Sunday 18 November - Pentecost 26 - Eucharist - Rosie Addis

It’s interesting to be studying this gospel passage in a week where the ground under our feet seems to be shifting. As I write there have been twenty-one letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister submitted to the 1922 Committee. Perhaps this week is a very apt one to realise again that all human institutions will ultimately fail. People let us down, relationships deteriorate. Nothing lasts forever.

But at the same time we seem to have an innate desire to build temples. We long for permanent security, order, and meaning.

Mark chapter 13 is part of the Bible’s many pieces of apocalyptic literature. Mark was writing at a time when the Temple had been destroyed – so around AD70 – but he writes about Jesus and events that had taken place around forty years’ earlier. For the first readers of Mark, who were suffering persecution at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles, they were looking for meaning in what was happening to them. The Temple was the centre of political, economic, social and religious life. How could it have been destroyed? Did that mean that their suffering was all for nothing?

Imagine that this church had been bombed – destroyed – and we were meeting in the rubble of a flattened building. Last Monday we were rightly proud of our completed building project – the historical events and decisions shown on the posters in the church. But what would we be left with if our building was destroyed?

And I’ll let you into a secret. We as clergy will let you down. We are your priests. We have pledged ourselves to you. But if we were standing in the midst of rubble you need more to hang on to than either Markus or myself – however substantial we may appear to be.

Where should we put our hope? Our faith?

As fundraisers never tire of saying – these people face an uncertain future. How should we act in the face of this uncertain future?

You know, sometimes it takes us standing in the midst of rubble to begin to look upwards and catch a glimpse of a much bigger picture.

And if we pan out from chapter 13 of Mark, we see a narrative, whereby the old is being changed in order to bring in the new. The Temple was for one chosen set of people, but Mark shows that this new picture is one where Jews and Gentiles, men and women, will all eat and worship together. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, this new creation is brought about. It’s a bigger picture than one man getting caught up in Roman politics. In some strange way, this path of suffering, death, and resurrection is one which we follow as we come to know God. We enact it in our baptism; every time we renew our baptismal vows; and each time we celebrate the Eucharist. We the Church become the Body of Christ, re-enacting this picture of suffering, death, and resurrection until Jesus comes again in glory.

So it changes how we view the world. We may be facing difficult situations; may be facing up to our own mortality. But our end goal is not to amass the most money, or put off death for as long as possible, or to have the highest number of Facebook friends. Our goal – our ultimate aim – is to understand our lives as part of the bigger picture. A picture of God renewing the world and bringing order out of chaos. Of us being God’s body in the world.

If we were sitting here in rubble all those things I’ve just said would still hold true. If we were being persecuted, and each week we read out names of those who had been killed in the past few days, the bigger picture would still hold true. It’s the same message that Mark wrote to the early Church. It’s just that for us here today, it can be more difficult to consider the bigger picture.

Perhaps a good place to start would be as we come to the Communion table this morning. We come asking – how should we act in the face of an uncertain future? And from the liturgy comes the response – Jesus. Our source and final purpose. Suffering. Death. Resurrection. Jesus – bringing to wholeness all that is made.

Made one with him we find our hope, our meaning. Death is not the end point. We are caught up in something far bigger. Having a full set of staff, clergy, and musicians is not the end point. The building and the people will change, but the message Mark tells will continue to be passed down the generations. And we need to be caught up in that bigger picture, showing through our words and actions that Jesus is our source and final purpose.