This week’s gospel reading finds Jesus in the temple with his disciples. Since arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching there regularly and coming into conflict with the religious leaders (no surprise there). Someone comments about the splendid stones and the magnificence of the temple and Jesus’ response is quite unexpected. He tells them, ”the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Seriously? This massive and impressive building? It is the center of their religious rituals and their identity as the people of God. For generations, their ancestors have come for festivals and to worship God.
The thing is, the temple had been destroyed before and rebuilt, desecrated by enemies and reclaimed. Tragedy had come before and they had endured and recovered. They have persevered in the face of disaster before.
It doesn’t take a very long look at the history of the world to see that tragedy is a consistent part of life. There are always wars and insurrections, natural disasters, famines and plagues, and personal struggles. In this passage, as Jesus names frightening events, he explains that they are to be expected and makes clear that he will be with his followers (us included) when things are awful.
This passage is sometimes referred to as the “little apocalypse” and in it, Jesus doesn’t give clues about when the destruction will happen, but rather, tells his followers (and us) not to be led astray. There are many voices in a crisis and some are simply not from God; those are not the ones to follow. He also tells his followers not to be terrified, and offers the reassurance of his presence. Jesus says, “this will give you an opportunity to testify.” Jesus promises to give them words and a wisdom that their opponents will not be able to contradict.
While we don’t face arrest like the early followers of Jesus, we also have the opportunity to testify with our lives who God is and who we are as Jesus’ followers. Sometimes we use words to explain our faith in God and how it shapes our lives, yet more often, the ways we live our lives give our testimony. As followers of Jesus, we are part of God’s presence and activity in the world, bringing love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, inclusions, and hope into the world. The priorities and choices in our lives reflect what we believe:
-God is faithful and the author of all that is good.
-God loves us and all the world.
-God is working to transform and heal the brokenness of the world.
-God’s intent and identity is revealed in the life, teachings, healings, and miracles of Jesus, and in his death and resurrection.
This somewhat unsettling passage reminds us that God is working in the world and God will ultimately triumph. Through Jesus words and wisdom, we can speak and live in ways that reflect the hope we have in God and the future that God is bringing into being. We can continually tell and show that we believe God is here; moving in the world bringing forgiveness and healing, bringing justice and inclusion, bringing transformation and new life.
Peace, my friends. Even in the face of difficulties.