May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts always be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
I have spent far too much time watching and reading the news of late and I have been a little startled by the news coverage to be honest. There is the looming financial crisis in the form of the fiscal cliff in the United States of America that is threatening to drag them, Canada, and the rest of the world back into a crippling recession.
While the financial crisis of 2008 is still being felt not only here in Canada, but throughout all of Europe, as country after country comes to the edge of bankruptcy. Greece, Ireland, Spain tittering on the very precipice of financial collapse.
This past week workers throughout Europe walked off the job in a continent wide protest over austerity measures, spending cuts, loss of pensions and benefits as nation after nation seeks to get a grip on spending that is, quite frankly, out of control. Workers are clashing violently with governments and companies over the ever increasing income gap, as tough economic measures are being bourn on the back of the once prosperous middle class and low income earners while the rich and ultra rich seem free from such measures and their wealth continues to grow.
Meanwhile in Syria the violence is escalating. The civil war that has gripped that country for months now, continues to claim the lives of innocents. Civilians, women and children, are increasingly killed and the number of refuges has climbed to a quarter of million people spilling into neighboring countries.
The civil war itself and the violence it breeds has even spilled into other countries and territories. Rocket fire was exchanged from Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights for the first time since the 6 day war back in 1967.
And Israel and the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are once again at war as violence there escalates. Rockets being fired at Jerusalem for the first time since the mid 70’s, the night pierced by air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Israel responding with naval bombardment and air strikes in Gaza. The Israeli government is preparing for a ground invasion, has thousands of troops have been called into active service in an attempt to eliminate Hamas once and for all.
The Middle East from one corner to the next is embroiled in conflict and war, from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Israel, and many more. And Western powers and politicians seem ready and almost eager to jump into the conflict and continue to wage war throughout the world if you are to listen o the Hawks in Washington.
And then there are the earthquakes, hurricanes and floods that dominate the news, as the US eastern seaboard seeks to still recover from Hurricane Sandy and the west coast was recently rocked by earthquake and warnings were dispatched, as fears of Tsunamis would devastate the area. Global warming, increasingly sever weather patterns and destructive storms rage throughout the world and their effects are being felt in the economy, the food supply and the global markets.
And then we read this morning’s gospel and we stop, we pause and we shiver.
“As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
“When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”
Then Jesus began to say to them, “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 rumors 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 birthpangs.”
Mark’s “little apocalyptic message” here is meant to frighten the disciples and us but also to prepare them. Jesus here is talking about what is necessary to help bring about the kingdom of God. And it seems all so very terrifying, with war, famine, natural disasters and nation rising against nation. A world gone completely mad to be sure.
But this has always been the world that we live in, fallen and broken. Each generation throughout history has been able to point to these impeding “signs” of doom and say that Christ will return soon, repent and believe. And how many prophets have come among us, seeking to sell us salvation. They preach about when the world was good, before we, as a society, had lost our way and gone down such a morally dubious pathway. They point to these “signs” and say that Christ is coming, and judgment is on its way, repent and believe for the end is near.
Yet, they are partially right, for the kingdom of God is indeed on its way, my brothers and sisters, its is coming, it is immanent. Because it is into this world that Jesus sends you, the baptized. You see, this passage from Mark, is not about the end that is coming, but about the beginning, the beginning of something new, the beginning of God renewing his creation and his covenant with his people. It is about the beginning of what we are to do as followers of Jesus Christ. These are indeed the problems of the world and these are the problems that we will face and are sent to help make right. We are to be the peacemakers, the healers, the stewards of creation and the friends, companions and advocates to all those that are broken and suffering.
We are to build something new, a new kingdom, a new temple to Christ, not one of rough stone hewn from the earth. But we are to build a new temple, a new kingdom, comprised of living stones. And we are to do it not alone, but through the grace and mercy of God, for we have been joined to God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in baptism. We are to be the new temple, the body of Christ. We are to be living stones.
Listen to the words of Peter in his 1 letter the church.
“Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Living stones, a new temple in the form of the body of Christ we are. My friends, the end is indeed coming and instead of lamenting the loss of a world that is broken, we should be glad indeed. For the end of the old world and the beginning of something new, the kingdom of God, is upon us.
From us, living stones, joined together with Christ in baptism, we will go forward into this broken and fallen world, not to judge it or condemn it; not to hide or shrink from the work that needs to be done; nor to sit idly by and wait for the coming of our Lord again. We are to participate in the building of the kingdom of God, not as creators ourselves, but the resurrected body of Christ, the church. Christ as the head, but each of us as the body.
And we are to go forward, into the world, the living stones and we are to become a living temple were the kingdom of God is realized, through us and in us.
The apocalypse is upon us.
Alleluia and amen.