|These flowers outside the church remind me|
there is hope and beauty in the world even when
the world seems to be freezing, dying and
falling apart all around us.
These last few weeks have been filled with difficult news of tragedy and destruction. Shootings and fires destroying communities have been part of our daily lives and news feeds. How do we have faith that God is with us in these times?
Jesus has some words about this in our Scripture passage from Mark this week.
Read Mark 13: 1-8
The background information for this week's Sunday school lesson reminds us that this chapter of the Gospel is rooted in Jewish apocalyptic thought. At the center of this thinking, is the belief that God controls history and that the world has become so evil that only God can save it.
So here the disciples are with Jesus - outside the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. The have just seen the widow, the poor woman, drop two small coins into the offering box at the temple giving everything she has to worship God. They leave the temple grounds and turn to look back at the building.
One of the disciples said, “Teacher, look at size of the stones in this wall. And this wonderful building!”
Jesus stopped and looked up at the huge structure. “See these enormous buildings?” he asked. “They will be torn down. Not one stone will be left atop another stone.”
Here are some quick facts about the Temple:
- The Jerusalem temple was the center of Jewish worship.
- The temple was originally built in 953 BCE, destroyed in 587 BCE, rededicated in 616 BCE, and expanded beginning in 20 BCE.
- The design for the temple came from God, who revealed the plans for the temple to King Solomon.
- The temple is described in the Bible as grand and ornate.
Of course the disciples are confused by Jesus’ words, but they followed him to the Mount of Olives where they can look at the temple from a different view.
Jesus sits down with Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the first four men to become disciples. Quietly, so others could not hear, they asked, “Tell us. When will this happen? When will the temple be destroyed? What will warn us so we know it is coming?”
Jesus reassures the disciples that God will be with us during these times and cautions them to not be led astray by people who will try to lead them away from God in the wake of horrible things. Jesus answers, “Many people will claim that time is coming,” said Jesus, “and many will try to get you to follow them. But do not believe them and do not go with false leaders.”
Huh? (I am sure that's what they said). I am sure that Jesus had more to say and he wanted them to know that they could depend on God. No matter what happened around them, God would be with them.
It's a hard thing to stay hopeful and faithful to God when the world is falling down around us. Jesus tells the disciples the temple will be destroyed one day. And in these words, I think that Jesus is reminding us that bad things will happen in our world, too.
Perhaps Jesus words are meant to urge the disciples to not focus solely on the the things that are falling apart and the people out there that will take advantage of those situations. Living in that mindset can feel very scary and confusing. Jesus wants us to focus on God's love - the one thing he reassures us will never fall apart. The Good News of the Gospels is that God is always with us and wanting to help us learn and understand what to do for ourselves and others.
Here are some things I am thinking about this week:
- Who are the people around me I can go to that can offer comfort during difficult times?
- What comfort can I offer those who are struggling to understand all the bad things happening in the world?
- In what ways can I stop being consumed by the evil, hate, and destruction and focus on hope, redemption and love?