25th Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2012
Mark 13: 1-8
Imagine with me: you are sitting across the street with Jesus, pointing out to him the nice paint job we did on this church two years ago. You tell him all about the renovation we are so proud of, the patio that came with the building of the gathering area. It’s such a beautiful entryway. You really want Jesus to congratulate you on how lovely and lasting this ministry is now.
But Jesus says, “Gee, too bad it’s all just going to be lost in the Zombie Apocalypse.”
Well, something like that. You’d be shocked. It seems so permanent. It cost so much money. It’s your church. You love it, and you want Jesus to love it, too. You want Jesus to be proud of your accomplishments for your church.
Peter and James and John are with you. They are looking at the Temple with Jesus, and it is a famously beautiful building. It seems so permanent. It cost so much money. What could possibly make a building like that be turned into rubble. They want to know, just like you, how would you know that such a thing is coming? What could it be?
We know from history that Peter and James and John will be caught up in the Roman Apocalypse. Their temple and their town will be under siege and people will experience enormous suffering. We know it happened. And it’s possible that Mark’s Gospel was written at a time when the followers of Jesus had survived the experience. So what is it that they are passing on to us in this reading that we need to know these thousands of years later?
Have their been predictors of the end of time in these years? Have there been predictors of the end of the world who have lead people astray?
And what about disasters: famines, earthquakes, giant storms and tsunamis? Oh yeah. Wars? Has there ever been a time in your lifetime when there wasn’t a war going on somewhere? People starving? Not mine.
What is it that Jesus wants Peter, James, and John to know, and that they want us to remember? The Psalmist nails it: “I have set the LORD always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. My heart, therefore rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope.”
“The LORD of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Says Psalm 46.
It’s just the birth of the new, says Jesus. Giving birth is the hardest work humans are called to do. It isn’t called labor for nothing. Labor is the end of one phase of growth, the quiet, in-the-dark formation of possibility into being ready to breathe and grow to manhood or womanhood. It is pain and joy at the same time, and bears a hope that is beyond anything we have hoped before.
My friends in recovery say that for every door that closes another one opens, but that standing in the hallway in the dark waiting for that door to open is painful. Could it be that we know just what that feels like? Maybe our church is not going to crumble anytime soon, but how about lives? What do you call it when you find out you have cancer? What do you call it when your father’s memory is quickly slipping away? What do you call it when you son dies in battle? What do you call it when you lose your job? What do you call it when the person you’ve built a life with says they don’t love you anymore? You are in pain. You are standing in the dark. Your world has changed forever. A door has closed and another has yet to open. You don’t know if you can really begin the life that now awaits you. Something is being born, but what? And can you bear it?
“You will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the pit. You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” So says the Psalmist.
And how do we know that what is being born is in God’s hands? How can we trust that God will not abandon us to the dark? We have this scripture, filled with stories of how God can make a way when there is now way. We have the story of God coming right into our human world in Jesus, living the life we live and dying the death of the deserted. And we have the knowledge that even death could not contain God. Jesus rose from the grave, putting to death forever anything that can keep us from being with God forever.
Jesus came for us, to walk this earth with us and to show us how much God loves us by how much he gave for us. Jesus is the first fruit of the new life that God began when Jesus rose. His resurrection is the birth of our new life. “I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus said to his followers, as he prepared to leave them and send his Spirit to be with them forever. And so we have the stories and we have his promise. The birth pangs of our new life are already done, and we are born into that promised new life. We are the bearers of the promise that God is here bringing new life day after day. We speak the truth that nothing that happens to us can separate us from God’s love and care. Everything we cling to may crumble around us, but God is always there, standing in the dark with us, waiting to open the door and walk through it with us into the new life promised and guaranteed to us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.