As the season of Advent begins, here is the word of Jesus: Stay awake.
According to the Bible text, Jesus and his twelve disciples have just come out of the Jerusalem Temple. One of them says, “Golly, isn’t this the biggest building you ever have seen?” Well, of course it was. For a group of up-country fishermen who lived in one story hovels, the Temple was enormous. Not just as a building, but the whole institution.
Scholars say the Temple was more than the center of the people’s religious faith. It was the center of commerce and the important trade businesses, much like a cathedral in medieval Europe. The Temple kept track of your ancestry. The Temple dictated your moral life. The Temple gave stability to your life and answered questions you never dared to ask. But Jesus says, “You see this Temple? The whole thing’s coming down.”
That turned out to be a prediction for the people who read the Gospel of Mark in 70 A.D. Mark also declares this was the judgment of God: the Temple is corrupt, it has to come down. In its place is the Kingdom of God that Jesus has been speaking about for most of this Gospel. In place of priest and sacrifice, there will be a direct relationship with God. In place of professional ritual and hierarchy of social status, all people have direct access to God. Through the death of Jesus, which rips open the Temple curtain that separates the holiness of God from the filthiness of the world, there is no buffer to keep God away from you or anybody else.
Stay awake, says Jesus. Watch for this. Keep your eyes peeled for God to come and dismantle every human system that separates God’s healing power from the needs of the world. Jesus has come as the bearer of God’s new Kingdom. And as he faces his own cross, he will pay the one and only ransom payment to take back the world from the powers of evil and give it back to God. Watch for this, he says. It will come as a great disruption to all business-as-usual, and the glory of God will be in the middle of it.
Prayer: Holy God, this world that you created has always belonged to you. Come and claim what it rightly yours. Establish your justice. Enlarge our compassion. Keep up awake to see what you desire for the world. Through Christ we pray, Amen.
Rev. Bill Carter