Sermon for 11/17/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: Luke 21:5–19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
7They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" 8And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them.
9"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." 10Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls."
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Last week, Tom Cleverdon, gave a wonderful temple talk about stewardship and giving. In his talk, he spoke of being on the building committee that led the construction of this beautiful sanctuary. As he spoke, I could hear the enthusiasm and passion that had been stirred-up in him by his involvement at Christ the King, and the joy he felt in having a hand in bringing to fruition, this house of worship. In his talk, Tom described the work that he did, the stewardship of the gifts that he had been given, as being those of a bridge builder, who builds bridges not for himself, but for those coming behind him. A great analogy.
Yet, Tom’s talk, on giving, about being on the building committee, about being a bridge builder, was not a brick and mortar speech. I didn’t hear an emphasis on creating the greatest sanctuary in the world and having people come from miles and miles just to see it. I didn’t hear about the architectural details or what kind of wood was used for the altar and pews. Really, the only thing I heard about what went into this building project, was the cross which hangs above us. I heard Tom talk about looking at this cross that hang, not in star struck wonder over how shiny it is, but in remembrance and thanksgiving, of the people who hung it, and the others who shared in the building committee work with him.
The truth is, one day, these walls, the roof, (obviously), and the other things that so many people had a hand in getting put-up, will be brought down. Even if it is centuries from now, the most persistent of all forces, the hands of time, will do so. Yet the work of Tom, so many of you, and of so many others will not be in vain, because no one was building a monument that would forever display God’s permanence. In fact, you weren’t even building a bridge, you were simply building a shelter where the work of bridge building could take place. And this is a good shelter, a wonderful shelter for that work to be done.
But this building, is not a bridge. The bridges that Tom talked about were the bridges that connected him to the people he remembers today and the ones that he encouraged us to build are the connections and relationships that we forge with other people here, in this bridge building factory. These bridges we are called to build aren’t made of stones that can be cracked or wood that can rot, these bridges are made of the eternal materials of love, compassion, kindness, justice, and peace. These bridges that we are called to build aren’t suspension or arch shaped, these bridges come in one shape, the shape of the Cross, the place where God’s eternal love mercifully connects us together again.
This building, while not a bridge, is a temporary tool, a temporary gift that God has given us, not as an edifice to be worshiped, but to use in order to grasp, share, and grow in the things that are eternal. Yet, being a tool is not a bad thing, because a good steward takes care of her tools. She makes sure they are well respected, and maintained, not wasted or thrown away. So, part of our call to be stewards, is to help take care of this tool, this shelter where bridges are built. And we know, of course, that this takes money.
Yet, as we think about this building as merely a shelter, as a tool, for the work of bridge building, we also are able to think of our money in the same manner. Our money, like this building, is simply a tool, and not an idol to be worshipped, a bulwark to be trusted, or a master to serve. It is a tool to be used for the purposes of sharing with each other, and reaching out to all people, with the bridge that is our eternal God, Jesus Christ.
Often times, all the time, because of sin, we fall victim to the allure of money, and the things it can seemingly do, just like we in religious circles suffer from an edifice complex and relate the idea of being the Church as being all about the building one gathers in. This sin causes us to worry, grasp, and strive for the things that are temporary, and it causes us to waste our years building walls instead of bridges. Indeed, this sin caused us to build a cross, when God came to this earth to build bridges with all of us in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
But like the stones of the ancient temple, even our terrible wall of death wasn’t permanent, indeed it has been destroyed through the life-giving, resurrecting power of God in Jesus Christ. This God, Jesus Christ, the ultimate Steward, the master bridge-builder, continues to this day to knock down sin’s deadly walls and come to us again and again with the gracious, priceless, and eternal gift of his life, given and shed for us. It is this life that lovingly transforms us into stewards, into life-giving bridge-builders, into bearers of eternal love that is abundant and priceless all at the same time.
This morning, as we discern our financial commitments for 2014, may Christ continue to make us loving builders of cross bridges, and Stewards of the Life poured out for us on that cross.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,