Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Do you remember the first time you’ve been in love?  I do, and it wasn’t Winnie as romantic as that would have been.  But the first time I felt like I was in love was in grade 5, like 10 years old and this new girl, Mandy, came into our class.  She had this green and white rugby shirt and blue jeans rolled up with the 1” cuff and black Chuck Taylors, which believe it or not, were popular even back then.  And let me tell you, love at first sight truly is a thing.

And I know what you’re thinking, dude, you were like 10, you don’t know what love feels like. 

Sure, currently as a parent of a 10 year old, I might be inclined to agree.  But my 10-year-old brain and heart all those years ago?  Yeah, that was love.  So, as the months of grade 5 progressed, Mandy and I became good friends and before long, I found that my wit and charm and surprisingly rugged good looks had won her over and that she had feelings for me too.

And that was the best.  That is what they meant by being on cloud 9.  This euphoric feeling in knowing that you’re loved by someone who isn’t a family member had no comparison in my whole well-lived and highly-experienced 10 years of life. 

But then, after about 2 years, which is an eternity in elementary school, I got word one morning as I was getting ready for safety patrol (which is what the cool kids did in those days) that Mandy wasn’t all that into me anymore.  I remember time sort of standing still.  I just stared off into space.  What?  She’s rejecting me?  How is that possible?  Weren’t we supposed to be together forever?  How will I be able to concentrate on safety patrol?  My first love turned out to be my first heartbreak.  And it hurt.  My world just ended.

Luckily for me a high metabolism was on my side so my heart healed pretty quick and I was out there on the prowl in no time.

Still, that initial pain was real.  That hurt.  That feeling of your heart like being torn in two.  Yeah, I got over it, but that didn’t protect me from it happening again.  Not just my heart being broken over yet another failed and ended relationship, which did happen multiple more times, but also other areas of life.

My heart broke when we moved out of my childhood home, when ICBC told me my first car was written off, when I didn’t get into the seminary I first applied for, when my last remaining grandparent had died before I got a chance to see her and tell her that Winnie was pregnant, and when my dad died.  The list goes on and on.

The point is, our worlds end a lot.  At least, it sure feels like they do.  Usually around death, loss, or an ending of some kind.  When something changes to the point of no return, or something has become unrecognisable and uncomfortable, or something has just been taken away without our consent or permission.  Our world ends, our lives shatter, our hearts break.

This is probably what the disciples felt today as Jesus told them that their beloved temple, this marvel and a site to see even for today’s standards, was going to come down.  This temple was to last forever, to house the worship of the Jewish nation, to be the beacon of hope for all generations.  And it was going to end?  Say it isn’t so.

But Jesus was serious.  He told them that it would.  I mean, it helps that this gospel was probably written after the temple fell, so Jesus’ words are more about comfort after the fact than it is a scary apocalyptic prediction.  But even after the fact, it would still sound scary to the folk hearing this for the first time.  “When will this be,” the disciples ask in our place, “and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

They and we need to know, because they and we need to be prepared.  Part of the heartache that comes with these kinds of events is around the surprise.  I had no idea that fateful day when I was getting ready for safety patrol (which is what the cool kids did in those days) that I would get that shocking news that would change my life for the next few weeks.  Knowing that it’s coming helps with the shock a little.

And so Jesus tells them.  Wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, bad stuff, bad stuff, bad stuff.  Those will be the signs that the temple will be destroyed and our world effectively come to an end.

But the thing is, that stuff happens all the time.  Like literally all the time.  Tell me one point in history when there weren’t any wars in the world, or there weren’t any natural disasters, or some kind of political turmoil or some sort of sign that the end of the world was coming near.  Sure, maybe there were times somewhere along our very long history on this planet, but it is pretty safe to say that every generation since this was written down, people thought that the world was ending within their lifetime.  Is there an end coming?  Probably, with the way we’re going.  But I don’t think this is what Jesus is talking about.

Rather, he is talking about our figurative worlds collapsing.  The heartbreak that will come with a fallen temple.  The heartbreak of an ended school kid crush.  The heartbreak of those times when it just feels like our lives are over without any more meaning or purpose.

I hate it when that happens.

And it will happen.  It has happened in the past, it will happen again, it might be happening for some of you right now.  And through it all, Jesus says that you aren’t alone.  You are empowered by your community, strengthened by the Spirit of peace and joy, loved by the God who created you.  I know, sometimes this isn’t any sort of comfort especially when you are going through it right exactly now, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Our hope lies in the fact that the heartache will end.  It might not end with us on top, but it will end with us living in joy.  It might not end with a rebuilding of what was lost, but there will be healing.  It might not end with reconciliation, but there will be peace.  Peace in knowing that we are loved, cherished, and saved.

It’s been like 30 years since I lost what I thought was the love of my life, but I did move on.  I did heal.  I did love again.  Whatever it is that we go through, we can remember that the pain and hurt is not what defines us, but rather that we are able and given the capacity to heal, to be loved, and to find peace.

And as for the temple, yes it did fall.  But as much as the Jewish folk thought it did, the temple doesn’t define them.  As much as they want to believe it to be, the temple didn’t house God.  And as much as they felt as it did, the temple wasn’t their world. God continues to be God, defining us as God’s children, holding us with the loving arms that created the universe, and saving and redeeming us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.   Our worlds might feel like they’ve come to an end, but God never will.

As we approach the end of this church year, may we look forward with hope, knowing that whatever hardship life might throw at us, the innocence of a baby born is coming, and we shall be restored.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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