“What large stones and what large buildings!” The disciples are impressed by the grandeur of the temple as they walk away from where they saw the widow offer her last two coins.
I confess that I am often impressed by the grandeur of all that humanity has built. I am not the first person to run into a sign on the streets of New York City as I stared up at the buildings, right? Right? Not just me?
But, for these you men, you have to understand how much more impressed they would have been than even we. After-all, there were no mechanical cranes back then. These young men, from the backwaters of the world, have not seen buildings constructed with stones any bigger than a man can lift. Maybe, they have seen larger cornerstones that have been drug by mule, but that is it. So, when they see stones that are higher than they are tall stacked upon one another, they are simply blown away by the accomplishment.
I confess that I too am a person who is swayed by the bigger is better mentality. I have marveled at the height and artistry of the National Cathedral in Washington DC. I have been impressed by the size of mega-churches with thousands gathering to worship on a Sunday. I have been in awe of the power and sound while participating in a choir of teens numbering over a thousand. Bigger is better.
It reminds me of a joke from years ago.
A guy visited Texas for the first time and ate at the restaurant housed in his hotel. The steak that he got was huge…it was the size of the plate. He commented on the size to the waitress and she responded, “Well, everything is bigger in Texas.”
Similarly, he commented on the size of the toast that came with the steak, it was bigger than both of his hands. The waitress responded, “Well, everything is bigger in Texas.”
And, when she came with his beer, it came in something that was the size of a small barrel. “Wow!” he shouted out loud. “Well, everything is bigger in Texas,” the waitress repeated.
Having to go to the bathroom after all that beer, the guy ventured out of the restaurant and just happened to slip and fall into the hotel’s pool on the way past. Dripping wet, he walked back into the restaurant he exclaimed to the waitress, “Make sure you watch out for the toilet.”
O.K. did I wait years for this Sunday’s text to come around just so that I could tell that second grade joke? Yes, yes I did. I was hoping that it would be a huge joke!
Because bigger is better! It is better to write a massive book than a pamphlet. It is better to sell thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies than twelve. It is better to fill the tables at the restaurant than to have a hand full of customers. It is better to fill the pews than to preach to five people. It is better to get the huge gift under the Christmas tree than to get the one consisting of a small box.
I confess to thinking that success is all about numbers rather than caring about individuals.
I confess to exiting the temple and being overwhelmed by the size of the buildings, and completely missing the widows who have lost everything sitting by my feet below.
I confess to desiring greatness rather than focusing on God’s greatness.
I confess to desiring massive success rather than holy sacrifice.
I confess to desiring the golden gates of heaven and ignoring the pain of the cross.
I confess to completely missing the kingdom of God because I am too busy looking up.
"Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down," Jesus declares.
For Jesus, grandeur is not a goal. Greatness is not what he seeks. His power is not found in the earthquakes, great famines, and world-wide wars of the earth; though some claim that his workings may be found there.
Instead, his power is found in the little things, like the healing of those who are blind. Jesus’ power is found in making the mute to speak and the deaf to hear. Jesus’ power is found in welcoming the foreigner and healing the ill. Jesus’ power is found in humble acts of love, not the grand acts of armies. Jesus’ influence is found shaping twelve men and a handful of women and is not found in the thousands who pay him lip service and then turn on him at the last moment. Jesus’ power is found on a cross, the death sentence of a criminal, and is not found on the throne of a king.
In Jesus, all of that grand stuff is thrown down and love is given birth.
Sometimes, we build our grandeur so tall that God cannot even be seen. Sometimes, the stones need to be thrown down for God to be revealed. Sometimes, death needs to occur before something holy and pure and full of Godly life can be reborn.
Sometimes we need to stop and confess before we can go and live. Sometimes we need to let all that we built in the past to crumble away before new life can be born. Sometimes we need to let go of the grand visions and embrace the meekness of love.
Let us confess:
For obsessing over greatness
For desiring great numbers rather than great love
For focusing our attention on those in power rather than those who have none
For being impressed by the great stones rather than the small acts
For desiring a large church rather than a faithful church
For seeing success in terms of money and things rather than love shown
For seeking thrones rather than crosses
For wanting to be served rather than serving
For desiring forgiveness rather than forgiving first
For all that we have done, and all that we have failed to do
Holy God, forgive us our failures, knock down our stones of accomplishment, and give us a new birth in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.