10 Trinity 2008

The Tenth Sunday After Trinity
July 27, 2008
Verses 43 & 44 of St Luke 19:41-47

Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! You see some of it on the news. Back in Nov-ember of ‘07,’ did you happen to catch on the television evening news the dramatic implosion of the second oldest hotel on the Vegas Strip, the New Frontier Hotel? First there was a spectacular fireworks display from off the roof of the hotel. Next, on the side of the hotel appeared a fireworks display of gigantic numerals that sequentially counted down the seconds from ten to one. And then another fireworks display appeared on the side of the building that looked like the dynamo box that is used to trigger an explosion.

Giving appearance so as to look as if being pushed down, gradually the lever dropped until it rested on top of the dynamo box. Then came the sounds from within: BOOM, BOOM! And great clouds of dust jetted forth out of the windows of every floor. Soon one end of the old landmark hotel buckled and began to collapse and to pull the rest of the hotel down with it in a gigantic billowing cloud of dust and debris. Presently a new and grander resort hotel and gambling establishment is being built upon the land formerly occupied by the old New Frontier.

In a separate incident from the one recorded in today’s gospel account, we read, ‘As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Rabbi, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.” Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” ’

Jesus’ words in this morning’s gospel account are not to the disciples, but to Jerusalem itself. ‘When he drew near and saw the city’ he was so deeply moved by what he saw ‘he wept over it.’ And he said, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now are they hid from your eyes.’ It is remark-able how applicable his words are to the current situation occurring in Jerusalem today. Jerusalem, whose name means, ‘City of Peace.’ And yet Jerusalem’s entire history has been anything but tranquil, nor is it yet.

Nearly two thousand years ago something else had brought tears to Jesus’ eyes too: the future destruction of the Great Temple. Now this was the third building to occupy the original site. The first Temple, envisioned by King David, and built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C., was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second Temple envisaged by the prophet Ezekiel and undertaken in 520 B.C. at the instigation of the Minor prophets Haggai and Zechariah, was desecrated at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes. Finally, the grandest of the Temples was the third, whose great buildings were put up by Herod the Great. This was the Temple standing in our Lord’s day, the scene of the Cleansing we hear of this morning, and of his teaching during the days before his Betrayal.

As noted earlier, his disciples had remarked about its beauty and Jesus had then commented on its future certain destruction. This morning as he overlooks Jerusalem and weeps, he comments further. ‘For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast a trench about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you.’ As for the Great Temple and all its beautiful buildings, ‘They will not leave one stone upon another in you.’ He states the reason as being: ‘Because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ And his words soon came to fruition. For within 37 years, in A.D. 70 Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans. With its Temple thrown down, its cycle of sacrificial worship ceased and has never been resumed.

It is not unusual for great buildings, even great churches to be pulled down and replaced. We noted a moment ago, that the Great Temple our Lord lamented and wept over had itself been erected over the site of two previous temple buildings. Nor was it unusual for even greater buildings and far greater churches to be built over ruins. The present St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, is built upon the ruins of several previous churches. Four to be exact: A church built in A.D. 607 by Ethelbert, King of Kent, to serve as a cathedral for St. Mellitus, first bishop of London, replaced 70 years later by a Saxon church made of stone, which became the scene of many early synods of the English Church, but was gutted by fire 400 years later. Then a new Norman cathedral was completed in 1332, at its time the largest building in England, covering 3 acres, partially destroyed in 1643, and which later perished totally in the Great London Fire of 1666. Then began the construction of the present edifice by Sir Christopher Wren in 1675, and the whole was completed by 1710 and is used in worship to this present day.

In other parts of the world the same holds true in the history of many of the Basilicas and great cathedrals; with some of the original structures having been built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, with replacements built over the centuries. Other great churches have been built over the sites and ruins of ancient pagan temples, everywhere in the world from Ephesus to Mexico City. In time, even some of those great churches that replaced earlier churches or were erected over ancient pagan temples were themselves desecrated, abandoned or reduced to ruins. Being obliterated in baronial disputes, leveled by Puritan cannonfire, destroyed by mega ton bombs dropped from military aircraft in the course of world wars.

And ordinary Christian folk who had used them in worship, and had come to cherish their presence wept over them and their great loss when their stones were cast down. Great buildings do not necessarily survive the eventual wrecking ball or the forces of nature. Even our beloved Pioneer Church, that was moved here in order to save it from demolition, has had its existence threatened once by earthquake and thrice by fire: being once when vandals set fire from inside and another time when flames reached close enough to scorch the outside.

But it was for more than a great city. It was for more than a great temple that Jesus lamented and wept. It was for the PEOPLE of Jerusalem that he lamented and wept. Their eyes had not let them see; their eyes were blinded to the time of his Visitation! Blinded to the time that could have brought them Peace! But they would not!

External forces can blind people to the reality of a situation that is present and before them. The situation may be dire! And they do not recognize the present danger until it has overcome them. The analogy is used of how a frog responds to exposure to hot water. If you were to drop a frog into a pan of hot water he would jump out far faster than he was dropped in. But if you were to place a frog in a pan of cool water and by increments turn up the heat below, he wouldn’t realize what was happening around him until (not to confuse analogies) his goose was soon cooked!

We see this phenomenon happening with respect to the gradual secularizing, or the (to coin a term) ‘paganiz-ing,’ of the United States, founded originally as a Christian nation – but apparently no longer ‘Under God.’ Need I cite examples? They are legion, often descending upon us from our nation’s high courts.

This ‘secularizing’ trend is to be found occurring even within the institutions of the ‘sacred.’ Mainline seminaries became riddled with theological liberalism beginning in the 1930’s and before. The liberalism was later combined with social activism, which began making its gradual appearance in the 1960’s. Seminarians and even congregations were encouraged by national headquarters of respective denominations to study and even to consider for implementation a radical ideology, known as ‘Liberation Theology,’ rooted in the revolu-tionary teachings of Chairman Mao.

In third world countries converts to this new and radical ‘gospel’ included many priests and many religious who gave up the work of evangelization and ministry to souls, to give themselves over instead to this new ideology, personally involving themselves in political revolution, with some even engaging themselves in the violent spilling of blood. To address and cure the world’s ills, mistakenly some saw less need for Bibles and more need for bullets.
Surely Jesus must weep yet again when he sees ranks from his priests allowing themselves to be blinded by rage, closing their eyes to his way for Peace and opening them wide to the way of trying to right wrongs through violence. Wherein there is no Peace!

But it is not simply our religious rights and our institutions civil and sacred that are under attack; so are the PEOPLE themselves under fire, and the heat is being turned up! The Enemy behind this attack is as old as creation itself, in fact even older. He is the one who beguiled Eve and in turn beguiled Adam. He is the one who tries to beguile you and me to this very day – and he just might succeed, if we allow him.

The question before us is: Is he winning in the contest? Ask yourself this question: Are you stronger or weaker than you were just a year ago, with regard to your belief in God? Are you stronger or weaker in your belief in Jesus Christ than you were just a year ago? Are you stronger or weaker in the practice of your faith, in the saying of your prayers, your presence at Sunday Mass, the receiving of Holy Communion, the reading of Scripture than you were just a year ago? Are you stronger or weaker in the exercise of your conscience than you were just a year ago? Are you stronger or weaker when it comes to resisting temptation than you were a year ago? Are you stronger or weaker in the curbing of familiar bad habits than you were a year or so ago? Your answers to those questions will tell you who is winning the contest. It is Jesus or is it the Enemy?

Why did Jerusalem fall? Why did the Temple fall? Why did the People of Jerusalem fall? Because instead of becoming stronger in their relationship with God; they chose to become the weaker by blinding themselves to His ways, cutting themselves off from Him, and thereby missed the time of His Visitation; those things which make for lasting Peace. Their hearts had become ‘as stone’ toward him. And stones as we know, can be thrown down! So why are so many Christians in the end thrown down? Because they knew not personally the time of His visitation, in which he invited them simply to follow in his Way so that they might grow up and (to quote St. Paul) be ‘built into an holy Temple.’

The principle of sound construction is: that you must not be so foolish as to build upon sand and expect your building to survive life’s storms. You must build upon solid rock. And that solid rock is JESUS CHRIST. The principle of sound construction is: that you can cover over the ruins of the past, and build anew atop them providing you first lay a firm foundation. And that firm foundation for the individual who claims to be Christian is JESUS CHRIST. The principle of sound construction is: you can build something which is far greater than what you’ve known in your past, provided your new blueprint for success is in following faithfully the Master Plan laid out for us in the life and example of JESUS CHRIST.

We need to do whatever it takes to ‘clean up’ this temple (our soul). We need to invite Christ in to purge out all that is unworthy within us, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and all sin. We need to make certain that this temple once again is His House of Prayer, dedicated to serving Him, rather than ourselves.

Let not his eyes weep in lament and sorrow over our ruin for not recognizing him. Rather, because we recognize his Visitation among us, may his eyes weep for Joy!