Good News and the Holy Temple

Why is it that so many denominations focus on the part of the Gospel that says “The Gospel has to be preached to all nations” (MT 24:14, MK 13:10), but seem to completely gloss over the fact that they don’t have to prepare for what to say when we share it, because the Holy Spirit will give us the words? (MK 13:11, MT 10:19-20, LK 12:11-12, LK 21:14-15)?

These two concepts come when Jesus is telling his disciples about the end of the Temple, not the end of times. This too is something that many church leaders don’t mention, or don’t notice. Many denominations feel it that the more nations that they preach the Gospel to, the closer they are to Jesus coming back. They prepare tracts and rehearse missionaries towards this end. Nowhere in that section does Jesus talk about the end of days – just the end of the Temple. The Jewish Temple has been destroyed for thousands of years, and the Gospel certainly wasn’t preached to all nations before it happened.

So what is going on?

Jesus was talking about the Holy Temple literally, and the Holy Temple spiritually. The Temple was a literal building at the time, but the Spirit left that building and entered into Jesus, and through him, into us. We are the building. We are the Temple now. Remember that Jesus was the “cornerstone” which the builders (the Jews) rejected. Remember that Peter, a human being, was the rock upon which Jesus built his new church.

The Church is a literal Body of believers, not a place. This is the message that needs to be spread through the Holy Spirit. We are to wake people up to this, to prepare their hearts, just like that simple manger in Bethlehem, to welcome in Christ.

We do need to be good witnesses, sure. We need to “acknowledge Jesus before others”, certainly. But we don’t have to prepare, because the Holy Spirit will give us the words. We’ll have better words through the Holy Spirit than we could ever prepare on our own. How interesting that the idea that the message of Jesus has to be preached to all nations is only in two Gospels, but the message about the Holy Spirit giving us the words to be able to do it is in three – and actually twice in one of them. More is said by Jesus about the Holy Spirit than sharing the message, and I think we need to notice that.

Our job is to be messengers, but not in the usual sense. We are to let the Holy Spirit speak through us. We don’t have to worry about it – we just have to let it happen.

Perhaps that is why so many church leaders don’t talk about this. The Holy Spirit can’t be controlled. People who have the Holy Spirit in them don’t read from the script or from a prayer book. There is nothing “common” about the Holy Spirit. It can’t be contained. I believe that many church leaders are frightened of this, because once the Holy Spirit gets loose, it can’t be put back.

Once it gets loose, people might just start to realize that Jesus didn’t ordain anybody.

Once it gets loose, people will remember that Jesus made us all ministers, by virtue of our baptism.

Once it gets loose, people will remember that Jesus said the only One above us is God – not a Rabbi, not a Teacher, not a Father – not any religious authority.

Come, Holy Spirit,
and spread over your Church,
and make it new.
Cleanse us with your fire,
turning the lead of
ritual and rote
into the gold of
service and joy.

Amen.

Signs of the destruction of the Temple

As Jesus was leaving the Temple complex, the disciples noticed how ornate and impressive it was. One disciple exclaimed “Look, Teacher! This building has such massive stones!” Jesus said to him “Notice all of this now, because mark my words, the day is coming when not one stone will be left standing on another!”

A little later, Peter, James, John, and Andrew approached him privately when he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, across from the Temple complex. They begged him to tell them when this destruction would happen, and what the warning signs would be.

Jesus said “Be alert so that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am the Messiah’ and they will lead many people astray. Don’t be alarmed when you hear of wars and rumors of wars. These things have to occur, but the end isn’t happening yet. There will be battles between nations and kingdoms. There will be earthquakes and famines all over and there will be terrifying sights in the skies. But all these events are just the beginning of what is to come.

Then the authorities will grab you and hand you over to the local courts and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will be brought before kings and governors because you follow me. This will give you an opportunity to reveal the Gospel, because it must be proclaimed to all nations. Therefore, don’t worry beforehand about what you are going to say, because the Holy Spirit will give you the words when you need them. You will have all the wisdom and words you need so that your enemies will not be able to contradict you.

At that time families will betray one another. You will be hated by everyone because you follow me but by your endurance you will be saved.”

MT 10:17-22, MT 24:1-10, MK 13:1-13, LK 12:11-12, LK 21:5-19

Poem – Mountain

Lord, I’m afraid of the mountains.
So high, so far, so few.
It seems as soon as I unpack
it is time to get going again.
I never stay here very long.

Lord, why call me to stand on the mountain
When I can’t stay there?
The mountain is to
catch my breath
or catch sight of
where I have to go.
I can’t breathe,
I can’t see,
in the valleys.
Too many people,
too many chores,
too many things.
It is too much
and yet not enough
at the same time.

I’m grateful for the view, Lord,
don’t get me wrong.
But every now and then I think
a hill
would be better
than a mountain.
Not so far to come back down.
Not so far to go up, too.

Make my path straight Lord,
so I don’t turn left or right
from following you.
But also, if you don’t mind,
make it level too.