“Impression… obsession… fascination”
Hebrews 10:1-14; 19-25 – priests making daily sacrifices for sin… but Jesus died once, for all. This is grace – unlooked-for and undeserved favour, and faith in this gift is what we have in our hearts. It finds its way of expression in “holding fast to the confession of our hope without wavering; provoking each other to love and good deeds and meeting together and encouraging one another”.
Mark 13 1-8
1. A disciple is awestruck by the magnificence of the temple buildings & the size of the stones… and Jesus’ response is that not one stone will be left standing on another.
2. Andrew, Peter, James and John ask about when this will take place – and Jesus launches into a discourse about the end of the world and the final judgement: “You’ll hear of wars and rumours of wars – but that will be just the beginning.”
3. Jesus also talks about false messiahs coming claiming to be Jesus himself – and many will be led astray by them.
These three aspects of today’s gospel seem to me to have a common theme: the things that … impress us, obsess us and fascinate us.
1. Firstly the thing about buildings:- we tend to be impressed by size and magnificence generally – particularly when it comes to human-made structures; buildings that are both huge and beautiful as well as being made for special purposes such as religious worship, often tend to leave people awestruck; I’m thinking particularly of our cathedrals – most of them pretty impressive buildings – but our problem – our weakness – is that too often we can be dazzled by size and beauty and forget what these buildings – like the temple in Jerusalem – are actually for: they’re intended to be places of prayer – and prayer is an activity of the heart and the mind, regardless of where or when it takes place. Remember the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria (John Chapter 4) where the woman says,
“Our (Samaritan) ancestors worshipped on this mountain but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” And Jesus said to her, “The hour is coming when true believers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”
In other words, outward things will be of no consequence; it is the things of the heart, where true worship and genuine prayer comes from, that really matter with God.
2. Secondly to do with knowing the sings and the times:– we do like, don’t we, to have knowledge – or perhaps the power that comes from knowledge. To know all we can about what is going to happen in the future is natural, of course; it’s part of our human conditioning to grow up learning how to manipulate our environment to our own advantage. But then we get obsessed with knowing how long or short we might live, and knowing what to eat and drink and do – and what not to eat and drink and do – that will help us live long, we hope and expect… we can get obsessed about the future of the world, how long it will be until the oil runs out, the food runs out, time runs out, and what will happen then… we want to know about if and when asteroids might collide with earth, will we make it to Mars or another planet before this one that we insist on polluting day after day finally gives up the ghost… and yet we spend so little time on the knowledge that really is important – knowledge of the love of God, inspiring and empowering not just what we might do as the human race in the future, but what we might be … how we let our knowledge affect the kind of people we are. Colonising the galaxy might be part of our future but we have yet to tame the human heart with its passions for lust and jealousy and greed and war – all the things that are spoiling and wrecking this beautiful world that we’ve been gifted with.
3. And lastly, our fascination with Messiahs – be they religious, sporting, or just some of the ‘celebrities’ that seem to fill the newspapers and most TV shows it seems to me. I wonder if these are the ones Jesus was thinking of because these people and the whole cult of celebrity with its cheap competitiveness and mindlessness do indeed lead so many astray from – what was that phrase from Hebrews again? – “Holding fast to our hope without wavering and provoking one another to love and good deeds and encouraging one another”. Again, the theme here seems to be a focus on outward things: excitement, spectacle, competition, money, success… rather than the inward things of the heart that make for real reasons to celebrate. The tendency to try to find our identity or our security in other people or institutions is in contrast to what we’re called by God to do- to seek and find the Kingdom of God within us, among us, in our thoughts and prayers and actions and relationships as we hold fast to our hope and provoke one another to love and good deeds and encourage one another…
Being impressed by the size and magnificence of human structures
Being obsessed by the power that comes from knowledge
Being fascinated by false messiahs – not all of them religious –
… all things that place importance, and demand us to focus on, and lead us to believe that our salvation is tied up in, these external things, on things outside of ourselves, rather than remembering the kingdom is like a seed within us that needs internal focus and care in order to grow and blossom and produce fruit in terms of provoking each other to love and do good deeds and to encourage one another …
Here at All Hallows we know about these things don’t we –
1. In terms of buildings, at the moment we have to concentrate on this building more than many of us would like! – yet it is what the building is used for, rather than its beauty or magnificence that inspires us – it’s the mission and ministry that goes on within these walls through the week that makes us want to do all we can to ensure those things can carry on: the groups that form part of the family of All Hallows that are just as important as those of who worship here Sunday by Sunday.
2. Where knowledge is concerned, there is a distinct lack of it at the moment in terms of what the future holds for the church – here at All Hallows, in the Deanery of Headingley, and in Ripon & Leeds Diocese with the possibility of a New Diocese coming our way in 2014 there is much uncertainty. For us, we need to be gathering knowledge about our parish and those places where we live, in order to ; be of better service to those around us. Selflessness rather than self-serving and love rather than knowledge should be our watchword : ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
3. And lastly, messiahs are so mesmerising aren’t they? And for some it’s all too easy to fall prey to the charm of someone who seems to be so much more pious, or ‘good’ or religious or clever or well-versed or whatever… But for us at All Hallows we of all people know that ‘we are what we are’, created as God intended, loved by God, cherished and empowered by God. Many of us have seen or met with so-called messiahs – and seen right through them, because they are all false, except one. And despite all the glittering magnificence, all the knowledge and power, all the celebrity or false salvation the world offers, we set our hearts and minds and lives on Jesus Christ alone.