First Sunday of Advent, 11/26/23, “Waking and Watching”
Pastor Marie Meeks & Deacon Sharon Brennen
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples are looking for a sign – something we find ourselves doing from time to time. Only they are looking for a clue as to when the end of the world will be coming. Heavy stuff! It all started when one of the disciples was so impressed and awed by his first visit to the big city of Jerusalem. He was amazed at the wonder of the giant stone blocks that made up the walls of the Temple. As he was walking away with Jesus and the disciples, he said, “Teacher, look at that stonework! Look at the buildings!”
But Jesus is unimpressed with the grandeur of the temple buildings. And instead of agreeing with their assessment of the architectural wonder before them, he shocks the disciples, when he predicts the fall of this very temple. By this time, Jesus had been speaking against the temple and its sinful practices for quite some time. He had been open about revealing the shameful behavior of the temple scribes and priests, calling them hypocrites, and describing how they found ways to steal from those who came to the temple. And how they filled their pockets not for any other need, but their selfishness and greed.
So Jesus is not happy with any praise for this building and its servers. And when the disciple wanted to pour praise on what he saw, Jesus wanted him to see far more. So he rebuked him saying, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another. All will be thrown down.” The disciples were shocked and afraid. Wouldn’t the end of the temple be the end of everything? But Jesus was not talking about the stones themselves, but what was going on in God’s House and how it all was tearing apart the meaning of the temple itself. If the priests and the people could not follow God’s commands… especially to love each other and care for widows and orphans… they were subverting the very meaning of the commandments. So a mere building would mean nothing to God… no matter HOW magnificent it was.
These words, of course, upset the disciples, because the temple HAD been destroyed before – and it felt like their world had ended for good. And they had been in captivity for many years. So they pondered what Jesus was saying wondering if this horror would be happening again. After they left Jerusalem, they were sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple. Some of the disciples got up the courage to ask Jesus to tell them when all that Jesus announced would happen and what he meant by “the end”. Jesus tells them not to be fooled and keep thinking that anytime something bad is announced, that it would mean the “end of the world” as they see it.
The world is always full of wars and terrorists, earthquakes, famines, hunger, and so many disasters, needs and concerns. A listing would be never-ending. Jesus wanted them to see that when we put our faith in the things of this world and think they will save us and fill us with good things, we are fooling ourselves. But when we look to God and believe in his power and his judgments, then we will begin to look inside ourselves for God’s presence and strength, and be able to see beyond to each other and how we all can make this world a better place.
Many Christians worry about the struggles many churches are going through right now because of the lack of attendance and how it even affects finances. But if we focus too much on those things, we, like the disciples, miss the real truth. Because all over the world, we are not following God as we should. We are not serving him as he wants. If we shared all the food in the world, there would be enough for all. That alone is a fact that should make us see what we are doing wrong. If we did not look to power and money for happiness, but instead to service and giving, our world would be looking much different and the struggles between us would not be as divisive or cruel.
We need to defend and help the marginalized, the poor, the lonely, the hungry, the ones who “are different” in any way, the ones who cry out for justice and peace, the ones who are affected by wars and attacks, the ones who live in fear, the ones who cannot think for themselves, and for all others who need us each and every day. It is good to trust God to save us, but God also wants us to save ourselves. And we do that by following his commandments and sharing his love.
We do need to worry about the state of the world and our churches. We need to be beacons of change, who enable our churches to address a more modern world. God will not change, but will be there to applaud our willingness to make his place in our world one that draws people in – because of its excitement and joy.
We are called to “stay awake” as to how we can change, how we can adapt… and let God lead our way toward this beacon of our hope. We need to think how we will welcome Jesus when he comes again –alive and well, within and around his world and his people. Be with us Lord, as we move forward in your Love and Light! And help us to “stay awake.” Amen.