As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 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. The Gospel of the Lord.
“On a blazing summer day in the 1850’s, a lumber mill crew with wagon and ox took a break under a grove of tall evergreens. The air was cool, the pine needles fragrant.
‘Boys,’ said the team boss, ‘this is paradise.’” 1
That’s the legend of how the town of Paradise, California was named. It didn’t take long before others followed, some seeking lumber and others looking for gold. Later, people came seeking a reprieve from the city life and delighting in this town of 27,000 where housing was affordable, neighbors knew one another, and generations of people raised families and retired in this peaceful beautiful paradise of a place.
But that vision was destroyed last week as the “Camp fire” blazes rushed in so quickly that many residents were caught off-guard. They had been evacuated before – but always been able to return quickly as the fire burned somewhere else. But this time, the fire rushed in and consumed their houses, the cars that they were driving and everything else in sight.
It doesn’t look like “paradise” any more.. People are beginning to come back – but instead of houses, cars and swing sets they find ash and rubble and burned up hopes and dreams. It’s heartbreaking.
Rubble was all that was left after the Roman army, seeking to put down the rebellion and punish freedom seekers, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. It wasn’t just a church building. It was the holiest of holies, the center of Jewish faith, the house of God. Devastated, people of faith were asking: Why didn’t God protect God’s house? Did this mean the end was near?
But Mark, writing his Gospel about 70 years after Jesus’ resurrection and shortly after the destruction of the temple, remembered the story that when one of Jesus’ disciples glowed with admiration of the awe-inspiring temple, Jesus prophesied: “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” And then… when the disciples asked him privately when this would happen and if this was a sign from God. Jesus dismisses it as simply the beginning of birth pangs.
Many people – like the disciples – have wondered about when the end of the world would be. Again and again, charismatic leaders proclaim that they “know the time,” they have read the signs – and then they get people to sell or give away all of their belongings to wait for the end of world.
But Jesus’s prophecy is not a prediction of the end of the world. Instead, Jesus urges his disciples and us not to put our faith and hope in things that we build of stone, metal, wood, fiber, plastic or anything else. All of these structures, all of these things, can be destroyed in an instant by fire or storm or war or …like the 35W bridge… from neglect and decay.
Instead, Jesus invites them and us to see the kingdom of God being birthed in their lives – and in ours. It’s a long pregnancy. Two thousand plus years and God is still at work birthing into being God’s kingdom in you and in me.
Jesus says, “these are only birthing pangs.” Birthing pangs are not to be under-estimated. They can be excruciatingly painful. I remember. And mine were fairly routine deliveries. (It’s a miracle that there are second-born children these days.)
But just as the pain that is endured in giving birth is overshadowed by the joy of bringing new life into the world, so too, Jesus reminds us that despite the pain we experience in our lives, God is loves us, cares for us, and continues to birth new life in us.
From our very first breath to our last, and every breath in-between, God will not abandon us. That’s a promise.
But sometimes – when we are focused on the pain around or in us – that is easy to forget. And so I want to teach you a little spiritual exercise that you can do at those times when you are overwhelmed by the pain of the day or frankly have just listened to the news. It’s really simple – you can all do it.
I’m going to ask you to take a big breath in - and hold it for a little bit and then slowly let it out…Try to breathe in your nose and out your mouth – but in this cold and flu season – any breath is a good one. So…let’s try it together… and this time… as you breathe in, I want you to be thinking of the love of God, and the promises of God given for you… and as you breath out… I want you to breathe out - entrust to God’s care -- all of the bad news, the injustice… the hurts that you have felt and the things that you have done or said that has caused pain in someone else. It may take more than one breath to accomplish all of that. But once it is out, it is not yours to carry around anymore – so receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. This is the hardest step – remembering that you have given the pain away to God’s care.
And now… I want you to do it one more time. Breathe in God’s love and promises – hold them for a moment – but this time you have gotten rid of all of the bad stuff that you have been carrying around and so now I invite you to breathe out grace and love and forgiveness for your neighbor. Let God’s grace be birthed in and through you.
This is a simple exercise: Breathe in God’s love and promises, hold them inside of you for a moment, and then breathe out, the first time to give to God’s care all of the pain of this world and this life that you carry – and the second time to breathe out grace and love to and for your neighbor. You can do this any where and any time.
But even if you choose not to do this as a Spiritual exercise, be reminded that you do this every day, anywhere from 12 to 60 times a minute depending on your age, size and health. Babies breathe 30 to 60 times a minute, filling their lungs with God’s gift of life and breath. Adult lungs can hold a lot more – so we don’t breathe as often. Perhaps this is why it can be helpful to be reminded of the gift we receive with each breath.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, the things of this world may tumble and fall and people like us continue to sin and hurt one another – but the Holy Spirit continues to breathe new life into you and me and God’s presence, love and grace are with us – always– no matter what. That’s God’s covenant to you and it’s a promise you can count on. Amen.
never abandon us but
For while the stone structures of humanity will tumble and fall, God will always love and care for us. God will not abandon us. We are called to live in faith and to trust in the word of promise God has bestowed upon us--the gift of grace given to us through Jesus Christ.
Hope in the Midst of Change and Anxiety: Dare to hope…
Provoke One Another to Love and Good Deeds
Paradise – a dreams burned…
Our country divided….
Is this a sign of the end times?
Birth Pangs… Hope in the midst of
Hold fast to hope…
Stories of hope and rebirth….
Woman who came by devastated..
Week of Hope…
Christians dare to hope because of God’s promises given to you…
Paradise. What do you think Paradise looks like?
At times like these, people often
Jesus’ focus is on the long game…
Mark 13:1-8 (Click to view Bible text below.)
The point of this reading from Mark is not to predict the precise timing of the end of the world, even though some might be tempted to read it as such. This passage is not so much about what is to come, but about what is actually happening around Jesus' disciples.
During the 2,000 years since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the temple has been destroyed and the Roman Empire has fallen. There have been earthquakes and famines, but humanity continues to thrive upon the earth. Jesus' words invite us then to think not so much about rulers and kingdoms on earth, but about the kingdom of God. The stone structures of humanity may tumble and fall, but God will always love and care for us. God will not abandon us. We are called to live in faith and to trust in the word of promise God has bestowed upon us--the gift of grace given to us through Jesus Christ.
Lord, the world may seem to be coming to an end because of the carelessness of humanity, but we will hold fast to your covenants and the gift of grace given to us, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hebrews 10:11-14, [15-18], 19-25
11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God," 13 and since then has been waiting "until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet." 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," 17 he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Children’s sermon: The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the promise God made to the God’s people – who, because of Jesus, now includes us. God’s covenant – God’s promise is to not only write God’s law on our hearts and minds but also to forgive us. Why? Because God loves us.
AP News November 17, 2018