#HolyPlace is the reflection for November 15, 2015. What if your church was burned to the ground, your holy places destroyed? What would that do to your faith? What should it do?. Listen here in this reflection by Mark Kurowski: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #ChurchoftheNativity #ChurchoftheHolySupulchre #Chalice #Paten #ChurchCarpet #EndTimes #SecondComing
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 11/15/2015 The 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 13:1-8; 24-32.
What if we woke up one morning and the Church of the Nativity in Nazareth, Israel, was burnt to the ground? What if the Church of the Holy Supulchre in Jerusalem, where it is thought that the body of Jesus was laid after his death, was destroyed? What if cathedrals and holy places all over the world were attacked and destroyed, then what?
What would you do if the church in which you worshiped was burnt to the ground? What if you drove to church one Sunday and the place had been leveled by bulldozers run by people who hate the Church? What then? What if the organs, pianos, and other instruments were destroyed? What if all of the records of the Church were burnt to a crisp? What if all the memorial donations given by your family were lost? What if the shiny vessels that held the blood of Christ and his Body were crushed?
We would worship anyway.
We do not worship a place. Our “holy sites” are markers of history, but they are not essential to us and our worship. We worship the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. Certain types of vessels are not critical to our worship. If everything had been destroyed and there was nothing left but a little bread, a slight bit of wine, a ceramic cup and a paper plate, we could still celebrate the Eucharist, Holy Communion.
In our passage from the Gospel of Mark today, we have Jesus outside of the Temple, on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple. Just prior to this passage, we have a long section of the Gospel of Mark that has Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and he goes to the Temple. In the Temple, he is asked all kinds of questions. He is asked about his authority. He is questioned about the Resurrection. He is asked about the first and greatest commandment. He is questioned about whether he is the Son of David.
This passage also has Jesus telling in a parable about the landlord and the landlord’s son how he will be killed. Jesus tells us that in heaven we will no longer need marriage. Jesus tells us that we must give all we have and that the first commandment is to love God and love neighbor.
Sure, we should revere the things that we use to worship the Lord. The holy places should be cared for. The music should be written, and the instruments purchased to play in worship. The churches should be cleaned, painted, repaired, and kept up. But our love for our churches, vessels, memorial gifts, holy places, etc. should NEVER exceed our love Jesus Christ, for the Father in Heaven, and for the Holy Spirit. If we have to worship outside of our church in the parking lot next to the ruins of a building, we will do so because “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38).
When John Mark, the protégé of Peter, wrote this Gospel, it was to a community that had just witnessed Titus, the future Roman emperor, lead a battle against the Jews in Jerusalem. The Jewish people were fighting for religious freedom and self-rule. The Roman army was so angry at the ferocious way in which the Jewish men battled that even after they had won, the Romans came into Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple which took years to build. To this day, there are rocks which sit at the foot of the Temple mount that were thrown down by the Roman army. The Temple, where sacrifices were done for the atonement of sin, was no more. Jewish worship was changed forever.
For the Christians to whom John Mark wrote, only roughly 40 years after the Resurrection, it must have been a sobering thing to hear Chapter 13 and the prediction of the destruction of the Temple roll off the lips of Jesus. We need to remember that the first three hundred years of Christianity were under persecution. There were 14 systematic persecutions of Christians under the Roman emperors. When it was finally declared that persecution would end in 315 A.D., there was jubilation in the Christian community. Yet, during those three hundred plus years, the question was, “Is this the end time? Are these horrible things the sign?”
Today, we have persecution of Christians all over the world. We are especially struck by the beheading of our brothers by ISIS. We have suppression of the Church in China. We have persecution of Christians in Africa. We have assaults on Christian teaching throughout society. Christians are portrayed as intolerant horrible people, as our churches are burnt, our people killed, and our values laughed at. We have destruction all around, it seems. So, is this the end time? Are these the signs?
The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. Jesus says to us in verse 31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” What are those words? “This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, I will be with you.” “The Father in heaven has counted the hairs on your head.” “Love one another.” “You do not know the day or the hour.” “Keep awake!”
Does it matter in which building we worship? Does it matter where the altar is? Does it matter in what vessels we celebrate the Eucharist? Does it matter if we use organs, pianos, guitars, etc. or just our voice to sing praise to God? Does it matter if we sing Gospel, Gregorian chant, Fanny Crosby Hymns, David Haas music, Wesleyan Hymns, or Christian rock or rap in our services and Masses? Does it matter if we make the sign of the cross, raise our hands, sit, stand, kneel, or lay prostrate on the floor or does it matter that we pray? Does it matter what color the carpet is, or that we give a gift to God? Does it matter who does what job in the church, or that the work of the Lord gets done? Does it matter? Does it matter? Does it matter!
Sure, we respect the buildings, the chalices, the patens, the cloths, the sanctuaries, the pastors, the leaders, the people, but all of us must do it with a detachment from these things. When our love for something, anything, supercedes our love for Jesus Christ and his mission, then we need to check ourself, before we wreck ourself.
Our faith, our hope, our glory, our pride, our power, our future, is Jesus Christ. We are already citizens of heaven who live here through these bodies which will be transformed when Jesus comes again. We are supposed to live that heavenly reality through our bodies, through our families, through our communities, through our churches, through our lives. We ought not be concerned about the end times, nor persecution, because if we are already living the heavenly life here on earth, does it matter if Jesus comes and replaces it all with amazingly great new stuff?
So, are you attached to a ministry at the church? Are you attached to a building? Are you attached to something you gave to the church? Are you attached to a person, place or thing? Enjoy those things, sure. Give glory to God for those things, sure. But if you have an unhealthy attachment, you need to let them go. You need to detach. You need to learn something new, do something new, and offer it to the Lord.
Get ready now. Live heaven here on earth now. Make the necessary changes now so that when he comes again, it won’t be any different at all. Amen.
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