Hope brings Confidence – Sermon and Conversation Starters

Sermon

Mark 13:1-8 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

IT CAN ALL COME TO NOUGHT

Last year I had the blessing of going go to the USA on a professional development journey. On that journey I had the time to get to New York city. I managed to visit Ground Zero of the September 11 attack that brought down those huge Twin Towers. Now there is only two massive holes in the ground where those enormous twin structures once stood. I marvelled at the enormity of what happened in this place. I marvelled at how human beings can reach to the heavens as they construct these enormous buildings, and also how fragile it all can be as even these symbols of wealth, power and human enterprise can be reduced to rubble in an afternoon. I remember remembering this very word of Jesus that day.

For the citizens of Jerusalem and all of Israel, Herod’s temple was similarly regarded – the place of power, the symbol of calm and wealth and future life – surely immovable because of its largeness, magnificence and beauty. Like that TV program, “Megastructures”, shows, human beings can create such magnificently large, technical and awe inspiring buildings. Why do we do it? Maybe to reach for the sky in an attempt to believe that we can master our own lives and destinies – as in the Tower of Babel. Or maybe it is our way of trying to express the vastness and beauty of God; like the gothic cathedrals of Europe. In the city of Jerusalem the Temple is all of this for the people.

As his disciples marvel at what seems sure and solid and everlasting to them, Jesus reveals that there is a day of reckoning for even the highest, surest most beautiful human thing – and for those humans who made it! He stunningly declares to his dumbfounded friends that there is a final judge who has complete authority and power to bring to nothing even the greatest symbols of our human power and might or our attempts to capture God. “Everyone brick will be thrown down”, he says. He declares that there will a day of reckoning for everyone and everything. There is an end point. There is a final word on life and death and how human beings live. There is One who has the power to fulfil perfect and right judgement and will do so.

PLEASE TELL US WHEN!

Like many of us who were witnessing those planes hit those towers, these disciples could not take in this news. Like those hearing Jesus, the blame shifted almost immediately to those who we thought should know of this catastrophe before it happened. Where was James Bond? Where was the FBI and the CIA and all of those names we hear in the movies?” If only we had had fair warning we could have avoided this destruction.”

The disciples are like that. They want to know. “Tell us, Jesus, how to avoid this or at least be ready for it when it happens as you say.” We are like that too. “Tell us Jesus. Tell us exactly what will happen so that we can be one step ahead of the rest”.

MINIMAL DETAIL ENOUGH

Jesus’ response of the frightening fact that human beings and their attempts to either be God or reach God or sum God up will eventually be destroyed, thwarted or so very limited is general at best.

Conflict, war, poverty, famine disasters of earth and sea will show you that we are heading in this direction. No specifics, just fair general warning of signs that God has us covered no matter what happens.

NO STOPPING GOD

And that is the comfort today – that even war and the violence and the poverty are heading toward something – or actually Someone and that somewhere and someone are very good. Evil within and without has its moments, but God has the final moment.

The hope Jesus gives these troubled people is that even the worst things are not bad enough to stop Him in his tracks. Not even the most tragic thing, the darkest thing, the most painful thing, the most evil thing can stop God’s movement, God’s plan, God’s desire, God’s activity, God’s future from coming to be.

Friend, our congregation, our families, our community, our lives are oriented toward fulfillment in Christ.

ACTIVE PRIEST

As we heard in that word to the Hebrews, by his suffering, pain, facing evil, entering death and rising, Jesus the Great High Priest “offered for all time a single sacrifice for human sins”, and “sat down at the right hand of God,” where he rules in grace and love. It is so very hopeful hearing that the Lord is not passively watching the “pain show”. The Priest of all is active in making the enemies of faith, love, peace, good health and great love “made a footstool for his feet.”

Jesus is actively engaged in this making all things new and right now. And so we have great hope. We trust that all wrongs will be made right, all evil will be dealt with finally. All injustice, poverty, pain and tragedy will be righted. Like a damaged ship at sea, there will be a safe harbour where all repairs are complete. We don’t seem to need too much detail. Like a patient in the hospital facing major surgery, too much detail does not help! Just assurance that you will get through it is enough.

WE ARE HEADING SOMEWHERE GOOD

Friends, even though our everyday lives are organized around various overlapping daily, weekly, and yearly cycles and schedules, we are heading somewhere and it is a good place. The Christian faith is essentially a linear faith. God has a mission, God is fulfilling and perfecting, God is shaping the future toward an end. We live in his hope. We are people with a golden hope to share. Life is going somewhere good, not because we say so but because he has done so. By faith in Jesus, the end is brilliant because we have already passed from death to life, according to the Bible. The end is more life – beautiful life in him – now in part, then in full.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH HOPE?

What do you do with confidence that comes from hope? Do we smugly keep it to ourselves? Do we separate ourselves from those we believe to be ‘unbelievers’ who are on the way to destruction like Herod’s temple? Do we rest on our laurels and do life our way believing that we are already in and therefore can live the way we choose without reference to the Judge of all things?

No. Again the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: Since we have confidence to enter the presence of our holy and true God by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, which has opened up for us a new and living way to hope and peace and love, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, who is familiar with all of our tragedies, loses, weakness and wins, we approach the Lord with a honest and open heart in full assurance that we are accepted, loved and holy by faith in Jesus, and so, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, here’s how we live out our hope;

  1. By holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.

  2. By “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and

  3. “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

I am praying that you can pray with the ancient song writer;

“Protect me, O God, for in you I take cover.I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, the place of forgetfulness, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy…”.     Psalm 16

Hope brings confidence.

Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What is the biggest or most beautiful human-made building you have ever seen? Tell your story…

Hear the Mark gospel text again as it is read slowly, imagining the scene, hearing the disciple’s question and what they are asking Jesus to do when he says that even this massive beautiful building will come to nothing under God’s final judgement.

What is your view of the times we are living in? Do you believe that what we see and hear are signs that the end is coming or do you believe that life has always been this way and that things are no better or worse but the one day it will come to an end….or something slightly different.? Share your thoughts/beliefs….

The disciples ask for some details on when this end will come but Jesus does not see to give them much, other than to say that even the worst things are not the determining factor in God’s plan for his world. Would you like to know more detail? Do you believe there is more detail to known in the Bible? What is the purpose of us Christian knowing more details about the end time things? Is it enough to simply trust that no matter hat happens, God will determine our end and our life? Why/why not?

I said our great hope is that nothing can stop God in his tracks. Our life is going somewhere and that this ‘somewhere and Someone” is very good. The Christian life is a linear life – it does have a progression, a direction and that gives up confidence to live through whatever “birth pangs” we are surrounded by. How do you feel about this belief?

We are meant to do something with this confidence that comes from hope. That passage from Hebrews gives us clear direction for living in the hope we have in Christ. How do you respond to those three directions given in Hebrews 10;

  1. holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.

  2. “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and

  3. “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

PRAY – Psalm 16.

#Mark1318 #confidence #hope #Destruction #pentecost25B #LastDay #Temple

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