Today's Sermon: Back to the Building Blocks

Today's Gospel Lesson: Mark 13:1-8
(Warning: This Bible lesson sounds kind of weird and scary at first.)

As Jesus 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 birth pangs.

Sermon for November 18, 2012: "Back to the Building Blocks"

My brother and I loved to play in the sandbox when we were growing up. We had a big sandbox, with a swing set in the middle. We spent entire days of the summer building elaborate castles, forts, and motes.  Then we’d get the watering hose. We’d find the perfect spot to start the water, and then Josh would run to turn it on. We’d fill up our village with water.  But we didn't stop there.  We’d actually fill it up completely.

Eventually, everything turned back into a wet, sandy, soupy mess. Then we’d stomp it all down so we could begin again the next day. During the night, the water would run off the sandbox and the sand would dry. First, we built it up – and then we knocked it down. Back to the beginning.  Back to the building blocks.

We’re all familiar with Legos, tinker toys, or wooden blocks. They’re awesome - fun for adults and fun for kids. We build and build and build. But eventually, it’s time to put the toys away. We build it up – and then knock it down. Back to the individual building blocks.

At the core of today's' gospel lesson, Jesus is inviting his disciples to get back to the building blocks of what faith is all about.  When we take it all apart - when we knock it all down - when we get to the roots - what's really at the center of our lives?

Today’s gospel lesson is one of those “tougher texts” of the Bible. Jesus’ words sound so intense – and it’s hard to understand. What is Jesus even talking about? Why all this wars and rumors of war talk? And earthquakes?

In the lesson, the disciples come out of this giant, massive, beautiful temple – and say: “Wow, Jesus! Look at this! So amazing! It’s huge!”

It's kind of the way I feel in the middle of a big city like Chicago.  I look around and stand amazed at the big buildings and cranes.

The disciples just couldn’t get enough of all that splendor in Jerusalem. Large stones. Large buildings.

Jesus senses that they are getting distracted. Mark is only 16 chapters long. This happens in the 13th chapter. We’re about to the end of the book. We know what’s about to happen to Jesus. Big things are about to change. Jesus is going to be crucified. And then raised. And the disciples are really going to have to step it up and be leaders. There isn’t time to be getting so distracted by tall buildings.

Jesus wants to help the disciples get BACK TO THE REAL BUILDING BLOCKS of faith. It isn’t about a big building, or cool building materials.  It isn't about their desires and distractions as individuals.  It’s about Jesus. It’s about having hope and faith in the One who is, was, and will be.

Then Jesus warns them that not only is the tall building a bit of a distraction, there will be other distractions, too. Lots of them. People leading them astray. Desires and motivations pulling them in all directions. Wars. Fighting. Famine. All around – chaos.

Jesus says, Don’t be alarmed or distracted. Instead of getting wrapped up in the tall buildings and distractions of life and faith, today we are invited to refocus on the core building blocks of what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

The disciples got distracted by the tall temple with its giant stones. What do you get distracted by? What do we, as a church, get distracted by? It’s something for all of us to consider, because truly – there are so many directions our energies can get pulled. We don't have to have "true confessions" time where we all admit everything we get distracted by.  But I really do invite you to think about it today.  What are the tall buildings and big stones - in your life?

Sometimes we get distracted by money. Too much? Too little? Sometimes by worries. Or numbers. Or a million things. It’s easy to get distracted.

At the core of this mysterious Gospel lesson, Jesus is saying to those disciples: “Guys, I need you to refocus.” The invitation is the same for us. We don’t have to be scared. Oftentimes, we just need to pause. Look away from all distractions. And refocus.

Jesus is our hope. Our joy. Our purpose. Our goal. Our inspiration for all that we say and do. He's our Savior and Friend and Leader and Teacher. That is our center. That's why we're here.  That's why we exist as a church.  It was Jesus' commands to love God and love neighbor that ground everything we are.

There are all kinds of blocks we can use to build up our life. And many of the blocks are great and valuable.  But there’s really just the ONE building block that’s most important of all. Christ. And everything we say and do is rooted there.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. We will then head into a new season of the church year – Advent. We will prepare our hearts and minds for the birth of Christ.  There are few times of year that offer us more distractions than THIS time of year. The disciples were distracted by the big stones and buildings. I can get distracted, too. By twinkling lights. Good deals. A host of holiday-related joys and frustrations.

What’s at the core of this season? In the middle of it all? Jesus. Our hope. The building block that anchors us more than any other.

Lord, direct our path and turn us again to you – this day and always.  Amen.

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