As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
I remember this awful joke from the 1980’s
PW Botha (then President of South Africa), Eugene Terreblance (White Supremacist – Neo Nazi), and Desmond Tutu (Archbishop of Cape Town) are all given an audience with the Almighty and are allowed to ask God one question.
PW Botha asks, “Will the ANC ever come to power in South Africa?” God answers “Not in your lifetime”
Eugene Terreblance asks, “Will the Afrikanders ever get their own homeland?” God answers “Not in your lifetime”
Desmond Tutu asks, “Will South Africa ever have a black president?” God answers, “Not in MY lifetime!”
It’s a terrible joke. But we laughed at it because as whites in power we were arrogant and really thought that the status quo would last forever.
Today that joke is just sad. Simply because all of its assumptions were wrong.
It was the same for the Jewish religion in Jesus day.
There was an arrogance at the heart of its practice.
The temple was inviolable and eternal.
The people of Israel were the chosen race.
Chosen for privilege and power and not for service, they regarded themselves as better than everyone else.
For Jesus to suggest that it would one day be destroyed was both heresy and blasphemy.
Yet barely four decades later in AD 70 the temple was destroyed, and it has never been rebuilt.
Apartheid, Afrikander Nationalism, White supremacy in South Africa have all taken their place on the road to destruction that is the inevitable legacy of humanity.
Of course we are not immune from the same kind of arrogance.
We want our culture, our religious forms, our heritage to continue.
Because after all we are better than other people.
God has favoured us.
Afrikander, British, German, French Hugenot, Dutch, Zulu, Xhosa.
We are every bit as arrrogant as the religion of Israel of Jesus day.
Yet in our lifetimes we have seen the decline of the church and the erosion of Christian influence in society on a scale we could never have imagined.
Could it be that for us too the stones of the temple of our arrogance are falling?
We are about to receive, for the first time in the history of this circuit, a minister of colour in the Wesley section.
Unthinkable just a few years ago.
We as whites were the leaders of the nation, the culture, the church.
Never the majority, we simply ruled as if we were. Because we are English dammit.
What does the gospel say about this?
Jesus is clear. Kingdoms come and go.
The temples of stone will crumble and fall just like the power structures of politics and power.
There will be day when even this our lovely church will be empty, desolate and in ruins.
If you don’t believe me take a drive through the countryside. See the abandoned farmhouses, railway stations and the minig towns that are full of ghosts and rubble.
But you don’t even have to go that far. Just watch the decay of the temple of your body. That ought to convince you.
The question Jesus is asking without saying it is, “What remains?”
If bricks and mortar, culture and control, even our own flesh passes away.
Jesus suggests that the inviolable core of reality is the life of God’s spirit in the world.
Isn’t that the place we should be looking to and living from?
Jesus said it like this,‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’