5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* and, “The time is near!”* Do not go after them.
9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words* and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates aesthetically pleasing church architecture. I can appreciate the old gothic style of many churches for the time and effort it takes to build all those arches. How about churches made of hand-placed stone? There is a church in my hometown which was built with stone back in the early 1800s – I do not want to imagine the time it took to construct that church single stone by single stone. I can also appreciate the more contemporary design styles many new churches have as well complete with stadium seating and elaborate stages. How a worship space is built can say a lot about that particular worshipping community’s values. I had a professor in seminary that put forth this hypothesis and added by saying you could look at a church’s building and essentially know their style of worship and their overall culture. Fascinating (to me, at least)!
Whoever is talking to Jesus here appreciated good architecture as well. It seems like they were sort of patting themselves on the back for how wonderful it was and I am sure some part of them wanted Jesus to join them in discussing the magnificence of the new stained-glass windows or the state of the art sound system that so-and-so donated to the church. However, Jesus always thought of things differently. Instead of talking about the magnificence of the gift-adorned temple, Jesus reminds the hearers that what’s in or on the temple doesn’t matter because it is going to be destroyed! What a buzz-kill Jesus! In the Gospels though, we can always rely on Jesus to tell us what he thinks. Here, Jesus’ statement is not even about decorations or architectural style, though. He’s not saying, “Well that’s ugly take it down” or “I sure wish you wouldn’t have put that stained glass there.” Jesus is talking big picture-end-of-time type stuff. Jesus is saying that the adornments of the temple (or church) won’t ultimately matter because eventually history will end. Creation, and history as a part of creation, is in God’s good hands and will eventually end. We need not worry, though; God will bring history to a worthy conclusion indeed!
Passages like these have often caused people to begin guessing just exactly when “the end” will be. Many, like Jesus says in the passage, have even claimed to be Him! But Jesus’ point is not to get us guessing about when and how, but instead thinking about here and now! The Jesus of Luke 21 calls for us to be The Church now; to be disciples of the Kingdom of God!
What does this mean to Cherokee Springs UMC? How do we continue to “think about here and now.” What does it mean for us to be the church now? How can we be The Church now?
See you Sunday if not before!!
p.s. whoever can name the church in the picture above wins bragging rights this week!