13 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.
My son and I used to have a tradition of going to see the Marvel movies together when they came out. As he’s gotten older, we have not done that as much…although we did go and see the new Marvel movie, The Eternals, last week. Which was pretty good, except for the guy behind us snoring…I guess he had a long day…and, I hope that if any of you ever fall asleep during one of my sermons, that you don’t snore…at least loudly.
Endgame was one of the Marvel movies that Brennan and I saw together. It was the culmination of several Marvel movies depicting the end of the world. In this movie, the villain, Thanos, had grabbed all six of these powerful stones that enabled him to destroy half of the universe and 1/2 of its population. But, the Avenger superheros find a way to reverse time and restore the universe and its population…including many of the Avengers who had vanished.
Now, that was a movie, and as good it was, it’s still fantasy. Yet, and we have said this before, we live in “apocalyptic” times. That doesn’t mean the end of the world, but it does mean the end of some things so that new things can emerge. It also means that things are being revealed that were hidden, or not recognized before.
Friends, as we read the gospel story, can we not see that this was not only true 2,000 years, but so true today!
Jesus makes a statement, that the temple, this grand building in Jerusalem that was built by King Solomon, was one of the most amazing structures in antiquity, and made a huge impression on the disciples. Again, remember last week, when we said that we often go after things that are shiny, appealing, or speak somehow to a sense of oversized grandeur that make us feel important for reasons other than what we were created for? The disciples kept on falling into the same patterns, going after surface things, wanting to be great, wanting to be a part of the system that kept them from realizing their full humanity.
Jesus literally goes after them with a blunt statement meant to cause them some dissonance, to make them thing, to shake them out of their comfort.
You see this temple that you are so impressed with? See how powerful it looks? How permanent? Well, nothing is permanent, these stones, large stones, will all fall down, this building will be destroyed…and, so will all of your notions that have been created to give you some sense of control, when in reality, those notions control you and keep you from becoming the person that you have always wanted to be.
Its interesting though, the disciples stick with Jesus. They know his words and actions carry meaning. It often happens that when Jesus makes these statements in public, there’s a sidebar conversation with the disciples where he explains further. After three of the disciples ask in private the meaning of his words, Jesus goes on to say that there will always wars, rumors of wars, human conspiracies, and all sorts of disasters, but something deeper is going on.
Friends, look around! We see this today, everything is being exposed. We see our political structures exposed…both sides, all sides. There are some good people in government, yes, but we have a system that is collapsing from lack of trust, greed, and a lust for power…and everyone blaming others rather than working towards the common good. The church universal is being exposed as it became complacent and sold out to being an entertainment center, a walled fortress, or a sales pitch. We have become a society based on business, on transactions, of living above our places, or locations, and zipping around like ants marching towards a slow death, rather than a community of people, in a location, living in place, being transformed and transformational, and growing into life, the abundant life that Jesus came to show and to reveal to us…and give to us freely without condition!
The same thing is true in our personal lives. We go through the throes of life holding on to things, notions, bias, image, and relationships. They all have to be brought into the light, because often we try to hide behind them and present an image to the world that is so much work.
God wants us to give us life, real life. God wants us to live freely and in love with ourselves, others, and to be experiencing God’s movement, God’s love, in every aspect of our lives.
But, giving birth to life requires pain. Jesus compares apocalyptic times in our life as “birth pains”. I have not given birth, but as I’ve shared before, I’ve watched it happen…and I did experience pain when Debbie punched me while giving birth to Brennan. Birth is hard, we don’t want to leave the comfort of the umbilical cord, the womb, and enter into this crazy, painful, sad, joyful, wonderful world. Yet, we can’t stay in the womb, that will eventually kill us and kill the mother…we have to leave, we have to grow, we have to trust, and risk. We really do not have a choice, yet, we also do have a choice to how we live and respond.
Friends, apocalyptic times are all around us, we can accuse, scream, take sides, put others down, live in despair, or we can make a stand, lean into them, grow and learn, and become. Our world, and our own personal worlds, will end and are dying, but it’s not the end of the world, or our own worlds…no, it’s actually the beginning, a new birth.
May we live into the possibilities as we embrace the changes in and around us.