In the Gospel this morning the disciples are exclaiming about the beauty of the temple. Jesus responds with a story about impermanence. All of this will eventually be thrown down.
Essentially: Do not confuse this human-made lavishness with eternity. Eternity belongs to God.
This does not mean that Jesus was against the Temple the Holy Place. When he enters Jerusalem a couple of chapters before this scene, he weeps at the state of things. He sees the corruption of the society. He prophesies its destruction.
But Jesus continues to spend time in the temple teaching. And fter his ascension in the book of Acts the disciples continue to pray in the temple. Actually they return to the temple with great joy, praying unceasingly. So we know that Jesus was not against the temple, but that Jesus was about God’s Kingdom (not of this world) and ascension.
And the story points to that deep truth, that structures of this world will pass away, literally need to pass away, in order for transformation to occur…
It is a message that connects us to our deepest human truth:
Our physical bodies pass away in order for the Spirit to ascend.
In that process there is a “letting go” required throughout our lifetime. We often do this kicking and screaming.
Change can be very difficult for us. When the structures we rely on, shift.
When our own understanding of things is challenged, or when are bodies are injured or start to age…
Our egos require letting go.
Our bodies start to fail us.
We begin to recognize we are not permanent.
But we are a resurrection people.
There are little deaths we withstand as we practice letting go:
Asking for help
Recognizing our own weaknesses;
Little persecutions are also when our families and friends or even strangers disregard our faith. We might think of them as the persecutions Jesus names. These moments can feel like little deaths as we may suddenly feel cut loose, misunderstood or even ridiculed for our faith.
(Our metaphors and rituals that point to a greater reality in God are deep and often misunderstood.)
We can handle these little deaths (all of them, social and physical ) because we have already embraced a Larger Death.
In our Baptisms we speak of of dying with Christ.
We have died to the world and have been risen to a new life in God. We believe in that higher love as both our foundation and our eternity.
The pains, the disappointments of this world cannot really touch us, because our Souls belongs to God.
Jesus prophesies, “some of you will be put to death, but not one hair on your head will perish.”
He’s telling us there will be death, but what he’s also telling us, is that there will be ascension.
The temple in Jerusalem did fall.
They thought it was going to be the end of the world.
(But it wasn’t.)
Religious practice moved into homes and communities.
Rabbinic Judaism was born - a Judaism that does not require pilgrimage and ritual sacrifice at the temple.
And Christianity spread.
Again, today these religious structures are being challenged. Culturally the U.S. is moving away from organized religion.
This weekend Jon Symer and I were at our Episcopal Diocesan Convention for two days of marathon meetings, presentations, and voting in committee offices and resolutions.
There was a strong overtone that the church is going through change. There is some grief, but as I’ve said before, this is a cultural shift. And our bishops tell us that we are not to feel like failures because the Episcopal Church is struggling.
We do need to change: as we shrink, we do need to collaborate, share resources.
We don’t know what that will look like yet.
But we are a resurrection people.
We are here to do the work that we have been given to do, and that will never change.
The church is doing amazing work as detailed through many of our resolutions. We are taking seriously the church’s historic role in slavery, and what that means for a body of Christians who follow Jesus’ way. We created a 501c3 for our Reparations Committee to function similarly to Episcopal Charities; safe-guarding this important work which officially began in the diocese in 2008.
We have started a credit union. That has been a project ten years in the making. It will make possible savings, loans and banking to so many in our diocese that have been left out of the traditional banking system because of poverty and racism.
Many other wonderful things came out of the convention related to domestic violence, reducing our carbon footprint…proving that we are willing to do the hard work - we are already doing the hard work of developing humility, looking at ourselves, recognizing our weaknesses, but also using our collective communal gifts to make change.
We are a resurrection people.
Jesus came to heal and teach about love and forgiveness; the most transformational forces of life. We do not need to fear change.
Jesus tells us that we will be filled with words and Wisdom as we enter into the future.
This Wisdom is coming through the power of the Holy Spirit which we believe is God working in our lives and working in our churches.
The Spirit is moving in our collective body to raise us all up, all of us!
So on the last day we all may ascend into the joy of the everlasting Kingdom. Amen