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Pentecost 25B November 18th

Apocalypse, Now. (Mark 13:1-12)

© Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

They are sitting, each propped up against the gnarly trunk of
an olive tree, enjoying the grey dappled shade they provide in
the afternoon heat. Simon couldn’t resist picking up a copy of
the Jerusalem Gossip on his way down the through the bustling
market in the lower city, and he was engrossed in its tabloid
exclamations. John, who fancied himself an intellectual cut
above the fishermen, was skimming through the “world” section
of the Jerusalem Times. Jesus was closed-eyed under his tree.
You could tell he wasn’t asleep though, because his left foot
tapped insistently against his right ankle, tell-tale of the
passion simmering beneath the calm exterior.
Andrew was staring across the narrow valley at the massive wall
of the Temple, pondering, niggling the question. What did Jesus
mean, all those house-sized stones would crumble to dust?

Impossible, surely? Not just from an engineering perspective,
even the Romans couldn’t accomplish that, but God couldn’t,
wouldn’t let it happen. Not again? He nudged John, pointed
silently at the Temple, his eyebrows and shoulders creating a
question. John understood, and looked over at Simon, who
pointed at the news in his rag of the latest timetable for
executions of insurrectionists. His lips shaped a silent “I
dunno. Ask him?” A minute of silent jostling and pointing
among the disciples and Jesus, prescient, opened his eyes. What
was their question going to be this time?
“Teacher, you know what you said over there, earlier? About the
Temple, all those huge stones turned to gravel. …. If you say
so, we believe you, but… when? How will we know this calamity
is about to happen?”

Like a coil unsprung, Jesus launches himself, alert, set-jawed,
eyes bright, and whips his lean body to attention.
Stands blocking their view, and then sweeps an imaginary
curtain as if unveiling the panorama before them. Then,
noticing, he lurches at Simon, sweeps away his tabloid, where
it snags on a root, and flaps uselessly in the breeze.

“Not through these!” Jesus says. Not through the newsfeeds on
your iPads, not the CBC or PBS, and not the late night shows,
and certainly not from the sandwich boarded doomsayers by the
Roddick Gates!! What is all this apocalyptic obsession? Wars,
and rumours of wars…. are these new? How many times has famine,”
Of course those stones will tumble, one day.
Decay or destruction, does it matter?
All the Temples of trust will be assaulted
in one way or another, and some will fall.
Even ours, this massive testament to the faith of our
forbears.
“But we kid ourselves if we think that God will protect
bricks and mortar from the vicissitudes of life itself.
It is we, earthbound, earth made ones
who invest these Temples with faith-filled meaning.
Do you think that if God’s Temple falls,
God falls with it?”
He stands again, and blocks their view with his silhouetted
body.

John closes one eye, and imagines the world without it.
The Temple. A gaping hole in the side of the hill, yes,
but still sunlight, still rain in winter, still children being
born, old people going to their graves.
Still fighting and loving,
still soldiers who tax with the point of a sword,
still kings who preen in grandeur and graft, blind to the
plight of the poor.
The veil is lifted from his inner eye, and John is aghast;
horror struck by apocalypse, by revelation.

“What is the point then? He yells.
If this is the way the world is, why am I here with you, Jesus?
Why have I followed you on dusty roads, with rocks for a
pillow?
Why do you bother healing people of one disease,
only to leave the healed one victim to some new tragedy?
If this is “the way the world is and always has been”
then what….…where is God if God isn’t in this Temple?
Has God abandoned us, now, or worse, have we always been
abandoned?
I don’t know which is worse,
God’s judgment? God’s callousness?
God’s absence? God’s uselessness?
What is the point of you, of us, of all this?
We need to know. This. Now.”

John stands rigid, tears fighting through his lashes,
fists clenched by his side.
Peter slumps, deflated, all his bluster, all his optimism,
burst by John’s volcanic eruption.
Andrew just wished they’d never asked the question
about those damned stones.

It was as if the world held its breath.
My aside here; we’ve lived with the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel for
almost a year now, his impatient passionate proclamations of
the Dream of God have filled our year with challenge, and with
vision of a God who can heal, who can rescue from demons, who
can raise life from death, who has no truck with greed or
selfishness, and who delights to lift the lowly, make trees
from mustard seeds…..….All this Jesus has believed and lived in
everything he has done and said.

But this moment, it all hangs on this moment.
Will he be able to lift the veil enough? Help them see what he
has come slowly, inexorably, irrevocably to understand? Could
he burst the amniotic fluid of their innocent trust, without
hurting their newborn faith?
Would they endure the birth pains, could they give birth to the
Gospel as flesh of their own flesh? For that is what is at
stake, in that moment the world stood still under the olive
trees, facing the Temple.

“You do.” Jesus says to John.
“You do need to know. But not the answer to your question,
about signs and endings. You need to know that
this world is as it is, and that God is in it, ……through me and
you. God is not in temples that will fall to ruin.
God is in you.
You are made in God’s image.
You, me, and all who follow you and me,
we are how God is in the world as it is,
with its war, and earthquake, and disaster.

I’ve told you that the Kingdom Dream of God is at hand, among
us, in the mustard seed and the widow’s mite, in the fisherman
eating supper with the tax man, in loaves and fishes shared on
a hillside, in the little girl and the battered woman made
strong again because of a healing touch, a word of justice.

You asked for signs of the end,
I will give you the signs of the Kingdom now.
These are the signs:
God is the Healer, because you heal in God’s name.
God is the Rescuer, because you rescue God’s own.
God is the Lover, because you face down hatred with God’s love.
God is Just, because you answer oppression and injustice
with your voice, your work, your labour, your witness.
God is Light, because you refuse to let the darkness win.
God is Truth because you speak it.
God is in the temple, and in its rubbled ruin,
God is shelter in the storm
because you will be a shelter for each other.
These are the signs you need to watch for.

Anthem. (We will be a shelter for each other)

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