Mark 13:1-8 1As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3When 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?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For 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.”
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m going to start by dating us a little bit, asking you to remember some history that occurred before the youngest among us were born. However, I believe a fairly large percentage among us remember the seventies. What would you like to share with the youngest among us about that decade?
Soldiers came home from Viet Nam.
Skirts were shorter than they’d ever been before, with special underwear coverings of the same fabric—kind of like cheating!
In North Dakota, the seventies marked the time when girls could play basketball by the same rules as the boys and have their own season and tournaments.
We talked about the possibility of living on the moon… and after the sixth manned mission in 1972 stopped landing there altogether in 1976—at least until 2013.
We had a president resign.
We celebrated the bicentennial of our country.
I’ll tell you something that we don’t remember. It happened in Seventy: The Temple was destroyed. We don’t remember it because it wasn’t 1970, it was the year 70, with no preceding digits omitted for brevity.
Remember that Jerusalem was under Roman occupation when Jesus was born, and when he was crucified? Well, a few years later, in 66, were the Jerusalem riots, and Judean rebel factions took over, creating the Judean Free Government. It lasted four years, ending August 30, 70, with the burning and the destruction of the Temple. The whole city was conquered by the 8th of September.
The Temple had stood nearly 600 years, but was destroyed in 70. The Romans built the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site, but that has since been replaced by an Islamic structure, the Dome of the Rock. It has been there for more than 1300 years.
Jesus is recorded in our reading for today as saying that the time would come when not one stone of the Temple would be left upon another, that all would be thrown down. Only one retaining wall that was built as an expansion of the Temple does remain. It’s called the “Western Wall” and known by many as the “Wailing Wall.” Jews (and others) pray there still today.
Can we even imagine what it meant for the people of Israel to see that Temple destroyed? It was the center of their worship life, the house built for God, a visible tangible sign of God’s presence and power.
And it was destroyed.
Maybe the best comparison for us is the series of events that occurred seventeen years ago, when foreign operatives commandeered jets and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, into a part of the Pentagon, and possibly attempted to do the same with the White House.
There’s a difference, though, because none of those buildings, not even all of them as a group, have ever been labeled as the place where God lives.
Of course, the way that some people idolize money, one could argue that the World Trade Center symbolized their god. The way that some people idolize power, either the White House or the Pentagon might symbolize their god. Does that make the events of seventeen years ago comparable to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem? Maybe not. But maybe, just maybe, some of the people had begun to idolize the Temple rather than the God for whom that temple had been built…
Just yesterday, I saw video of a song performed by Alan Jackson: “Where Were You (when the World Stopped Turning)?” It was about September 11, and asked, “Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor, or did you just sit down and cry?” Good song.
September 11 of 2001 introduced a time of contemplation. Were we as safe as we had thought, living in the United States of America? Those events I believe made us more afraid, afraid even of the huddled masses yearning to be free… still today…
What happens when the temples fall? What happens when the walls fall down?
Some years ago, this congregation was warned that these walls were about to collapse. Apparently some signs were misinterpreted, and great fears arose. It would be particularly tragic if anyone was hurt by the collapse of a church building! Yet, more tragic would be the collapse of the meaning behind the building.
Buildings area often rebuilt after being destroyed… but not always. The question I have today is what do we gain when the building does not rise up again like the legendary phoenix?
The World Trade Center is not gone. It is being rebuilt with up to six new skyscrapers, four of which have been completed. It includes a memorial and museum, a park, and a transportation hub.
Many temple-like structures are also rebuilt after destruction, because they stand for something greater than the people who gather within them.
Yet, today there is still no Jewish Temple. There is no one central place to house the God of all creation—at least not anymore—if there ever truly was.
After all, what walls can contain the one who created that from which those walls are built?
The real temple, the real home for God, is not limited to one place in time. The real home for God is everywhere, in and around all creation. The real home for God has no walls.
Last week when I told you that much of Paradise, California had burned to the ground, I had already seen a photo of Our Savior’s Lutheran smothered in flames. This week, I learned that Paradise Lutheran was spared. I know that several church buildings in the town burned down, and at least one was spared. How the people of the community who survived will rebuild, I don’t know, but I do know God is there. No matter what kind of walls fall down, God is there.
God is there in all the people who work together in mourning and in hope. God is there amid the despair—and God is here.
In your hope and in your despair, know that God is with you. When the Temple falls, God sweeps through all creation to love and to give life. When the walls are rebuilt, God continues to sweep through all creation to love and to give life. If the walls are never raised again, God still sweeps through all creation to love and give life. This we know because Jesus was crucified and raised again, given new life to give new life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.