Not Even One Stone

A reflection for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost. The lectionary readings for today are here.

There is much gloom and doom in the lectionary readings for today. And there is much joy and hope.

Jesus says, “as for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be upon another. All will be demolished.” Since he is speaking to a group of folks admiring the grandeur of the temple in Jerusalem, they assume that is is only reference point. But, as we know, Jesus so very often speaks of so much more than the literal context of his words.

Numerous times in my life there have been predictions for the ‘end of the world’. As I say often, I grew up in a denomination in which the main focus of the faith teaching was about what happens when we die rather than living life on earth as it is in heaven. I’m sure someone smarter than me has done studies about how this ‘life after death’ way of thinking came to dominate so much of Christianity but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the religious powers-that-be trying to maintain their power and control the behavior of the masses through fear and manipulation.

When, however, we read Jesus’ words – all of them – in light of the whole of the scriptures, what I find is not fear and manipulation but joy and hope. In fact, the one phrase that Jesus says more than any other is ‘do not be afraid.’ Jesus understands better than any of us that life is constantly changing. God wove regular change into creation – fall becomes winter, spring becomes summer. Crops are planted and harvested. Tides ebb and flow. The sun rises; the moon rises and waxes and wanes. These are the natural, cyclical changes God gave us to teach us that change is part of the design of life. Change isn’t something to be feared but to live into.

Now, please don’t hear me say that I think change for the sake of change is good and to be sought after. Change can be very painful and filled with sorrow. But change, in any form, in and of itself is not the end of the world, even if it feels like it. It is part of the world, this life, we are created to be in. When we face change of any sort, good change, negative change, change we choose, change forced upon us, expected or unexpected change, we have a choice: to live a resurrection life following Jesus or not.

I do not like the current change I am living with. I would have much preferred not to have major surgery. And now I have a choice – to live into it the ways this is changing me or struggle against it. We always bring what was with us, woven into who we are continuously becoming. When change comes (and it is always coming), when necessary we lament and grieve what is lost. And we look to God who is always with us for the strength and hope to continue following Jesus in this life. As resurrection people we know that endings bring beginnings just as beginnings at some point in time bring endings. The only thing enduring is the love of God, faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, and hope we have in Jesus.

The Change that is to come, when God will usher in the New Heaven and New Earth is not up to us. We can’t forestall it by keeping things “as they always have been” (a myth at best, fear mongering at it’s worst) or trampling through the changes ignoring the impact. The Change that is to come will come when God’s plan says it will. Our role is to live as if it is already here, on earth as in heaven, sharing love and compassion and kindness where we are and with what we have.

Whatever change is going on in your life – physical, relational, political, financial, cultural, locational, step into it with Jesus. Not with manufactured happiness or fake joy, but with intent to grieve what may be lost, to learn and grow from what is and what is to come. Seek to be better, to be more like Jesus, because of the change, whatever that looks like in your situation. The choice is yours – to struggle and fight or walk in love as Jesus loves us.

“A time is coming when not even one stone will be upon another. All will be demolished.” Life changes continuously. Only with change can we develop and grow. Jesus shows us in flesh and blood what it looks like to live the fullness of life God desires for all of us. Follow Jesus.

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