The Rev. Linda Taupier – November 14, 2021
‘Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’, talking about scripture, our Collect for the Day is one of my favorites in our church year. It reminds me to spend more time immersing myself in the texts that are the basis of our faith. Everything we need to inwardly digest is in the Bible.
Two years ago I moved from a home I’d owned for over 40 years. I spent weeks in the house clearing out everything because my 7 room house with a full, and I mean FULL basement needed to fit into a 3 room apartment. The decisions of what to take, what to give away and what was headed for the dump were difficult so, to put off the inevitable I rented a storage unit for the items I couldn’t take and couldn’t part with. My last act leaving my home was sweeping, first the cellar and then the kitchen and lastly the breezeway. I swept my way out of that home, closed the door.
Recently I decided I was ready to tackle the storage unit and empty it. One by one I looked at the items. Some were given to ‘good homes’, read my daughter, some thrown away, and too many moved to my apartment. Lastly I came to a huge storage bin with all the pictures I’d accumulated over the years as well as the pictures handed down to me of my grandparents, parents, sisters, family and friends. Over the last several days I’ve gone through each and every picture and made a decision: keep (which means giving them to my daughter or niece) or throw away. I threw away 2 large trash bags full. Jennifer will be very happy about that. I kept only those that held the most treasured memories for those coming after me.
Downsizing is not fun and, for me emotionally challenging. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m giving away and throwing away part of me. The very last thing I did at the storage unit was sweep it out and close the door.
Jesus tells us this morning that the most beautiful building in Jerusalem, which took many years to build will be destroyed. Even though this was the most significant structure in Judaism Jesus tells his disciples that it will be swept away.
When Mark wrote his gospel there was political turmoil and Christians being were being persecuted. It was a time of upheaval and change. Jewish revolutionaries rebelled against the Romans which led to the Temple being destroyed, swept away. Many believed the end was near. The temple-oriented; everything done by temple priests way of faith came to an end. How could they practice their faith without the temple? We heard from Hebrews:
‘And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
Jesus talked about birth pangs. This new faith, one without a central building, without an altar for animal sacrifices done by the priests alone was born. The old was swept away and the new temple, Jesus had come.
This new faith was more than a set of laws. Rather than needing repeated sacrifices done only by priests Jesus is the one, true sacrifice. Again, from our Gospel:
‘But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God’, For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.’
And we are empowered through the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News. This is not just the work of the priests anymore.
Jesus was not trying to make light of the importance of the temple nor was he trying to scare the disciples. He offered his words to prepare them and us for changes in the world around us. Everything will eventually be swept away. What is everlasting is the love of God.
There are all kinds of ‘signs’ that the end is near. Those signs have come along every few years since the destruction of the Temple. Jesus warned the disciples not to get caught up in worrying about the end rather they must recognize the miracle in their midst in that moment. He warns against falling for the false prophets who we will meet along the way. Those that tell us what we want to hear rather than the truth. How can we remain alert for those false narratives that come our way on a daily basis? The end will come and the old will be swept away and we have no way of knowing when that might be. With all the readings today, although apocalyptic in nature, notice the hope in them for those who have been faithful to the gospel and will, as we heard in Daniel:
‘…at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.’
And from our Psalm: ‘Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;’
How might we learn to pull away from the false? We need to make space for the Holy Spirit to work within us and around us so that when an opportunity presents itself to live into the Kingdom of God we are ready and we have the energy and focus needed.
Many of you know that I was recently on vacation for 2 weeks. During that time I was blessed with 2 different retreat times. The 1st was with 9 of my deacon friends near the Cape. We had time for rest, time for prayer and silence and time to enjoy each other with several bottles of wine. The 2nd retreat I went alone to Enders Island outside of Mystic CT. There I found myself immersed in God’s beauty, walking in the gardens, sitting by the ocean. I spent a lot of time in silence. It was a wonderful opportunity to regain some of my energy and focus.
I know we can’t all get away by ourselves for days. We all need to find quiet time with God. If we don’t listen we just might miss where God is leading.
These last weeks we have had the opportunity to pray outside of this building, our ‘temple’. We’ve prayed with hospital chaplains and for the city. We’ve prayed with police and politicians. We’ve prayed with some homeless and people on the margins. We’ve prayed with those who are sick and for those who have no idea how to put one foot in front of the other to make it through the day. We went outside of our building and found people who wanted and needed our prayer.
Our Cathedral is a holy space and it is here we come to be formed, nourished and find community. It’s the place that prepares us to be out in the world. We could stay inside this beautiful building and admire the stained glass and architecture and talk among ourselves and wait for the second coming. Instead, as Christians we are meant to recognize that Jesus came among us and changed the world.
The second coming will take care of itself in God’s time. We are called to be focused outward today and each today we are given because the world needs us outside as witnesses of God’s faithfulness.