*This meditation on the text of Mark 13: 1-8 was offered at a Tuesday morning prayer service at Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village, CO on Nov. 10th.
As human beings, we love quick-fixes and immediate gratification. You only have to watch the television for a few minutes and take stock of the commercials to have some idea of the validity of this statement. Lose weight now! Get a new car now! Look years younger now! Restore your bathroom tile now! Let’s be honest….many of these speak to us, or at least to me. I often pray, “God grant me patience, now!” I wonder how many of you, like me struggle with waiting, whether is Christmas, your birthday or a transition to something new like graduation, a waiting on a baby or as I have recently experienced, a new job! We want to know what that new experience will be like, we want to get hints, glimpses, details, anything at all to assuage our curiosity. But if we’re honest, it’s about control. We think that if we have enough information that we can control whatever it is that may come. We think that this false sense of control will also make us whole. Hence the quick-fix mentality. If we can fix something in our lives now, be whole and complete now then we don’t have to worry about it in the future. We think that we are the ones in control of our wholeness and can fix ourselves.
The future frightens us, even if it “looks bright” (remember that song from the 1980’s, “My Future Is So Bright, I Have To Wear Shades?). Much of our pop culture about the future right now revolves around the idea of a dystopian future where people fight each other for food, or fight zombies, or fight aliens or robots. But humanity seems to always be “fighting” something in the present, trying to bring about some sort of perfect existence and so we assume that the future will be more of the same.
Furthermore, we assume that there are certain structures or institutions that will go on forever, such as governments, our economic systems, even our churches. We want to know that there is something that we can count on. When we have major shake ups, for instance, in our economic system it can feel like the end of the world as we know it and our fear and need for control takes over.
The disciples were no different than we are today. They came out of the temple after the conversation on the widow who gave everything, and what do the disciples notice? How large and permanent and glorious the stones that comprise the temple are! “Jesus, isn’t the temple wonderful and amazing? So glad it will always be here!” Which is interesting as it’s already the second temple! I can almost see Jesus shaking his head. Here he had spent all of this time with the disciples and they had witnessed many revelations of God in their midst and they still missed the point.
When the gospel of Mark was written, it is likely that the temple had recently been destroyed. The temple was the center of all religious life for the Jewish people: it’s where they believed that the connection between God and God’s people took place, it’s where atonement for sin happened with the sacrifices, it’s where people gathered on important holidays. It had become the religion itself in many ways. Mark’s Jesus is reminding the disciples past, present and future that no matter what system breaks down, even the religious system, if the temple building is no more, God is still present and center of their lives. The temple was not God, their sacrifices were not God.
We too forget that God is the center and focus of our lives. We all have “temples” in our lives that we think are important, our jobs, our families, our recreation, our material possession. Those things are not bad and can even be life giving. But how often do they not connect us or even distract us from God? Do those things make us whole and bring us into relationship with God and with one another? Those things may even cause us to worry about the future-will we have enough? Will we be enough?
Jesus cautions us to stay focused on God-when we focus on God, our worries, concerns, and fears of the future may not be completely dissipated but they will be kept in perspective. The perspective that God has something better in store for us than we can ever imagine! We can’t fix ourselves, no matter what commercials tell us-it is God who brings us into life with God and one another for transformation and for wholeness-which is our salvation. God is doing a new thing in the midst of what we perceive as disaster, destruction and death. God is birthing new life, right here, right now in our midst! Look for newness, Jesus says, not for destruction. Look for life not death! Look for abundance, not scarcity! Point out what God is doing in the world to everyone you meet! God will not leave us alone in our fear, in our worry and in our uncertainty. God promises to be with us and offer us mercy, forgiveness, love and most of all hope. Amen.