November 18, 2013
Luke 21: 5-19
The setting of today’s gospel is important. Jesus and his disciples are in the temple of Jerusalem, and people are commenting how beautiful it is. It is adorned with precious stones and votive offerings. The Jerusalem temple was the pride of every Jew, Jesus and his disciples included. It took years to build at tremendous cost and effort. It was a symbol of Israel’s faith in God and at the same time a sign of Jewish identity. The temple was massive, glorious, and good. So when Jesus tells his disciples that it would soon be destroyed, that there would not be one stone left upon another, we can be sure that his disciples were deeply shaken. The sign of their faith, the sign of their nation, would all be taken away!
Now this gospel is not only about the temple of Jerusalem or Jews of the first century. It is about us. We are to see in the temple a sign of the good things in our life, the things that we care for, the things we take pride in, the things we have built by our hands. This gospel reminds us that those good and glorious things can be lost.
We might have pride in our work, in the job we have performed well and faithfully for years, in the company that we built by our own ideas and efforts. And then, because of a mistake, someone’s dishonesty, or downsizing, our livelihood is taken away. We no longer have an income and work that gives us satisfaction. We might take pride in the family we have built, in the wife or husband that we love, in the children we have raised. We feel blessed in the time and love that we have invested to make our families strong. And then by misunderstanding or divorce or death, the structure of our family is broken. The edifice that we worked so hard to build is undermined. Not one stone is left upon another.We can justly take pride in the temple of our body. We tried to live well, eat healthy, and exercise. Then there is a surprising diagnosis and further tests and procedures. We realize that our health has been seriously compromised. Our energy, our mobility, our future is all violently thrown down.
We know that there is no guarantee that the good things in our life will always remain. The things that we love, the things we have built, the things we take pride in, like the temple in Jerusalem, can be lost. It is when we recognize this truth, that the words of Jesus become so important. Jesus tells us that when our life falls apart, God will not forget us. When the things we take pride in are destroyed, it is then time to place our pride in God’s faithfulness. When we feel alone and powerless, then we must believe that God’s power is real and active.
The most important line in the gospel is the last line where Jesus says “…by your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Perseverance means our ability to hold on, to trust in God’s care. We cannot always rebuild the good things in our life that are destroyed, but we can continue to live. The Jews were never able to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but they continue to flourish as a people in our world today. So can we. When our life lies in ruins, then it is time to trust, then it is time to persevere, then it is time to hold on, believing that by the grace of God we can secure our lives.