Tag: Destruction

Free Falling

Sermon, Pentecost 26B, Sunday November 18, 2018, St Petri

Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 Let us confidently draw near to God
Mark 13:1-8 
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

A few years back I remember trying to take in the enormity of what happened on September 11, 2001 in Manhattan as I walked around what is now “Ground Zero”: a memorial to that fateful day.

Unlike Jesus’ disciples who were looking up the stone columns with golden gold capital’s in the enormous Temple that Herod the Great commissioned and built over 60+ years, I was looking down at the two massive holes in the ground where those mighty Twin Towers used to be footed, but now had completely vanished.

I marvelled at how human beings can reach to the heavens as they construct these enormous buildings.

It made me reflect on how we human have this need to build things that seem permanent – be it a career, a portfolio, a body, a house, a farm, church or whatever. I was confronted with how the mighty and the seemingly permanent can fall so completely; how fragile it all can be.

For the citizens of the USA and the Western world, the Twin Towers were not just a building, but a symbol – a symbol of power, financial dominance, western civilisation’s solid footings in history past and future. Similar for the good people of Israel.

Herod’s temple was not just a building, but a symbol of power, solid future: something surely immovable because of its largeness, magnificence and beauty and because of what happened there on daily basis, rule of law, economic power house, centre of international relations and centre of family, spiritual and national life.

I don’t think Jesus could rip the rug out from underneath their feet any more brutally than he did right there that day. Jesus reveals that even what seems so solid, immovable and “future proof” will fall and the fall will be complete and final. It would like you going down to Adelaide oval on game day and saying that even this will all fall the the ground – don;t bet your life on all of this.

Jesus’ truth today is that even the greatest symbols of our human power and might or our attempts to be God, replace God, capture God or limit God to our own experience and understanding are never enough to last forever. They will fall. “Everyone brick will be thrown down”, Jesus says.

Jesus’ community struggle to take this unsettling news in. Self-preservation mode kicks in. “Tell us, Jesus, how to avoid this or at least be ready for it when it happens as you say.”

Jesus’ does not give them what they want. he does respond, but his response is only general at best.

Conflict, war, poverty, famine, disasters of earth and sea, death and injustice will show you that we are heading in this direction, he says. No specifics, just fair general warning that we are all heading somewhere.

What is he saying? On the one hand, all of this that seems so solid and strong and future proof is not. On the other, nothing is meaningless or outside Jesus’ awareness. We are moving somewhere together, and he will be there standing when all else is not.

How does this work for you? If everything eventually falls, why will I cling to now? If all will fall, why try and build anything? – a home, a school, a community, a church, a life…?

And then, why does it have to be this way? Why does it have to be so painful as a woman in labour pains. Why can’t it be easier or smoother or less pain-filled?

There is more to hear here. Whatever happens, whatever we do, whatever we go about there is something that will really count when all the bricks lay on the stand. And this thing that simply is, that lasts longer than anything else, is worth building and will sustain this world through anything.

And the ‘thing’? the gospel; this good news, this human man of love; this new place of God, this new holy temple of human flesh and bone and holy words – his words. That is permanent. That is worth building life on, that is what will keep us rock-solid and true, no matter what.

10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

This gospel lasts and simply must be spoken and done by those who have received it from Jesus. It is the only thing that remains when the stones of your life’s work are all thrown down. Because it is the last thing standing, so are you. You, fallen person will stand when all else falls – with him, the last man standing.

That is why we build anything. The permanent gospel of Jesus is why we build, care, try, love, act, engage with others, with this town, why build a church building, why change it, why work hard to build a school community, a career, a family, a marriage, a life.

That is our life’s project: To proclaim him – the new temple, the new place of God’s grace, the good news of his grace for lost, untidy, broken, cracked, dark, prideful, miserable, shameful, people.

But how?

9 ‘You must be on your guard……. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

We go about life in Nuri as Christians with two things;
1. Laser-like vigilance attending to God’s word. It is the only thing by which we are sustained, and by which we will last beyond the pain, the loss, the ego and the dirt of your grave.
2. Trust in the Holy Spirit: Our words and actions are powered by, given by, sustained by and made effective by the one and only Holy Spirit of God, our Counsellor, our Advocate and our future.

Friends, I hear freedom today: freedom from trying to buld permanency, freedom from self-interest, from fear of disaster, from competitive “keeping up with the Jones’s” here. I also hear purpose in it all.

The freedom is this: even war and the violence and the poverty are heading toward something – or actually Someone. We build foundations we think will last but don’t. God has built a foundation that has and will last beyond the falling of civilizations, families, people and world.

Even the worst things are not bad enough to stop Him in his tracks. Not even the most tragic thing, the darkest thing, the most painful thing, the most evil thing can stop God’s movement, God’s plan, God’s desire, God’s activity, God’s future from coming to be.

The purpose is that you, baptised son and daughter of God, and holy community of God, St Petri are travelling to be completely fulfilled – fulfilled in Jesus.

So, if we have freedom to serve and love and give no matter what, and we have the One who will be standing when we and all else is not: and if we have the Spirit’s power and presence moving us on toward a complete joy, a complete love, a complete reward, then all we can do is proclaim Jesus with everything we are and have.

We build a family, a marriage, a career, a farm, a job, a business, a church building, a better invention, a better community to do only this one thing – the proclaim him and his Word.

We don’t build bigger barns a more solid future as our life’s goal because the barn and future could never be solid enough. You do all these things to proclaim him because only his word will last.

We don’t get too surprised by changes in our life-time in any sphere of life – business, marriage, parenting, education, architecture, machinery, art, health, body,….. because none of them are ever permanent. They don’t need to be anyway because we are permanent without them because we are permanent only in Christ. He is our permanent life and hope. His word is our only solid footing because it is his word; not mine or yours.

Friend’s you don’t have to build a life that lasts forever. You already have one in him. Now you are free to move and adapt and listen and love no matter what falls or rises….and eventually falls again. You are free falling. You fall freely in Jesus and rise too – all in him with feet planted on him – The Rock of Ages.

We rise and fall and rise again under the Son. We do so like this;

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25

On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Hope brings Confidence – Sermon and Conversation Starters

SermonHope Confidence
Pentecost 25B, Sunday November 15, 2015, St Petri
Hope brings confidence under pressure because all Life heads somewhere good
Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25

Mark 13:1-8
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

 

IT CAN ALL COME TO NOUGHT

Last year I had the blessing of going go to the USA on a professional development journey. On that journey I had the time to get to New York city. I managed to visit Ground Zero of the September 11 attack that brought down those huge Twin Towers. Now there is only two massive holes in the ground where those enormous twin structures once stood. I marvelled at the enormity of what happened in this place. I marvelled at how human beings can reach to the heavens as they construct these enormous buildings, and also how fragile it all can be as even these symbols of wealth, power and human enterprise can be reduced to rubble in an afternoon. I remember remembering this very word of Jesus that day.

For the citizens of Jerusalem and all of Israel, Herod’s temple was similarly regarded – the place of power, the symbol of calm and wealth and future life – surely immovable because of its largeness, magnificence and beauty. Like that TV program, “Megastructures”, shows, human beings can create such magnificently large, technical and awe inspiring buildings. Why do we do it? Maybe to reach for the sky in an attempt to believe that we can master our own lives and destinies – as in the Tower of Babel. Or maybe it is our way of trying to express the vastness and beauty of God; like the gothic cathedrals of Europe. In the city of Jerusalem the Temple is all of this for the people.

As his disciples marvel at what seems sure and solid and everlasting to them, Jesus reveals that there is a day of reckoning for even the highest, surest most beautiful human thing – and for those humans who made it! He stunningly declares to his dumbfounded friends that there is a final judge who has complete authority and power to bring to nothing even the greatest symbols of our human power and might or our attempts to capture God. “Everyone brick will be thrown down”, he says. He declares that there will a day of reckoning for everyone and everything. There is an end point. There is a final word on life and death and how human beings live. There is One who has the power to fulfil perfect and right judgement and will do so.

PLEASE TELL US WHEN!

Like many of us who were witnessing those planes hit those towers, these disciples could not take in this news. Like those hearing Jesus, the blame shifted almost immediately to those who we thought should know of this catastrophe before it happened. Where was James Bond? Where was the FBI and the CIA and all of those names we hear in the movies?” If only we had had fair warning we could have avoided this destruction.”

The disciples are like that. They want to know. “Tell us, Jesus, how to avoid this or at least be ready for it when it happens as you say.” We are like that too. “Tell us Jesus. Tell us exactly what will happen so that we can be one step ahead of the rest”.

MINIMAL DETAIL ENOUGH

Jesus’ response of the frightening fact that human beings and their attempts to either be God or reach God or sum God up will eventually be destroyed, thwarted or so very limited is general at best.

Conflict, war, poverty, famine disasters of earth and sea will show you that we are heading in this direction. No specifics, just fair general warning of signs that God has us covered no matter what happens.

NO STOPPING GOD

And that is the comfort today – that even war and the violence and the poverty are heading toward something – or actually Someone and that somewhere and someone are very good. Evil within and without has its moments, but God has the final moment.

The hope Jesus gives these troubled people is that even the worst things are not bad enough to stop Him in his tracks. Not even the most tragic thing, the darkest thing, the most painful thing, the most evil thing can stop God’s movement, God’s plan, God’s desire, God’s activity, God’s future from coming to be.

Friend, our congregation, our families, our community, our lives are oriented toward fulfillment in Christ.

ACTIVE PRIEST

As we heard in that word to the Hebrews, by his suffering, pain, facing evil, entering death and rising, Jesus the Great High Priest “offered for all time a single sacrifice for human sins”, and “sat down at the right hand of God,” where he rules in grace and love. It is so very hopeful hearing that the Lord is not passively watching the “pain show”. The Priest of all is active in making the enemies of faith, love, peace, good health and great love “made a footstool for his feet.”

Jesus is actively engaged in this making all things new and right now. And so we have great hope. We trust that all wrongs will be made right, all evil will be dealt with finally. All injustice, poverty, pain and tragedy will be righted. Like a damaged ship at sea, there will be a safe harbour where all repairs are complete. We don’t seem to need too much detail. Like a patient in the hospital facing major surgery, too much detail does not help! Just assurance that you will get through it is enough.

WE ARE HEADING SOMEWHERE GOOD

Friends, even though our everyday lives are organized around various overlapping daily, weekly, and yearly cycles and schedules, we are heading somewhere and it is a good place. The Christian faith is essentially a linear faith. God has a mission, God is fulfilling and perfecting, God is shaping the future toward an end. We live in his hope. We are people with a golden hope to share. Life is going somewhere good, not because we say so but because he has done so. By faith in Jesus, the end is brilliant because we have already passed from death to life, according to the Bible. The end is more life – beautiful life in him – now in part, then in full.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH HOPE?

What do you do with confidence that comes from hope? Do we smugly keep it to ourselves? Do we separate ourselves from those we believe to be ‘unbelievers’ who are on the way to destruction like Herod’s temple? Do we rest on our laurels and do life our way believing that we are already in and therefore can live the way we choose without reference to the Judge of all things?

No. Again the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: Since we have confidence to enter the presence of our holy and true God by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, which has opened up for us a new and living way to hope and peace and love, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, who is familiar with all of our tragedies, loses, weakness and wins, we approach the Lord with a honest and open heart in full assurance that we are accepted, loved and holy by faith in Jesus, and so, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, here’s how we live out our hope;

  • By holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.
  • By “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and
  • “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

I am praying that you can pray with the ancient song writer;

“Protect me, O God, for in you I take cover.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol, the place of forgetfulness, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy…”.     Psalm 16

Hope brings confidence.

Amen.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What is the biggest or most beautiful human-made building you have ever seen? Tell your story…

Hear the Mark gospel text again as it is read slowly, imagining the scene, hearing the disciple’s question and what they are asking Jesus to do when he says that even this massive beautiful building will come to nothing under God’s final judgement.

What is your view of the times we are living in? Do you believe that what we see and hear are signs that the end is coming or do you believe that life has always been this way and that things are no better or worse but the one day it will come to an end….or something slightly different.? Share your thoughts/beliefs….

The disciples ask for some details on when this end will come but Jesus does not see to give them much, other than to say that even the worst things are not the determining factor in God’s plan for his world. Would you like to know more detail? Do you believe there is more detail to known in the Bible? What is the purpose of us Christian knowing more details about the end time things? Is it enough to simply trust that no matter hat happens, God will determine our end and our life? Why/why not?

I said our great hope is that nothing can stop God in his tracks. Our life is going somewhere and that this ‘somewhere and Someone” is very good. The Christian life is a linear life – it does have a progression, a direction and that gives up confidence to live through whatever “birth pangs” we are surrounded by. How do you feel about this belief?

We are meant to do something with this confidence that comes from hope. That passage from Hebrews gives us clear direction for living in the hope we have in Christ. How do you respond to those three directions given in Hebrews 10;

  • holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.
  • “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and
  • “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

PRAY – Psalm 16.