When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!’ and, “The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9 “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I wrote this sermon before the election results began. On purpose. Only later in the week did I add any particulars. But this is our first Sunday together after the election. That matters! Some are here feeling pretty good and hopeful. Others are here fearing the country is doomed. We’ll all get over it. Because we know, deep down, that our government—as wonderful and inspirational as it may at times be—cannot save us. It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House or in congress, our government—at its very best—is a human institution. It has limits. It has frailties. It will always benefit some at the expense of others. Those in power will always be able to exploit it for selfish gains.
As good as the concept of America might be, it cannot save us. We place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
That’s Jesus’ point here. Whenever Jesus talks about “the temple,” it’s almost always really about old human religious institutions that some place their trust in. Even if people marvel at them, approve of them, devote themselves to them, they cannot save us. No, Jesus is telling us to place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
The temple for 1st century Jews was a symbol of all that was holy, righteous, and godly. It represented the presence of a holy God among people. It gave them hope. It comforted them in difficult times. But it couldn’t save them. So Jesus lets them know that the temple and all it represents won’t last. Yet his disciples cannot take their eyes off the hope of the temple. “When will it fall, Jesus?” they want to know.
Jesus goes on to tell them that nothing in this world is worth putting all their hopes in. Disasters come, wars happen, people betray you, and bad things happen—not matter where you place your trust, no matter where your hope is. None of it can save us. No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
What ever human institution it is that we’re looking at to save us will let us down. It won’t save us. We place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. Even if you are an enthusiastic supporter of his, will he save us? Even though I pray he proves to be an effective president, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
Both houses of congress remain in the hands of Republicans. There will be one political party in power in all aspects of our federal government. Even if you are a devoted Republican, will that save us? No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
Michael Bennett was re-elected to the US Senate from Colorado. Even if he’s your good friend and married your sister, will he save us? No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
LCM looks to have an increase in financial giving this year and next. Worship attendance is on the rise too. It’s certainly good news, but will that save us as a congregation? No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
We could replace the council, all the staff, bring 40 professional singers into the choir and sell CDs of the band. Some of those things might make a some people happier, but will that save us? No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
When this congregation disappoints us, we can look all to find someone or something to blame for not being the church we want it to be. When you find a suitable scapegoat, and then fix blame on them, will that save us? No, we place our hope in something higher. And we are called to reveal that hope.
I have a friend who is awaiting a heart transplant. He’s fourth on the list, and has been for over six months now. He is rather matter-of-fact about it all, saying, “Whether I get a new heart or whether I die first, God is taking care of me.” My friend knows that a transplant will likely prolong his life, but it won’t save him. No, he’s clear that he places his hope in something higher. And he is called to reveal that hope.
If God can’t save it, it can’t be saved. If God can’t save our country, it can’t be saved. If God can’t save our church, it can’t be saved. If God can’t save us, we can’t be saved.
At the same time, if God can save any of it, any of us, then we can be saved. We can be made new. We can have new life. We can forgive and love and become generous.
Because God is already doing exactly that.
This is our first Sunday together after the election. That matters. Because God is even now calling on us to work for that hope we have. Democrat, Republican, Independent, or something else, God’s love is our hope. And God’s love overcomes government, political party, church affiliation, disappointment, even death itself. We hope in God’s love. And that is what we are called to reveal. There is nothing higher.