Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary
Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 121; Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25; Mark 13:1-8
NOT ONE STONE WILL BE LEFT HERE UPON ANOTHER
On this Remembrance Sunday, when we are thinking of those who have gone before us, when we have images in our minds of those rows upon rows of white crosses in Flanders Field and elsewhere, when we remember our losses and share the hope of resurrection to eternal life with our Lord and with all the Saints, can you imagine not carrying the promise of resurrection in our hearts and minds? Can you imagine living; doing some good things and some not so good things and then dying, and then thinking: that’s it; that is the end?
In our reading this morning from Daniel we hear of a time of “great anguish such as has never occurred before since nations first came into existence.” Daniel is recounting a time of terrible persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BCE. In spite of the horrors of the time that Daniel relates and which we see more clearly in the struggles of the Maccabees, God sends his messenger, Michael, “the great prince and protector of your people (who) shall arise.”
And, we discover, “...many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and contempt.” Here in Daniel in the Old Testament, we have the first clear reference to “awaking to everlasting life”, that is, to Resurrection. “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.” “Everlasting life; shine like the stars forever and ever.”
These words of promise lead us to think of Jesus. The setting for our Gospel lesson today is the temple. It was the desecration of the temple that started the rebellion and anguish and bloodshed that Daniel tells us about. The physical building that is the temple and the worship at the temple was central to the Jewish worship of Yahweh. And thus, we see a discussion about this very building as we read from Mark. “Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” comments one of the disciples. Large, to be sure: 37-1/2 feet long, 18 feet wide and 12 feet thick. (That would be 11.43 meters long, 5.5 meters wide and 3.65 meters thick).
The temple had been destroyed before; these large stones were designed to be a thing of permanence. And, as the disciples are oohing and aahing about this formidable edifice, what does Jesus have to say about it? “Not one stone will be left here upon another, all
will be thrown down.” And, indeed, some 43 years after Jesus’ own death, the temple was destroyed. Like Daniel, Jesus spoke of terrible times in which the natural world as well as the world of human interactions: “wars...nation against nation, earthquakes...” would be in crisis.
Jesus says: “this is just the beginning of the birth pangs.” Birth pangs? All this death and destruction? How can this be? Birth pangs are definitely painful and difficult, I can surely attest to that. But then what? There is a whole new life right before our very eyes; a new individual; a new hope. Jesus uses this readily available image as a metaphor not only about the temple, but about himself. In Mark’s Gospel, this image of destruction appears just before Jesus’ own passion and death. The reference to the building; that is, the temple, which contains the Holy of Holies can easily be seen as the human being who contained the Holy of Holies.
And Jesus’ bodily destruction and death can be seen as the birth pangs that produce something new: the resurrected Jesus; a new life after death as we see in Daniel. The loss of the temple was symbolic also in that Jesus’ followers began to think of themselves less as Jews and more as the “Followers of the Way” and later, Christians. And central to our understanding of ourselves as Christians is, indeed, this hope of resurrection; this hope of a new and eternal life with Jesus in the Holiest of Holies. So today we wear our poppies and think of soldiers and loved ones who are not with us here in person, but are remembered by us all in the hope of resurrection and everlasting life with our loving and forgiving Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ms Alice Kapka Churchwarden
Saint Margaret’s, Budapest