Image: Epstein, Jacob, Sir, 1880-1959.
Coventry Cathedral – Archangel Michael and the Devil,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
This week, I’ll be preaching at First United Church in Truro for their 252nd anniversary service and we are blessed to have John Ardley and Grant Kerr preaching at both Wellington United and St. John’s respectively. It is such a privilege to have talented folks sharing their leadership in Word and worship with us in our pastoral charge and they deserve our thanks and praise.
I have a bit of an interesting connection with First Untied in Truro. As many of you know, my Dad is a retired United Church minister and he served this congregation for a number of years. While attending Memorial University, I spent a number of Christmases and Summer Vacations in Truro visiting Dad and coincidentally, getting to know this very gifted congregation. Ironically, that’s not our only connection as Rev. Valerie Kingsbury, a former minister of ours, is presently the minister at First United. God works in mysterious ways indeed!
I can’t speak to what John or Grant will preach on for Sunday, but I know you’re in for a treat one way or the other. Mark 13 is known as the “mini apocalypse” in this gospel and it’s the slated lectionary reading for the day. I’m just thinking about the verse two verses of that longer reading, which goes from Mark 13:1-8.
The sermon I’ll be sharing with First United will be based around a different text from Mark’s gospel, but there’s some crossover here. In many ways, Jesus words in Mark’s gospel are a serious warning to all institutional forms of faith. We can get way too cozy with “going to church” rather than “being the church”. Worship is paramount in shaping and feeding our faith, but in order for Sunday morning to be worship, it has to send us out to be the church – to love and serve others in the name of the Gospel.
I hear Jesus questioning whether the temple remains the best way to transform the spiritual life of the people – or has it become simply another fixture of his contemporary world, with all the demands and duties such institutions require?
I hear people say lots of things about “going” to church. They “go” because the music is great. OR there’s a special service they like on Christmas Eve. Or they go because of the sermon. Maybe it’s the small group ministry they’re involved in or the committee they belong to. Maybe it’s because they like the “look” of the church building. Maybe it’s because they support the outreach or social justice work we’re involved in. There’s lots of reasons we GO to church.
But Jesus wasn’t concerned with worship being a destination. Our faith is a way to God’s life for all.