Mark 13:1-4 CEB
As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”
2 Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
3 Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”
Lent is a season in our church year with a lot of baggage. I can’t be sorrowful for 40 days and truth be told, I can’t be happy for 40 days either. It’s weird to assign an emotion to a liturgical season. Lent is a time when some Christians choose to give up something they enjoy remembering Christ’s sacrifice, but it certainly feels like we’ve been giving up things we enjoy for the last two years. Others try adding something like a devotional time to improve their spiritual lives, but I’m not sure how many of us have the bandwidth to add something more this year. Some of us choose to give up chocolate and exercise more, sort of like a new year resolution reboot, lent ends up being a diet culture and religious guilt combo no one needs. Sure, it’s a season where we repent of our sins, but sometimes we can take that individual sin thing too far and it becomes a shame spiral that ends with us not being able to get out of bed. I guess what I’m saying is that lent isn’t supposed to be spiritualized self-harm.
So, what is lent supposed to be? I don’t know anymore.
We didn’t have an Ash Wednesday service this year, but I’m assuming we all have been to one at some point in our lives. The ash and oil mixture are rubbed on our foreheads or hands in a smug that resembles a cross while someone says remember you are dust and to dust you will return. Some years it feels like a dark way to remember that we are mortal and not special. Other years, I hear those words and think of all the things God made from the dust in the garden of Eden and wonder at the love and care God shows to even small and insignificant beings like me and like you. And that feels very special indeed. But over two years into a pandemic even that happy thought isn’t enough to slog through this seemingly unending lent.
So, this year I’m offering to you what feels helpful to me and that is that Lent is a season to remember nothing is permanent. Nothing last forever except for the love of God.
Jesus is sort of saying that to the disciples. As they leave the temple, they engage in what I can only imagine is the worst game of “I Spy” ever played. Jesus, I spy with my little eye, something enormous. And Jesus says, it will be destroyed. Jesus, look at these awesome stones that make up the temple. And Jesus says, they will come crashing down. Jesus, look at these beautiful stained-glass windows. And Jesus says, they will shatter. Jesus, look at this gorgeous woodwork. And Jesus says, it will rot and burn. Wow, Jesus, your kind of a buzz kill today. When do you think this will happen? And Jesus says, Kyle will tell you next week. All kidding aside this is where today’s lesson ends.
These big stones. This strong building. This place with more spiritual significance than any other space. This institution with an enormous amount of power, isn’t going to last. It is not as powerful as it looks, and it will not stand forever. And that’s the good news I need this Lenten season.
There are some things that make me a little sad to think won’t be around forever, there are some things I’m looking forward to being done with. But even as I think through those things, I realize that Jesus wasn’t just being mean about things the disciples were finding delight in. I think Jesus was once again talking about power and privilege.
The decentering of power, powerful institutions, powerful systems, and powerful people, while lifting the poor, the lowly, the oppressed, is the work of Jesus and it is the work he is calling us to participate in. So, when will this happen? It has already happened, and will happen again, and is happening now. We are invited once again to decenter ourselves, our comfort, our power, our status, our privilege, our wealth, and all the vain things that allow us to be above others. We are invited to dismantle structural racism, classism, sexism, and all those hurtful “isms”. We are invited to end systemic poverty, oppression, and injustice. And when these things are gone and destroyed, and even as they are being torn down, we are invited to build a new world on the foundation of the everlasting love of God.
Beloved, all things are dust and will come to an end, but God’s love is everlasting.
If we can decenter our own self-interest and our perceived power, we begin to see the world as God sees it. Perhaps Lent is a time when we take a hard look at our lives and evaluate if we are working in dust and ash or if we are working in everlasting love.
I charge you to work in love that is deep and broad and high giving glory to God forever and forever more.