26th Sunday after Pentecost - Mark 13:1-8

Mark 13:1–8 (NIV)

 13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

            When do you throw away a porcelain cup?  When it’s chipped, cracked or dropped and broken we discard it.  It lasts longer than a paper or foam cup.  It can be washed, stored and re-used numerous times. But eventually it too will be thrown away. It’s temporary. 

            So many things we think of as permanent, are not!  St John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Halcombe was consecrated in 1921. This Church building served the congregation for 92 years - longer than most of us will live on this earth.  Last time I saw it it looked somewhat derelict.

            I’m sure the builders of any church intend that they be there as temples built to the glory of God for much longer than they actually stand for.

            We know from history that church buildings are not permanent.  It only takes a war, a natural disaster or neglect for a church building to fall down. How many churches have been turned into private homes, coffee shops, art galleries and ruins?

            Even God’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem was only temporary.  The first Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed in 587 BC. 

The second Temple was built in 22 years and completed in 515 BC. It stood for some 496 years until Herod began to remodel it in 19 BC.  The renovations took 82 years, when it was completed 63 AD.

            When Jesus and His disciples were leaving the Temple one of His disciples commented on how impressive the building was – as we might, when we leave a wonder of modern architecture.   

The disciple said, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” It was as though he thought the Temple would stand forever. Surely this could not be a temporary structure?

            The Jerusalem Temple had stones ten metres in length, a gold facade, larger in size than most cathedrals, the temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of God's lasting presence among His special people.

      Jesus then prophesied the destruction of this Temple. “Do you see all these great buildings?” … “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

            The Temple was a temporary building.  In 70 AD, the Temple was burned and its “massive stones” were broken and scattered when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in response to the Jewish rebellion against the power and authority of Rome – seven years after its completion.

            It’s easy for us to put our trust in buildings.  We need them.  They can be signs of God’s presence in the community.  They have a purpose.

As important as it is, the maintenance of a building isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the preoccupation of God’s people. The buildings are temporary – God’s people, the Temples of the Holy Spirit, are forever.

            Our church building here at St Matthew has been around for about 57 years – but one day it will be no more, as age, re-purposing or demolition catch up with it. 

            Jesus doesn’t want us to be pre-occupied with buildings which are only temporary.  (this doesn’t mean we neglect to care for buildings –especially God’s buildings – as Luther rightly says in the explanation to the seventh commandment we are to “improve and protect” God’s property.)

            We are to use and care for God’s buildings as long as He has given them to us for our use in worship and devotion, teaching and learning.

Over time though, we’ve only to look at history to see that the most impressive of structures have crumbled.

            The often lampooned cry, “The end of the world is nigh!” Is a call we need to take seriously.  The time comes to all of us when we will meet our earthly life’s end. 

            The Disciples, Peter, James, John and Andrew, who as Jews would have regarded the destruction of God’s Holy Temple as marking the end of the world, asked Jesus when such a cataclysmic event would take place and how would they know it will happen.

            Most people, like the disciples, seek answers to questions of the future.  What will happen?  What should we look out for?  These are the questions many people take to mediums and fortune tellers rather than trusting God. 

People desire to know what they can place their trust in. When will we win lotto? When will a loved one die?  When will I meet the love of my life?  When will I get the job I applied for?  When will my grandchildren visit me? 

            Jesus said there will be many with answers to life’s big questions.  There will be many who will be only too happy to tell you what you want to hear. For example that, the LCA/NZ does not teach, “…male headship and subordination based on orders of creation…” When. In fact the Bible does teach these things. This teaching is part of our church’s wedding service order.

There are others who teach that you’ll be rich and famous, successful and that God is coming soon to take you to heaven so you had better give them your life’s savings.

            Many have and will try to deceive you with their own versions of what is supposed to be true. 

You’ve all heard the fundamentalist preachers on television. You’ve all had the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses call at your door - all claiming to represent Jesus with their “truth”.

            When you question our Lord about your future, He points you to the truth in His Word – the Bible.  Don’t rely on people with vested interests (often financial). 

            Seek first the Kingdom of God.  Recognise the “signs of the times” as God’s call to you to delve deeply into His Word. 

            Some people have predicted the demise of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand – the closing and sale of our church buildings.  Yes, one day they probably will close and be sold. So what? God’s Kingdom is bigger than this building.

            Even God’s Temple in Jerusalem was torn down.  What the world creates is temporary.  Faith and trust in material things leads to destruction.  On the other hand, when there is faith and trust in God, there is hope.  This hope has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

            Jesus' answer to the disciples' questions about the future takes two separate events side by side, namely the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the end of all earthly things. This is because the destruction of the Temple is symbolic of the other.

            As in today's Old Testament reading from Daniel, the first prophecy is predictive, namely using an earlier future event to stretch out further and interpret the greater final catastrophic end of all things as we currently know them.

In this way we see the signs in our own times - false teachers, wars and cataclysms of nature like drought and fires - heralding the final coming of our Lord Jesus who has already overcome the cause of the world’s distress.

            What Jesus did, wasn’t temporary.  He loved people when He hung on the cross, giving up His life for the world.  He loved, and He still loves people now.  Jesus died to forgive your sins so that you will have life, joy and salvation.  Jesus death and the victory He won then, still stands today. 

            Jesus death still pays for your sins now.  Jesus wants you to know what is temporary and what is permanent.  Temporary things may last a long time – longer than we’ll live on the earth. 

Jesus wants you to be quite sure that you can live much longer than the naught to 70 or 80 years that most people live on the face of the earth.

            You’ll live forever because Jesus will raise you.  That’s God’s promise.  All things on the earth are temporary except what Jesus offers and gives to you – forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him in heaven.

            When Jesus is welcome in your hearts and lives, you’re not cast onto the rubbish dump of hell.  You aren’t temporary but permanent members of the Kingdom of Heaven – you’ll live forever.

            If you don’t believe this or are unsure of it, then be reassured of God’s promises by opening, reading, studying and praying God’s Word to you – all of it – not just the parts you like and agree with.

            Let God be God in your life and trust all that He says.

            God has given you His good news and given you His seal in Baptism. 

Let’s now help others to trust in Jesus instead of the bricks and mortar of their earthly temples.

May the cup we and they drink and share from, be that of the Lord Jesus Christ – filled with His Blood which gives life to all who drink from it in faith.

Amen.