This sermon was also on the Mark 13 text and was presented to the Assisted Living and the Bethany Towers area. The Bethany Towers is a government HUB building. The text was the same as first sermon, Mark 13.1-8, Mark's mini-apocalypse.
Do you remember the great snowstorm of 1994? It was in February. I remember it clearly, even though I was only eight years old. We were coming home from church late that night—after children’s choir practice. I remember walking out of church to see flurries coming down. And then we went to Burger King for dinner. On the news they were talking about the storm that was headed our way, but we did not need the news to tell us. In our short meal at Burger King we could see the snow rising up and up on the ground. I remember that night being excited because I knew it had snowed so much already there would be no school the next day. And then, I woke up the next day and ran outside to see that the snow was taller than I was!
It was an exciting time to be a young person. Snow holds a special fascination, almost magical, in the hearts and minds of a child. I remember my brother and I built a fort out of the snow. It was quite magnificent, if I do say so myself. The walls were probably three feet high of snow. There was a tunnel to get into the fort, and a hole dug into the bottom of it full of snowballs for snowball fights.
And my brother and I decided that no girls should be allowed in our fort.
And, then, guess who came outside to play? My sister Jenna. She was only four at the time. Well, she asked if she could play in the fort, and I said, “No! No girls are allowed!”
And Jenna said “But I want to play in it!”
And do you know what I said? I said “No! You’re not good enough.” You’re. Not. Good. Enough. As soon as I said those words I knew I had said something I should not have said, even before I noticed the tears forming in my sister’s eyes. I built up a wall of snow, and how easy it was for that wall of snow—of frozen water and air—to come between me and my sister. Before I could say anything or apologize, my sister ran back inside, crying. And I got up to follow her and tripped on my snow boots, which were a little too big for me anyway, and fell face first into the snow, on top of my snow fort’s walls, crushing them. All that hard work that my brother and I put into those walls was gone in an instant, the walls now nothing more than a pile of snow.
Why do I tell you this story? Well, in the Bible story we heard about Jesus today, the disciples are looking around at the temple, this beautiful, magnificent sight. It had gold and marble and huge, giant stones. It was an enormous complex of several buildings, not to mention the most holy of holies—the Kodesh Hakodashim—where the arc of the covenant was held. Only the most holy priests were allowed behind the beautiful curtains that hid the holy of holies from the rest of the temple complex. It was said that God dwealt there, that God actually LIVED in the Kodesh Hakodashim. And so, out of respect for God, there were many purity rituals that people had to take before they could enter the temple, let alone the holy of holies.
And the disciples, the followers of Jesus, marveled at the temple and said “look at this beautiful place!”
And Jesus said “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Well, guess what? Jesus was right. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD (CE). The temple, which was built to be a house for God was taken apart, stone by stone, until there was nothing left but the mount it was fixed upon.
God was supposed to live in the temple. But, the temple could not contain God. God is greater than the temple walls. I imagine a cathedral today. Like the giant ones in Europe or even the massive National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Those places make you feel awe and wonder. But, does that cathedral contain God? Can we build walls high enough to hold God down? No! God is bigger than the largest cathedral. God does not live in the cathedrals, but God lives and dwells with us.
Jesus said that nothing on earth shall last but my words endure forever.
Just like in my story about my walls of snow, the temple walls were used to separate the clean from the unclean. We build up walls all the time, don’t we? I’m not talking about walls of brick and stone, but the walls we build on our lives that keep others away. What kind of walls do we build today? How do we keep people out? How do we make people feel unwelcome?
Maybe we say unkind words to one another. Maybe we hurt one another with our actions. Maybe we spend our time thinking only about ourselves and our possessions instead of sharing our time and our passions with one another.
My challenge for us is to tear down these walls we have built up. Instead of blocking people out, invite people in. How do we do that, you might ask?
Well, being here is one way. Coming together as a community to worship God. Inviting people to come to worship. Volunteering time to help those in need. And even if you have poor health and cannot do any of these things, there is one powerful way, one very powerful way I think we can help one another. Do you know what it is? Prayer! We can pray for one another.
You see, our God is not a God of high ceilinged cathedrals, as beautiful as they might be. Our God is a God that loves us so much that God become human and sacrificed his life for us, so that the walls between humanity and God that our sin built could be torn down forever. And the good news is that when other people build up walls—metaphysical or physical—to keep us out, when we feel lonely, lost, lifeless, hopeless, any of those things, Jesus tells us that one day all those feelings will perish. All the walls that have kept us down, all the chains that have kept us tethered, will be broken. God says that all the turmoil that we feel is but the pangs of birth—the pain and trials of being in labor.