I grew up in the south, south suburbs of
Chicago. Since we could get everything we needed where we lived, we rarely went
into the city. Even decades later when I went to seminary on the city’s south
side, I rarely needed to go into the city itself. When I did go downtown, I was
a classic rubbernecker, staring in awe at the skyscrapers.
When I was in Jerusalem in 2010, I was just as amazed. I
chose this photo to reflect the size of the stones in comparison to people.
They are HUGE! So, I know how the disciples felt, that day in Jerusalem with Jesus.
They were from the countryside, a day’s journey north of Jerusalem. They might
have gone into the city every few years for religious festivals, but probably
those trips were rare. They are amazed at the size of the stones that form the
buildings. They were amazed at the gold that covered the temple and other
But, Jesus tells them to not pay much attention to the
buildings, because they will not stand much longer. The disciples were worried,
scared about this. They want to know when and how. In fact, about 40 years
later, the Romans would conquer the city and destroy the temple. This is
definitely bad news, devastating for the Jews. It changes forever how they
worship. But, instead of focusing on this coming disaster, Jesus tells the
disciples there will always be disasters and wars and bad news.
2,000 years later, we know this too. In 1989 Billy Joel got
to thinking about his life as he turned 40, and he wrote a song about it. This
video has an image for each thing he mentions, and you won’t catch them all. Just
notice the common themes of 40 years of US history.
A video made today of the last 40 years would look much the
same, except we would also see repeated incidents of school shootings. The same
kind of things just go on and on and on, as Billy Joel says.
Jesus would tell us, stuff will always be happening. No
matter what it is, I will be with you. I will give you words to speak and my Spirit
will fill you with courage.
Paul, writing to the people in the church at Thessalonica,
said, While you are waiting for Jesus to return, do not get tired of doing good
things for others.
Martin Luther said, God does not need your good works, but
your neighbor does. And that’s what I say to y’all, too.
For this reason, we stock a food pantry and give bags of food to our
For this reason, we visit people in the hospital, and those who can’t
get to church anymore.
For this reason, we tell others about how important Jesus
is in our lives. We tell them how he loves us and how he teaches us to love
Here’s a story about how easy it is sometimes to love
others. Ethel was a big black woman in one of my congregations. She told us this
story of a trip to the grocery store.
There were lots of people standing in line and all the
registers were open, so the only thing they could do was stand there and wait.
Ahead of her was a young mom and her baby. The baby was not happy. First, she
was a bit fussy, then she got louder. The harder the mother tried to quiet the
baby, the harder the baby fussed. Other people in the store were looking. It
was obvious they were annoyed. Why was this baby still crying?
Ethel watched this mother and baby for a few minutes. Then
she asked if she could hold the baby. The mother thought about it, wondering if
Ethel was a safe person. Finally, she said, yes. So Ethel took this baby and
held her against her ample chest. The baby must have felt safe there and settled
down. Soon her cries slowed and stopped. The mother was grateful, and Ethel got
to cuddle a baby. Who doesn’t like to do that?
It was a small thing, but it was a blessing Ethel could
give. There are always little things we can do that pass on some Jesus to
others. We don’t always even have to use words, just our hearts.
This week, perhaps you can take a break from worrying about
the news, about what is happening in Washington and Tallahassee, and give
people in need some love and care. Give them some Jesus.