Architecture comes in many different styles and uses, just like types of buildings. There are malls. There are businesses. There are schools, hospitals, factories, office towers, hotels, churches, museums, not even to mention the diversity of houses built over the years.
Yet, despite all of this, each has a special meaning to us. Especially when it comes to our homes and churches.
After the last few weeks of hearing Jesus teach in the temple, in our reading this morning he finally leaves. As they are leaving his disciples point to the temple and make comment. Now I’m not sure with what emotion they are pointing to it; are they pointing out it’s impressive structure, it’s beauty? Maybe.
They point to the temple and say, “What a large building! Look at those impressive stones!”
And how does Jesus respond? He says this, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Now, how would you feel if we left here this morning and I said, “Take one last look folks, next week this building might be gone!”
You’d probably be a bit upset, wouldn’t you? Concerned maybe. We have an emotional connection with this church. For many of you this has been a weekly fixture in your life for a very long time.
But we also have people here in our church, new members, who have come from other churches. Some of you are here because you had to leave your last church because it was closing. And now those buildings are in the hands of others. One of which is now a lovely looking home.
I know it was a difficult choice for you to leave your church building. I know there are still feel emotions when you think of it. We have emotional connections with places that have significant moments in our lives.
Yet, we also have learned that God is still with us.
The closing of the church did not see the end of God’s work in our lives.
When Jesus told his disciples the temple would fall, they were concerned. They wanted to know what he was speaking about. Jesus is speaking about more than just the closing of the temple, Jesus is telling them about much more. He’s telling them of the coming end.
This is a very interesting reading from the Gospel of Mark. The disciples are looking for a hint for what is to come. Jesus has been talking about his death and resurrection. He has been talking about God’s kingdom coming. The disciples are starting to wonder if they need to start getting ready. They are looking for details. How will they know for sure it’s coming?
Our reading this morning is what you would call an apocalyptic reading. It is speaking of the coming of the end. Jesus is talking about the signs of what is to come that will signify the end is on the way.
What happens after our reading today is that Jesus begins what we call his passion narrative. That is, the plot to kill him is put into action, and the final preparation for the events to come take place.
Judas agrees to betray Jesus.
Jesus has his final supper with his disciples.
He goes to pray in the garden.
And he is arrested, tried, beaten and killed.
So today is his final teaching before it all unfolds, and he is giving the warning signs to his disciples of what is to come for the world.
But Jesus is also giving hints as to what will happen to him.
In verse 24 it says, “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light…”
It makes us think of how from noon until 3pm a darkness covered the land just before Jesus died.
In verse 35 Jesus tells them to “keep awake”. But as we see in just one chapter later, when Jesus goes to pray in the garden of Gethsemane he asks his disciples to keep awake, yet they fall asleep.
Continuing along in verse 35 Jesus says, “… you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn…”
When Jesus goes through his passion, from his arrest, through his trial, it all happens overnight. And notice he mentions cockcrow, this is significant to us as readers because we know Peter will deny knowing Jesus three times before the cock crows.
All of this happens within the next two chapters in the Gospel of Mark.
And speaking of the destruction of the temple, what happens there when Jesus dies? The temple curtain is torn in two top to bottom.
So yes, this reading gives hints to the passion of Jesus, but it also speaks to much more than that. It speaks to the world each and every day as we see the potential signs all around us.
If we look to the political circus in the United States right now, do not the words of Jesus come to mind when he says,
“Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark 13:5-8)
Should we be alarmed? No, I don’t think we need to panic yet. There have been people predicting the end of the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
We need to keep his advice though and keep awake.
What does he mean by this? It means be ready.
It means to see the signs Jesus foretells as signs God is getting ready to do something in the world, and if we are going to be part of it, then we need to watch carefully for these signs.
Maybe it means we need to be ready to receive hundreds of American refugees who are fleeing the States following the next election, thanks to the work of Rob Calabrese and his website promoting Cape Breton as a safe place for Americans.
Maybe it means we need to be reaching out to the Syrian refugees who are here in our town, but also ready to receive more as they flee wars in their own countries. Seeking safety for themselves and their families.
Whatever it is, we need to be ready. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, need to be awake, be aware, of what God is up to in our world. The signs are all there. They are happening now. They keep happening over and over again. As Christians we are being asked to respond.
One of the beautiful things about apocalyptic passages in the Bible is that while they are often read as the signs for the end of the world that’s not all they are about.
We need to look at verses 26 and 27 to see the words of hope that are being offered in amidst the words of warning.
Verses 26 and 27 say, “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
In the middle of all these warnings, what do we see?
We see incredible words of hope. We see Jesus promising he will return in great power and glory. We see he will send out his angels to gather his followers from all corners of the earth and even into the heavens.
Yes, we are reading about the potential end of the world as we know it, but we are also reading about the Son of God, coming in God’s power and glory to redeem the earth and all those who follow him.
So, we do need to be ready. How do we get ready?
We start by giving ourselves to Jesus.
In Bible study on this past Thursday we looked at the importance of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and what the cost of being a disciple entails.
We discovered it means surrendering everything in our lives to him. Our home becomes His home. Our car becomes His car. Our bank account becomes His bank account. It doesn’t mean we have to give it all away, it means that we are holding it, we are using it, for God and his purposes.
Jesus asks us to be ready. He says, “stay awake” several times in our reading this morning.
We need to be in tune with his desire, his direction, his plans for us and also for the world in which we live. We need to be alert in the event we are being asked to do something to help reveal God’s power and glory to the people we come in contact with each day.
We need to realize that this promise Jesus makes is happening now! Jesus says he is coming back. He says he is going to come in power and glory.
He is doing this now!
How? He is doing it through the church. But he’s not doing it through our building… he’s doing it through his people… us. We ARE the church. We are the hands and feet of our living God through the power of the Holy Spirit He sent to the world.
The promise of Jesus Christ coming in power and glory can happen right now if we listen to his voice, his call to follow him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We can help fulfill His promise to renew the world.
Remember last week when Jesus told the scribe in the temple he was near the kingdom of God? He was, he really was. But not in the way he may have expected. The scribe was near the kingdom of God because he was near Jesus.
We too are near the kingdom of God when we seek to be near Jesus. We can’t be physically close to him, that was 2000 years ago when he walked on the earth. But we can be near to him by following him today. Because when we choose to follow Jesus, when we choose to “keep awake” and be ready and alert, we are close to him because he comes near to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have the opportunity to see the passion of Jesus Christ for the people of this world when we choose to look closely at the passion he showed in his life, and especially in his final hours which we will remember next week. With our brothers and sisters from other churches in town.
When we commemorate those final hours of his life, we need to keep awake; we need to pay special attention to what he has done for us. We need to fully recognize the power, the love, the grace, the passion he exhibits for us.
God comes ever so near to us in Jesus Christ.
God comes ever so near to us in the cross.
The King of glory is near.
The King of love ends up hanging on a cross for us.
It’s on that cross that God is fully revealed to us.
And on His final night, all through the darkness, before the dawn, He takes the steps to sacrifice His life for us. He goes through the torture and pain to show His deep love for the world.
And after the dawn he is hung upon a cross for all of us.
The kingdom is near.
God is near.
The master, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, has revealed himself in the night through an unexpected encounter in the darkness.
This is where our Lord meets us.
At a most unexpected hour, in a most unexpected place.
Are we ready?
Will we be awake?
I hope I am.
And I hope you are too.
Jesus Christ shows the power and glory of his Father, who is also our Father, in heaven. He showed it 2000 years ago, and he still shows it today.
Nothing can overcome the power and glory of our God. Not even the darkness of the world.
We are His light. We are living in hope.
Hope that we are His people.
Hope that we will overcome this darkness and see the light of Christ shine brightly in this world once more.
And we hope we are ready, we are awake and alert, and prepared to follow him when he calls on our name.
My friends, be ready, for Christ may come at any time.
Follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
Give yourself to him, and he will show you his power and glory.
Then, your will be ready.
Amen and amen.