us along, too, and really twist up our lives.
4.25 million Texans have suffered from COVID.
70,000 have died… almost 1/10 th of the nations’ total. 5

Viruses are tiny… but they are no small thing.
In past years I was very, very active in Rotary.
For decades a big push in my club, and in Rotary,
Was the world-wide fight against Polio.

Today, a long lifetime after the Polio vaccine was developed,
the Polio virus still kills and maims millions around the world.

Even in our rich Western world,
almost anyone over 65 can remember how Polio once
killed or maimed thousands of Americans every year.
I’ve known a few older folks who lived with a limp or disability,
from a childhood Polio infection.

Some of us remember news stories with photos of young folks
condemned to short, awkward lives,
trapped inside a huge steel tube that medical science
euphemistically called an “iron lung”.

The best way to beat the mighty Polio virus is little drops of vaccine.
We don’t think about Polio much these days.
We were all vaccinated as children.

And yet, all around the globe, 20 million disabled polio survivors,
struggle to get by 6 , while each day uncountable
thousands and thousands, are newly paralyzed or killed.

Today, for us, COVID is (as Polio once was) a daily reminder
that life is precious and that it can change (and does change)
in an instant.

In the face of the COVID battle, each of us is called to carry on,
To both seek and to offer, love, and friendship,
and shelter and safety.

In these tough days we are reminded that our loved ones will die,
that our great institutions can fail,
that people will disappoint us, and
even our most vital relationships will fracture.

Jesus knew, and anyone who has seen ancient ruins knows,
that one day both our great buildings,
and our social structures, will fall.

The social status and the things we lean on to give us an identity,
and to give our lives meaning and purpose,
will eventually crumble.

George Harrison was right, “All things must pass”.

Our cultural and technical social temples will be thrown down.
Probably not in our time. But some day.
“All things must pass”, Jesus seemed to say.

But not today. Not right now. Today, we just have to pass the test.
And to pass that test, we have work to do.

We’ve got a nation to rehabilitate.
We’ve got this church and these buildings to restore.
We’ve got empty pews to fill.

We’ve got Good News to share with a tired, sad and broken world.

Jesus still reigns.
Our lives really do have a purpose and a design.

In Jesus’ day, around 15 AD,
the great Second Jewish Temple, was built under King Herod,
with slave labor and the little people’s money.

While the Romans and the Jewish leaders,
were quite impressed with it, Jesus was underwhelmed. 7
On his first Temple visit, Jesus merely checked it out and left. 8
On time he overturned the moneychangers’ tables. 9
At yet another time he yelled at the Temple leaders. 10

And, in today’s reading, he tells everyone that the
brand new greatest Temple ever, will one day be destroyed. 11
Your system won’t last, he said. 12 Only God endures. 13

The Temple, in Jesus’ time, was not a place to find God. 14
Jesus knew that.
He knew that the Temple was a place to meet social standards,
To boost one’s social standing, and to help pay
for the extravagant lifestyles of the Temple glitterati.

Serving God and God’s Kingdom was
way, way down on the Temple leader’s list.

Lots of preachers today like to emphasize Jesus’ prediction of
dark times. And Jesus was sort of gloomy sometimes.

But the dark times weren’t Jesus main focus.
They ought not to be ours, today.
Jesus was about salvation, and building the Kingdom.

Jesus was focused on being aware.

Jesus asked his people then and he asks us now,
To be aware of what God’s calling us to do in the Kingdom.
“Beware”, Jesus said, “so that no one leads you astray”.

In these slightly dark and uncertain times,
beware of being misled and misdirected.

Beware of mistakenly concluding that your vocation is
to be focused on just one more big day,
or one more exciting big event,
or the pleasure of possessing just one more thing.

Beware, Jesus seemed to say,
of whatever takes your eye off God’s call to serve other people.

“God is up to something”, Jesus was saying,
“and it’s too big to explain.”
“I hardly get it myself.
But when I’m gone, keep your eyes open. Be aware!”

God really is up to something.
God is always up to something!
These tough days are God’s way of reminding us that
We are called to look after others, and not just ourselves.

God really is up to something. Right here, Right now.
What is God calling us to do?

Lets’ listen to what God is saying, and
then let’s join hands, and get to work.

Amen

 

 

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