by Jodi-Renee Giron
Gospel Reading: Mark 13:1-8
For Sunday, November 18, 2012, Year B − Ordinary 33
After a day spent talking about loving your neighbor and commending sacrificial widows, Jesus and the disciples walk away from the temple in Jerusalem. Seemingly buoyed-up from their theological one-up on the scribes, the disciples point out to their teacher the glorious architecture surrounding them.
Maybe it’s indicative that Jesus didn’t share their triumphant attitude because he tells the disciples that not one stone of this architectural grandeur will be left standing.
Wars and reports of wars, earthquakes, famines, deceivers, rumors and talk of the inevitable end. This was what Jesus responded with when the disciples tugged on his robe and pointed at the pretty, pretty buildings.
I’ve always read this text—and the verses following—as a specific prophecy of a time to come full of tribulation and the persecution of the good and indicators that truly “the end is near!” [Bible waving in the air emphatically!] And it is true that scholars have often referred to this passage as the Little Apocalypse.
Yawn, Yet Another Apocalypse
With our current cultural trend in literature, movies, and popular thought of apocalypse-as-total-and-utter-destruction, it’s easy to slip easily into an experience of this passage that reads like the safety card on an airplane.
What often gets misplaced in that title is that apocalypse is the Greek word for revelation; for seeing, insight, truth revealed. So it begs the question: what was Jesus revealing to them in this frightening wordscape?
Not Just a Building
Yesterday I took Dogma, the Boston Terrier, for a walk through Denver’s newly renovated civic district with our big stretch of park and amphitheater, the Mint, Capital, City & County Building, Judicial Building, Art Museum, Library.
It’s magnificent. Glorious even.
It gives a proud representation of Denver’s growing presence in the country. When you walk through the Civic District, it’s hard to not feel like everything is clicking along as it should, that the powers that be are moving and shaking behind closed doors. The perception of beauty and power and forward motion is alive and well in Denver. The city architecture is designed to say that.
Buildings have a remarkable ability to house in their very stones our triumphs, blood, hopes, and expectations. If my 125 year old government buildings can do that, how much more so the long desired temple of Jerusalem!
The destruction of this building wasn’t so much the horror of a beautiful building being demolished, but a representation of everything that the Jewish people held dear; in fact, everything in which their hopes and beliefs in GOD rested.
Before you shake your head in empathetic heartbreak or nod it in a “down with organized religion” agreement, remember that this temple also represented the building in which the scribes wandered praying loudly in their long robes and the widow and her mite were nearly invisible. And Jesus, being a rather religious man—one can speculate—was sad. Sad that even his own disciples thought that it was something in the system that was going to bring peace and healing and, well, victory. Sad that was beautiful and strong must be torn down and rebuilt invisibly.
No, Jesus replies sadly, this temple—and your fixation on it—says to me that there’s going to be more of the same. More wars, more famine, more people suffering, more rumors that GOD is dead. More things that you may have ignored because this big, beautiful building was here to tell you “Don’t worry. We got this.” How about that for a little revelation?
The Hardest Question
Jesus delivers this paradox constantly: “I’ve come to give you abundant life” and “hey, I never said it was going to be a picnic.” So if the institutions (religious or otherwise) that we rely on to get it done aren’t the answer, but the cross is, then what’s the hardest question?
Isn’t it still: Do you see these great buildings?
Jodi-Renee Giron is a mess of heretical orthodoxy serving the Evangelical Covenant Church. She pastors Ecclesia Denver and does her best to write evangelical liturgy that has beauty and truth and not too many fluffy adjectives. The rest of her time is spent giving rest to Denver’s weary souls at her gigs as a jazz and soul singer.