14 November 2010 - Isaiah 65:17-25/Psalm 98/Luke 21:5-19
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter's at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
By Your Endurance You Will Gain Your Souls
The audience for this story has known about the destruction of the Temple since the very beginning. The Temple - the place where God's finger touches the earth and holds it still. The center of Jewish and early Christian worship and sacrifice. Day after day the early disciples went to the Temple to pray.
Not one stone left on top of another, he said. Imagine what it must have been like for Luke's original audience to be standing amidst the still smoldering rubble listening to these words: Teacher, when will this be? When will this be! It is now - by the time Luke was written the Temple was just a memory.
The secular and modern analog for us, of course, would be the World Trade Towers. To understand the impact of what Jesus is saying, we would have to somehow imagine a catastrophe that was of an even greater magnitude and conveyed even greater psychic damage than that of 9/11.
So this story revolves around an absence - absence and loss. This destruction of the Temple by Rome in 70 a.d. expelled the Christians and Jews who worshipped there every day into a world without any maps to provide guidance. Yet, both Christianity and Judaism survived this unprecedented holocaust - both found new ways, new forms, new directions to live their faith in an increasingly hostile world.
We know absence. We know loss. In nearly every century of its existence, the church has been subjected to some kind of brokenness and loss - some kind of splintering and division.
It is important for us to pay careful attention to Jesus at this crucial moment in first century time as well as our own time. For what he counsels, what he commands really, is not to be bothered by timetables and what might happen. Focus yourselves on what you are doing now.
That is, the message of Jesus is all about what to be doing in the meantime, the in between time if you will. And the heart of his message is “endurance” or what is elsewhere in Luke (8:15) translated as “patience.” It is important for us to note that Luke uses this word only twice, at the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and at the end.
Note the words of caution: Do not be misled, do not follow false prophets, do not panic, do not prepare your defense beforehand. For those who observe these cautions, not a hair on your head will be lost, and by standing firm you will win yourselves life – eternal life lived with and in the eternal heart of God's Love.
What is it, then, that holds us together at times like these? What is it that allows us to endure?
A community sustained by Word and Sacrament - a community sustained by hope, vision, and song.
Isaiah had seen it all some six centuries before Jesus - that previous destruction of Jerusalem, the city of Peace, and its inhabitants carried off to captivity in Babylon. Yet, Isaiah, like the Psalmist, is sustained by a vision and by a song.
The vision is of a new heaven and a new earth! The song is a new song, a song that will burst forth not only from the mouths of men, women and children, but all creation will join in the singing! The seas will make noise! The rivers will clap their hands! The hills will ring out with joy! Like the rest of us, creation awaits a new beginning.
A community of faith that sustains itself with God's Word, God's Holy Sacraments, and is open to God's Hope, God's Vision and God's Song, is a community that endures.
"By your endurance you will gain your souls."
The Vision, says the poet Isaiah, will be a new heaven and new earth. It will be a time when before we call on the Lord, he will answer. It will be a time for the wolf and the lamb to feed together. It will be a time when the lion shall eat straw like the ox. It will be a time when "they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord."
For there will be no time for division. There will be no time for tearing down. For we shall be those people sustained by God's Word and Sacrament calling all creation to sing a new song!
So that on that day when He returns to judge the quick and the dead, we shall be been knit together into One Body and One Spirit. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. One God and Father of All.
Of All. Not some. Not many. Not most. But All.
All shall know the glory of the Lord.
And all shall join in one voice and sing:
Sing to the Lord a new song,
For he has done marvelous things!