“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Mark 13:2
In 1998, I was privileged to go to Israel with a group of pastors on a tour called “Where Jesus walked.” Actually, our guide informed us that we ran where Jesus walked because it was a ten-day tour crammed into seven days! However, the impact of being in the Holy Land, seeing the places where Jesus lived and taught and interacted was powerful. I have to admit that I was a little angry and resentful of all the churches that had been built on the traditional sites of nearly every significant Biblical story, but eventually I realized that it didn’t matter. I was still in the place where our Savior had been.
Although I had many moving experiences there, including being on the top of Masada and traveling across the Galilean Lake on a replica boat, the experience that moved me to tears was placing my prayer request in the West Wall of the Temple which is the only part of the Temple that still stands. It is clearly a very holy place, and we saw many people praying long, ardent prayers at that Wall. I can’t even remember what I wrote on my tiny piece of paper, but touching the wall and cramming it into a small crevice of the stone structure felt as if I was in the presence of God.
That is what the Hebrews believed – that God lived in the Temple. As Christians we believe that Jesus broke open the idea of God being in one place and made it clear that God’s presence was everywhere – even with Gentiles like me. In Mark 13:1-8, Jesus’ disciples were talking about the magnificence of the Temple. Herod the Great (who does not live up to his name!) was a great builder. He rebuilt the Temple with gold and marble and beautiful, large stones. If Herod hadn’t been such a “stinker” we could give him lots of credit for bringing back something precious to the Hebrew people. Unfortunately, Herod’s intentions always were to glorify Herod, not God.
And then Jesus makes the point that it is just a building that won’t last forever, as is clearly evident today. The Temple didn’t last forever, just as the buildings and possessions and “things” of this world don’t last. The many things that do last are relationships, love, compassion, kindness, caring, and most of all, the presence of God with us. Jesus’ words are to be prepared. They remind his disciples – that includes us – that we have no idea when we will encounter the presence of God. Even though we believe that God is with us always, we often need something to make us more aware of those times when we encounter the power of the Spirit with us. I believe that day as I stood at the Temple wall, I felt the overpowering presence of God with me.
While we can’t always feel those powerful moments, we can live our lives ready for them. Living prepared for God to act in the world is a challenge and a process of practicing the presence of Christ. As we draw closer to God, we begin to see the face of Christ on others and experience nudges that are certainly from the Holy Spirit: nudges that tell us to call someone who needs a kind word, nudges that send ideas and thoughts into our minds and hearts that will make a difference to others, valuing others the way Christ would value them. We don’t know when we are entertaining angels unaware as Hebrews reminds us.
Living prepared for Christ to come is living each day as if it was your last. Of course, that’s not easy. But it’s a goal. It’s something at which we can work. I often think of this on the anniversary of 9/11. Most of the people who went to the twin towers of the World Trade Center that day thought it was an ordinary work day, but so many saw the face of Christ that day. How will we live prepared? How will we put the “things” of earth on a lower priority level and place God higher? Keep working at it – in your own way and with the support of your church family. May God bless your day!