Beautiful and dedicated to God

[Preached by Kerlin Richter on Luke 21:5-19, November 14, 2010]

Dear Jesus
Let us be living witnesses to love, beautiful and dedicated to God, –

in the reading this morning Jesus is already in Jerusalem
in the next chapter he is breaking bread with his disciples at the last supper.
this is the very end of Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life.
and some were admiring the temple with
beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God.
but God is Right there with them
even after all this time with Jesus – after the blind have seen, the lame have walked, the bread has multiplied, the hungry have been fed:
and they are staring at the stones of the temple and we do that ALL the time. look right past God at some construct of human hands and say that is nice.
Jesus says
I love it, the question they ask-
what will be the sign?
they are a couple of days away at most from Jesus’ crucifixion, and they want to know what the signs will be?
do they want to make sure they can keep enjoying everything until its time to clear out?
why do we want to know that the end is coming?

When I was 8-9 years old I loved books about children on their own. orphans or victims of war. Making their way across entire countries with a little bag of their possessions.
so far from the bamboo grove, Anne Frank to a little princess
stories of the trail of tears and Japanese internment camps.
I wanted to know : who were you when you had lost everything and everyone?

I would wonder to myself –
if they came for us right now what would I grab?
what would I have left if one by one everything I hold onto was taken from me?
But I was different from those guys with Jesus.
I didn’t want to know, not really.
I didn’t want to see it coming.
I wanted to live my life with friends and just be a kid.

Then when I was in the third grade my elementary school became a magnet for Cambodian and Laotian refugee kids.
my best friend that year was a 13 year old named Kadek. she was smart and funny she had long black hair like silk, and a snarky mischievous sense of humor. We got along great at school and eventually arranged to get together one Saturday, it took countless notes going back and forth between our mothers, by way of the school translator. finally one day my Mom dropped me off at the Archer Street housing projects.

If you can, imagine a small Cambodian village in the middle of Nashville TN. Women hung laundry up to dry outside while older girls watched the babies and the little boys sitting in the dirt started throwing rocks at me and yelling.
Kadek chased them off. I asked if I had done something to make the little boys angry and she just looked at me in this intense and slightly confused way. as if trying to understand what the question was on the planet I was coming from.
the way I frequently imagine Jesus looking at the disciples.

Kadek and her four sisters lived with their mother in a two bedroom apartment. they dressed me up in traditional Cambodian dress and fed me a lunch of a whole fish with one milky eye staring blindly at the ceiling while we scooped out his meat out with lettuce leaves.
that afternoon we walked around her neighborhood, I asked Kadek where her father was-
She stopped and looked at me as if trying to see though a thick fog. Trying to see all the way to a life not steeped in violence.
“he was shot” she said. the soldiers came and took him into the street and shot him in the head. My brothers they just took away and we never saw them again.

The end has already come.
it has come so many times, to so many people that it is sick and wrong to ask Jesus
“how will we know”?
By the time this gospel had been written the temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed. the followers of Jesus already dragged in front of governors and kings, some of the followers of Jesus had already been killed.
the Roman army was in the process of destroying Jerusalem when this was written.
Nation had already risen against nation, kingdom had already risen against kingdom.

so if anyone thought that this got them off the hook or somehow changed the nature of Jesus’ call to live all the way into the mystery of sacrificial love.
Too bad!
this is it.
this is the world we get to be followers in.
This is the call of Jesus:
we get to witness and proclaim the kingdom of God in a world in which a five year old girl could sit by the window in Cambodia and watch her father’s execution.
We get to follow Jesus in a world where Hurricane Tomas just hit Haiti, making the efforts to stem the Cholera outbreak even more impossible.
We get to follow Jesus in a world in which war spending goes unchecked, and people debate with straight faces whether sick children should get medical care.
There will be earthquakes, famines, and plagues.
how will we know?!
we will know because we are awake.
we will know because we have ears to hear and hearts to break
And we better walk right past those temple stones, because there is nothing we can build with our human hands that can’t be torn down by someone.
We cannot prepare our defense for the end.

we cannot prepare for the “time of trial” except by getting so full of love, that it will spill out of us when we are wounded.
We can practice looking at everyone we meet and knowing that they are Jesus.
We can practice forgiveness and compassion, and generosity now, so that should the time come we will have treasures that do not need to be buried in the yard, and riches that cannot be taken from us.

Jesus is going to build a new temple.
Jesus is already building the new temple in the new Jerusalem withour lives, and hearts.
he is the cornerstone that the builders rejected who has become the chief cornerstone and we are the beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, lined up and oriented to that beginning.

the old temple will fall and not one stone will be left on another. All will be thrown down.

but this new temple, built of living witnesses to love will not perish.


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