For those of us who read scripture in liturgical cycles, this happens every year. We get close to Advent and the beginning of all things and we are faced with stories and metaphors of death and destruction. For those of us who relish in the change of seasons and the love of winter, we all share the joy in this simple message. Before there is new life, some things must die.
Back in October, when I was reading ahead and saw the story for today. It was before the RUCC vote as a congregation to engage in this process. We were moving, but hadn’t decided as a whole congregation to figure out how to be one family of faith together. I mentioned to Kathy that, if our vote goes well and we have support, I think we should join on this Sunday with this scripture. We should come on Thanksgiving Sunday with grateful hearts and be held in the promise that all talks of change and dying are but the beginnings of new life.
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 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.
It feels like Jesus is on a platform with the disciples and has told them to jump. Every few minutes a rope comes around. Jesus says that the foundation they are on is going to be destroyed, here comes another rope. Remember, we can’t last forever doing the same thing, here comes another rope. We have to adapt and change, nothing lasts forever here comes another rope.
During the Industrial Revolution with women earning the right to vote and coming off the heals of a World War, the church was on a similar platform. These rural churches were becoming urbanized. More and more diversity was moving to our communities. Here comes another rope. After a Great Depression, another World War, a nuclear reality and a New Deal, everyone new that new Spirit was blowing the foundation of the church was shaking. And the Spirit moved and another rope.
A vision was cast. We are stronger together than we are apart. Keep your hearts bent toward unity. Keep sharing ministry and mission and future. In 1957, after a whole lot of destruction, the United Church of Christ was born. In this face of a reality of shifting realities and changes in our lives and seismic changes in the lives of our children and grandchildren, we ask this morning, is it time? Here comes a rope. Will the death of what we know bring about a birth we have been longing for?
Herod the Great is also known as ‘Herod the Great Builder.’ He was famous for his cruelty, and he was also famous for building fantastic buildings. He was a small time king, (a client king) and he was also Jewish, so he was always trying to curry favor with the Roman Kings and Governors. He built the city of Caesaria, and named it after Caesar. He built amphitheaters and pagan temples, and he is most famous for building the Temple in Jerusalem, which was begun in 19 BCE.
It was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Josephus, a Jewish historian at the time, wrote that he used so much gold in decorating the outside of the temple, that it almost blinded people when the sun was shining. It was twice as big as the Roman Forum. One of the stones in the Western Wall, one that you can still see is 40 feet in length.
No wonder the disciples said, “Look, what huge stones, and what a huge building!” It was unimaginable that this building could ever be destroyed. It was the most enormous building they had ever seen, and more importantly, it is where a person went to experience God. It was where God lived. They believed God would never let it be destroyed.
But it was destroyed. In the year 70, right around the time Mark’s Gospel was written, the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. It was one of the pivotal moments in the Jewish faith. Previously, much of Judaism centered around the Sadducees offering sacrifices in the temple. The Pharisees were more for talking, figuring out how to apply the 613 laws to different situations in their own time. The laws had been written centuries before, and the Pharisees wanted to adapt them to the current time. They built synagogues for prayer and study. After the destruction of the Temple, and the fall of Jerusalem itself, the Pharisees with their emphasis on study in the synagogues kept the faith alive. It was something no one could have predicted. New life came out of a crisis no one wanted to have.
It’s almost as if the walls that were meant to shelter and protect something, needed to come down. They were standing in the way of new, renewed life.
It reminds me of the Berlin wall. That was erected to keep East Germans from running to West Germany. East German officials said it was to protect them from the evils of capitalism, but in 1989, it was demolished.
Trump has been threatening to build a wall in the South, to protect America against immigrants from Mexico and Central America. A wall to keep people out, rather than one to keep us in.
In years past, it seems as if there has been something of an invisible wall between Parkway and Robbinsdale. Although we have occasionally shared events, we have still thought of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ This is a new day. The walls are down!
We are all intentionally trying to eliminate any invisible walls in our thinking. We are them. They are Us. There is no more us and them. We are destroying the walls. We can all help.
Grab a sledgehammer! When you hear someone fall back into this two-sided thinking, smash it! A gentle reminder, that now we are all Us. We can look out for our common good, the good of the whole. We are stronger together than apart. We are a more cohesive union composed of diverse people than when we are just Parkway or just Robbinsdale.
Something is being destroyed, and something new is just around the corner. As Jesus said, “This is the beginning of the birthpangs.” Something new is being born.