Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
13:1 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.
St. Mark 13:1-8 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
That Which Endures
Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, the church where my family has been involved since the late nineteenth century (and still is), turned 100 years old when I was in the seventh grade. It was quite a celebration: worship services, visits from former pastors and pastoral interns, celebration banquets, a remodeled “Centennial Room” in the basement, a series of pictures of the pastors who had served at Trinity over the years (lots of strange facial hair and serious expressions in those pictures…). For an 11-year-old boy, it seemed like an ancient and storied congregation — one that God perhaps created on the Eighth Day. Back then, walking into the darkened sanctuary on my own was a stirring experience. The long center aisle, dark wood pews, raised chancel and carved wooden reredos were awe inspiring to a young person. It gave the impression of strength, stability and permanence.
My experience was, of course, little more than a shadow of what it must have been like to experience the first century Temple in Jerusalem — an impressive structure, magnificently restored by King Herod in about 20 b.c.e. The people of that time were in awe of its great stones and expensive ornamentation. Although the Temple had been destroyed at least once already, it was hard for them to imagine Jerusalem without this signature landmark.
Yet in this week’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies that this great temple will soon lie in ruins. (He was right: Roman armies destroyed it in a.d. 70.) He makes this claim, it seems, not so much to disparage the temple, but to teach his listeners that there is a significant difference between that which is temporal and that which is eternal. Temples will come and go (as will Lutheran church buildings — Trinity Stillwater’s building was so significantly remodeled in the 1980s that it takes a clever eye to imagine where the original structure stood). But in their destruction are the birth pangs of something new.
The writer of Hebrews took Jesus’ words to heart, which is evident in this week’s New Testament lesson: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” [Hebrews 10:23] Even the most massive of buildings are vulnerable to destruction and decay. But there is one reality that has power to last; one reality that is eternal: the faithfulness of the One who has promised us new life.
This One lived and died in the person of Jesus, defeated the power of sin, death and the devil on Easter Sunday, and continues to live among us today. This One, our God, has claimed us in baptism, and graced us with promises that last longer than life itself. Here is something that won’t suffer destruction or decay. Here is something that is eternal. Let us hold fast to our hope without wavering, because it is grounded in God’s trustworthy promise!
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why were people in the first century so impressed with the Temple?
- Why does Jesus predict that it will be destroyed again?
- What new faithfulness will Jesus give to his followers, that replaces the Temple culture?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What, in my life, am I tempted to trust for my future?
- If I am honest, in what was are those realities bound to disappoint me?
- How will life become different for me, as I trust more and more in God’s promise to me?