Luke 21:5-19 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.
"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
Reflection The refrain in Carly Simon’s song “Coming Around Again” speaks to the edge and the depth of our human experience of impermanence. “I know nothing stays the same but if you're willing to play the game it's coming around again. So don't mind if I fall apart. There's more room in a broken heart.” Indeed, “not one stone will be left upon another.” There will be “wars and insurrections,” not to mention “earthquakes, famines, plagues” and typhoons that kill more than three thousand island people.
The writer of Luke’s gospel minces no words, we cannot hold onto the things of this world. We cannot “prepare our defense in advance” against the ebb and flow, the jig and jag of all that is created (and that includes natural disasters and even our “parents and brothers, relatives and friends” who will disappoint and betray us). The question that pushes on me is, if nothing that I see stays the same, how then am I to play the game?
Jesus answers the question with unequivocal clarity, “make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” In other words, put all (not some) all of our trust in Jesus, the risen Christ who is with us and for us. Rather than rely on things that we see, rely on the wisdom and grace of Divine Presence with us.
It is inevitable that every stone of the temple will fall, which is to say, everything that is seen and has been humanly constructed including, social, political and religious instutions, will break down and cause much upheaval. In stark contrast to all that is seen and thus impermanent, unseen God is eternal, always and everywhere Present, with and for all of us.
In this world of ours there is no escaping change and yes even suffering. Still, in the darkest days when all seems lost, the unborn, undying Divine Reality we call God rises to fill the empty room in our broken hearts.
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