Sermon preached by the Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC on
The Twenty-Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, November 17, 2013
Jesus said, “As for the things you are admiring,
The time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. In the name God. Amen. People, I wish Jesus would appear here, right now!
So I could show him St Anne’s church and all our fine things. I’d say to him “What a magnificent church we have to worship in. The congregation has worshipped here for nearly 150 years.
In this magnificent Romanesque Revival space. And even if this building was made necessary by that furnace fire,
The one on St Valentine’s Day in 1858, Surely, that would never happen again. After all, this is the house where God dwells.
And as long as we look after our liturgies and sacrifices, Then God will protect us and this church.
Why, look! At all the sacred gifts in this place! In the choir room, have you seen the beautiful St Cecilia window?
Dedicated to John Cooper, organist here for 32 years. Or the brass eagle lectern over there.
Did you know it’s dedicated to Captain James Waddell? The commander of the Confederate ship, the Shenandoah. And over there the world famous St Anne’s Tiffany window.
With the blessed mother herself teaching Mary to read. Can you believe we bought that at the Chicago Exposition of 1893? And the organ! My God, the organ!.
What a big beautiful Freiburger Orgelbau organ! What a magnificent tribute to God’s providential love of this church!
I imagine this is what Jesus dealt with that day in Jerusalem.
His continually clueless disciples in fervent awe of Herod’s Temple. Completely missing the significance of Jesus’ mission.
After all, the Temple was built by Herod the Great. Who killed 2000 innocents in a futile attempt to kill baby Jesus. Herod built the temple as a monument to his own vanity.
Because he desired to build the 8th wonder of the ancient world. This corrupt temple that stole money from poor widows
With its corrupt priesthood that collaborated with the Romans.
Its priests and scribes trying to kill Jesus. And, in a couple of days, they would succeed.
Jesus looks about and sees his own death by crucifixion. And, now, in the Temple, Jesus’ begins his farewell speech. His vision of the future, for his disciples and for Jerusalem.
And it is a compelling and frightening vision.
Everything Jesus says will come true in a generation. You can read it all in the Acts of the Apostles. False prophets and teachers will plague Peter and Paul.
Wars and famines and plagues—Oh my! An earthquake will strike Ephesus and free Paul from prison.
There will be famines and rebellions. And comets in the heavens. Saul will hand disciples over to synagogues and prisons.
Paul beaten and flogged multiple times. Paul will testify from prison and before governors. Stephen and James and Peter and Paul executed—
Killed for confessing Jesus as Lord. Parents and siblings and friends will betray followers of Jesus—
Pharisees and Sadducees and Romans will hate the name of Jesus. Rome will denounce followers of Christ as godless cannibals, traitors. Know that the good news of Jesus is always a threat to Empire.
Moreover, some forty years after Jesus delivers this final discourse,
The Judeans will rebel against the Romans. The Roman legions will lay siege to Jerusalem. Penetrate her walls.
Plunder and slaughter her people. Demolish Herod’s Temple.
Not one stone left on top of another. The dedicated gifts stolen. Utter and complete desolation.
And all that Jesus predicts continues to this day.
False prophets of the end of the age. Wars and famines and rebellions and plagues. Comets and portents in the heavens.
Imprisonment and torture and beatings. More Christians were killed for their faith in the 20th century, Than in the whole history of the Roman Empire.1
St Anne’s itself damaged by an earthquake. Calamitous typhoons destroy cities and countries.
Bombs and shootings create disasters even Jesus did not foresee. 1 Unsigned Editorial, “Persecuted,” The Christian Century.” 13Nov2013, p 7.
Oh my! The kingdom of peace and justice and love has not yet come.
And even as we celebrate Christ the King next Sunday, We still await the coming of the Son of Man on a cloud.
So what gives? What is good about this news?
It was simple, you see, for the Sadducees. The good news was the covenant.
God’s eternal covenant with his chosen people—Israel. If the people obey the covenant, Then goodness and prosperity and long life will follow.
However, for Christians good news is resurrection. The raising up of Jesus was the first resurrection,
And a sign of the general resurrection to come for everyone. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s sign to all of us. God’s blessing on the truth of Jesus’ peace and justice.
And God’s woe on the violence of Empire. God’s “Yes!” to care for the poor, the stranger, the oppressed. And God’s “No!” to earthly wealth and power for the few.
While the resurrection of Jesus is the eternal defeat of evil. We experience the ongoing pervasiveness of sin in the world.
Dark powers still operate in this age. And so in this life, the righteous suffer. In this life, bad things happen to us all.
But in Christ, we know that God will rescue us. Will raise us up on the last day. And reward us for all eternity.
As Jesus says, “Not a hair on [our] heads will be lost. By holding fast, [we] will gain [our] lives.” Lk 21:18f (CEB).
I know most of us would like even better news than this.
What about God’s providential care in this life? Would a loving God create us— And then offer no consolation until the end of time?
Does that mean we are abandoned until then? Well, in a word, “No!” However, Jesus says that each of us must take up our cross.
A disciple of Christ commits to following the Way of Christ. And that way is the way of hardship.
God knows that this life always entails suffering and loss. God does not care if we are rich or beautiful or powerful. God desires that we have enough.
That our daily bread is enough to satisfy us. That we are loving and humble and faithful. Indeed, that we give of what we have to those who are less fortunate—
That we love each other and receive loving care from each other.
We are social beings. Formed in and through relationships.
I am friend to David. I am father to Mark.
I am husband to Jo. I am lover and follower of Jesus. Because the triune God is a communal God.
And we are made to be in community as communal beings.
In this vale of tears—this valley of the shadow of death— Christ forms us as the community of Christ. God gives us each other to be a new family.
To be Christ to each other. To see Christ in each other.
So that, in our suffering and pain, God cares for us—through us. Jesus creates us as a community whose loyalty and love is first to God And second to each other.
We will always be a threat to Empire, to the powers that be. Those who declare Jesus as Lord do not bow to Caesar or Mammon. In Christ, we are a new family, a new social order.
A new way of being that comes before all other families and societies.
Jesus came to set a fire, to create division, To command a higher loyalty.
One that overturns kings and governors. One that creates division among parents and siblings and friends. And in this new order Jesus is not just with us.
He is before us. Before us in time and space. Beckoning us forward to that future kingdom.
That kingdom of justice and love and peace. Where there will be no more sorrow or tears,
But only joy everlasting. Where Jesus himself will come to us. And wipe away every tear.
And through all the pain and sorrow of this life,
Not a hair on our head will be lost. Through our perseverance we will gain our lives. Because on that last great day,
God creates a new heaven and a new earth. Be glad and rejoice at what God is creating. Because no one will hear the sound of weeping ever again.
On that last great day, Jesus will come. And no one will need to tell you that he is the Christ.
You will know him not through a book, Or the words of a sermon,
But through him.2 The present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory,
When nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:18, 38. This is why we gather at St Anne’s.
Not to admire a Temple. But to stand and face east, And look for the coming of our King. Amen.
Luke 21:5-19 (CEB) The temple’s fate 5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with
beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be
left upon another. All will be demolished.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?” 8 Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first,
but the end won’t happen immediately.” 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each
other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky. 12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you
because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to
prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you
will gain your lives. Isaiah 65:17-25 (CEB) New creation and new Jerusalem 17 Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind. 18 Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people. No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again. 20 No more will babies live only a few days, or the old fail to live out their days. The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person, and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed. 21 They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat
2 Romano Guardini, The Lord. (Regnery: Washington 2012) p253.
their fruit. 22 They won’t build for others to live in, nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people; my chosen will make full use of their handiwork. 23 They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors, because they will be people blessed by the Lord, they along with their descendants. 24 Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the Lord.
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