And yet it is about that. Isn’t that always the way?
The lesson from Mark for Sunday is an interesting one. For starters, it is only a small part of a much larger teaching, actually Jesus’ longest discourse in Mark, known as Mark’s Little Apocalypse. The concepts Jesus brings up in these first eight verses are fleshed out in the remainder of chapter 13. We don’t read them, of course, it is the RCL after all. Apocalyptic literature is so misunderstood these days, a preacher could spend an hour on the subject and only scratch the surface.
What strikes me, mostly because it struck TKT first and he mentioned it to me, is the opening conversation between Jesus and his disciples about the Temple. This conversation isn’t really about the Temple, except that it is, except that it isn’t.
As Mark put ink to parchment, tensions between Rome and Israel were bubbling over. Whether it not the Temple had been destroyed yet, we can’t be sure, but certainly a full out war with Rome was not a foreign idea to Mark, and the way Rome would prove its power would be to destroy the second largest building in Jerusalem, the Temple (Rome’s seat of power, the Praetorium, being the tallest and located next door to the Temple). So yes, it is about literal stones, but for Jesus it is the system that will fall. The system is more important.
The question for the preacher is “what systems does God continue to tear apart and how do we live thereafter?” The Temple system was corrupt and had to be destroyed. A religious system, focused on the same God we worship, had to be dismantled. What happens when God starts to dismantle the things we worship? Our religious system. Our government structure. Our economy. Our fundamental understanding about the way the world works.
We can be sure that God will tear down the temples in our lives at some point. How do we live thereafter? How do we live while God is bringing forth something new with, in and through us? That, I think, is what Mark’s Little Apocalypse is all about.