Sermon, November 18, 2018

The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 13th chapter.  

Glory to you, O Lord.

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ. 



Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Last summer our family got to go on a wonderful vacation to Scotland and Ireland.  Our daughter, Bethany, planned the itinerary for us.  She asked me in advance if there were any particular places I wanted to go.  My mother’s family is from Scotland and Northern Ireland so I wanted to see the places where my ancestors lived before they immigrated to Virginia in the 1650s.   I was hoping to find graves with familiar family names in old church yards.  And, of course, I wanted to visit the churches where they worshipped. 


We went to Ramelton, Ireland, one of the places where I supposedly have ancestors. When we arrived, we were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to fabulous Ramelton, the best wee toon in the world.”  It was an adorable little town of 1500 people. Their website mentions a missionary with my family name who went to Maryland in the 1650’s, so he could have been a relative or an ancestor. We went to the old church yard.  The East wall and parts of the north and south walls of the church were still standing.  The rest of the building was gone.  Unfortunately, the cemetery didn’t have any graves earlier than the 1800s, so we didn’t find any relatives there. 


Then we went to Sligo Abbey which was built in 1252. It was a Dominican Priory.  It accidentally burnt down in 1414 so they rebuilt it. There were wars and rumors of wars and the Abbey was damaged in the siege of 1595 and ruined by an invading army in 1641.  The stones that remain are from the 13th and 15th centuries.  


When you walk around, you can see the stone paths where the walls used to be. There are signs telling you where the monks stayed and where the kitchen had been.  The altar was still standing where the chapel used to be.  As we walked around, though, all we could really see were the graves. In the centuries following the the destruction of the abbey, wealthy people paid for the privilege of being buried there.  The church had become a cemetery.  


As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”


This passage from Mark 13 has been called the “little apocalypse.”  Apocalypse means revelation, a message that pulls back the curtain and reveals the truth.  This time of the year when the daylight becomes shorter in our hemisphere and we approach the end of our liturgical church year, we have readings about the end times. 


It can be hard to find hope and see any good news these days.  It’s dark when you get to work and dark before you go home for supper. Fires have destroyed so much in California.  Thousands of people have lost everything they owned; hundreds have lost their lives.  


There have been over 300 mass shootings in this country this year.  It’s becoming almost routine to hear about them on the news.   Then we hear about the thousands of people who are fleeing poverty, political oppression, and gang violence in Central America, carrying their children and all their possessions for miles every day, desperate for the opportunity for a new start at life. 


It was sad for me and my family to see that what had once been big, beautiful church buildings were not much more than rubble and a few signs about where things used to be. It was sad to see once thriving churches turned into museums and cemeteries, especially in places where nation rose up against nation, places that my ancestors left because of famines. 


And yet, while we were there, the bells from the new church across the street were chiming. 


This passage of scripture, this apocalypse, is a clear reminder that the things we build may be beautiful and useful for a time, but the things we build will not last.  The stones the disciples pointed out to Jesus were huge.  One of them would not fit inside this sanctuary.  Herod the Great had completely renovated and expanded the Temple a few years earlier.  This Jerusalem temple was magnificent, yet it was destroyed completely in 70 AD by the Romans. Archeologists occasionally find one of the original stones. 


Yet, this passage of scripture is a message of hope.  Jesus wasn’t one to look at the world through rose tinted glasses.  His message was not that everything will be great if you just believe in God.  


I find hope in those ruined churches, those graveyards.  It doesn’t matter to me that I didn’t find any graves of my ancestors either, because I have inherited something precious from them, and from all those people who worshiped with them in those places.  You see, I don’t need their buildings.  They passed down the faith.  They passed down the message of Jesus Christ. 


I find hope in those piles of rocks and those graves.  I remember what Jesus can do with a grave.  And, maybe, I am a descendant of that pastor who went to Maryland as a missionary in 1658.  If not a biological descendant, I have still inherited his gift of faith. 


Valarie Kaur, in her message to the interfaith watch night service in 2016 said, “What if the darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?”  


What if?  Jesus compared to pains of this present life to the pains of a woman in labor.  I have been in labor twice.  If you have been there, you know what I mean. The nurse who taught the childbirth class the first time I was pregnant described labor pains to us.  She said it feels like an elephant has his foot on your belly.  As labor progresses, the elephant picks up the other three feet. 


I didn’t believe her when she first said that.  And with my first pregnancy, I had some good medication.  The second time I had a baby, they didn’t give me any drugs, and Bethany weighed over 9 pounds.  That nurse was right about the pain. But, I have 2 beautiful, wonderful children who were worth every second of pain.  


Jesus says, that in this present life, we are just at the beginning of the birth pangs. But, we know that labor pains are the signal that new life is near.  


There is an old parable about two babies. The original version is attributed to Pablo Molinaro. Perhaps you have heard it. (https://thebacajourney.com/two-babies-talking-in-the-womb/)



The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 

The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“Ha. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….” 

My friends, this present life is just the beginning of the birth pangs.  That is the good news for today.  Amen.


The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 13th chapter.  

Glory to you, O Lord.

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ. 



Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Last summer our family got to go on a wonderful vacation to Scotland and Ireland.  Our daughter, Bethany, planned the itinerary for us.  She asked me in advance if there were any particular places I wanted to go.  My mother’s family is from Scotland and Northern Ireland so I wanted to see the places where my ancestors lived before they immigrated to Virginia in the 1650s.   I was hoping to find graves with familiar family names in old church yards.  And, of course, I wanted to visit the churches where they worshipped. 


We went to Ramelton, Ireland, one of the places where I supposedly have ancestors. When we arrived, we were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to fabulous Ramelton, the best wee toon in the world.”  It was an adorable little town of 1500 people. Their website mentions a missionary with my family name who went to Maryland in the 1650’s, so he could have been a relative or an ancestor. We went to the old church yard.  The East wall and parts of the north and south walls of the church were still standing.  The rest of the building was gone.  Unfortunately, the cemetery didn’t have any graves earlier than the 1800s, so we didn’t find any relatives there. 


Then we went to Sligo Abbey which was built in 1252. It was a Dominican Priory.  It accidentally burnt down in 1414 so they rebuilt it. There were wars and rumors of wars and the Abbey was damaged in the siege of 1595 and ruined by an invading army in 1641.  The stones that remain are from the 13th and 15th centuries.  


When you walk around, you can see the stone paths where the walls used to be. There are signs telling you where the monks stayed and where the kitchen had been.  The altar was still standing where the chapel used to be.  As we walked around, though, all we could really see were the graves. In the centuries following the the destruction of the abbey, wealthy people paid for the privilege of being buried there.  The church had become a cemetery.  


As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”


This passage from Mark 13 has been called the “little apocalypse.”  Apocalypse means revelation, a message that pulls back the curtain and reveals the truth.  This time of the year when the daylight becomes shorter in our hemisphere and we approach the end of our liturgical church year, we have readings about the end times. 


It can be hard to find hope and see any good news these days.  It’s dark when you get to work and dark before you go home for supper. Fires have destroyed so much in California.  Thousands of people have lost everything they owned; hundreds have lost their lives.  


There have been over 300 mass shootings in this country this year.  It’s becoming almost routine to hear about them on the news.   Then we hear about the thousands of people who are fleeing poverty, political oppression, and gang violence in Central America, carrying their children and all their possessions for miles every day, desperate for the opportunity for a new start at life. 


It was sad for me and my family to see that what had once been big, beautiful church buildings were not much more than rubble and a few signs about where things used to be. It was sad to see once thriving churches turned into museums and cemeteries, especially in places where nation rose up against nation, places that my ancestors left because of famines. 


And yet, while we were there, the bells from the new church across the street were chiming. 


This passage of scripture, this apocalypse, is a clear reminder that the things we build may be beautiful and useful for a time, but the things we build will not last.  The stones the disciples pointed out to Jesus were huge.  One of them would not fit inside this sanctuary.  Herod the Great had completely renovated and expanded the Temple a few years earlier.  This Jerusalem temple was magnificent, yet it was destroyed completely in 70 AD by the Romans. Archeologists occasionally find one of the original stones. 


Yet, this passage of scripture is a message of hope.  Jesus wasn’t one to look at the world through rose tinted glasses.  His message was not that everything will be great if you just believe in God.  


I find hope in those ruined churches, those graveyards.  It doesn’t matter to me that I didn’t find any graves of my ancestors either, because I have inherited something precious from them, and from all those people who worshiped with them in those places.  You see, I don’t need their buildings.  They passed down the faith.  They passed down the message of Jesus Christ. 


I find hope in those piles of rocks and those graves.  I remember what Jesus can do with a grave.  And, maybe, I am a descendant of that pastor who went to Maryland as a missionary in 1658.  If not a biological descendant, I have still inherited his gift of faith. 


Valarie Kaur, in her message to the interfaith watch night service in 2016 said, “What if the darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?”  


What if?  Jesus compared to pains of this present life to the pains of a woman in labor.  I have been in labor twice.  If you have been there, you know what I mean. The nurse who taught the childbirth class the first time I was pregnant described labor pains to us.  She said it feels like an elephant has his foot on your belly.  As labor progresses, the elephant picks up the other three feet. 


I didn’t believe her when she first said that.  And with my first pregnancy, I had some good medication.  The second time I had a baby, they didn’t give me any drugs, and Bethany weighed over 9 pounds.  That nurse was right about the pain. But, I have 2 beautiful, wonderful children who were worth every second of pain.  


Jesus says, that in this present life, we are just at the beginning of the birth pangs. But, we know that labor pains are the signal that new life is near.  


There is an old parable about two babies. The original version is attributed to Pablo Molinaro. Perhaps you have heard it. (https://thebacajourney.com/two-babies-talking-in-the-womb/)



The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 

The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“Ha. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….” 

My friends, this present life is just the beginning of the birth pangs.  That is the good news for today.  Amen.



The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 13th chapter.  

Glory to you, O Lord.

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ. 



Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Last summer our family got to go on a wonderful vacation to Scotland and Ireland.  Our daughter, Bethany, planned the itinerary for us.  She asked me in advance if there were any particular places I wanted to go.  My mother’s family is from Scotland and Northern Ireland so I wanted to see the places where my ancestors lived before they immigrated to Virginia in the 1650s.   I was hoping to find graves with familiar family names in old church yards.  And, of course, I wanted to visit the churches where they worshipped. 


We went to Ramelton, Ireland, one of the places where I supposedly have ancestors. When we arrived, we were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to fabulous Ramelton, the best wee toon in the world.”  It was an adorable little town of 1500 people. Their website mentions a missionary with my family name who went to Maryland in the 1650’s, so he could have been a relative or an ancestor. We went to the old church yard.  The East wall and parts of the north and south walls of the church were still standing.  The rest of the building was gone.  Unfortunately, the cemetery didn’t have any graves earlier than the 1800s, so we didn’t find any relatives there. 


Then we went to Sligo Abbey which was built in 1252. It was a Dominican Priory.  It accidentally burnt down in 1414 so they rebuilt it. There were wars and rumors of wars and the Abbey was damaged in the siege of 1595 and ruined by an invading army in 1641.  The stones that remain are from the 13th and 15th centuries.  


When you walk around, you can see the stone paths where the walls used to be. There are signs telling you where the monks stayed and where the kitchen had been.  The altar was still standing where the chapel used to be.  As we walked around, though, all we could really see were the graves. In the centuries following the the destruction of the abbey, wealthy people paid for the privilege of being buried there.  The church had become a cemetery.  


As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”


This passage from Mark 13 has been called the “little apocalypse.”  Apocalypse means revelation, a message that pulls back the curtain and reveals the truth.  This time of the year when the daylight becomes shorter in our hemisphere and we approach the end of our liturgical church year, we have readings about the end times. 


It can be hard to find hope and see any good news these days.  It’s dark when you get to work and dark before you go home for supper. Fires have destroyed so much in California.  Thousands of people have lost everything they owned; hundreds have lost their lives.  


There have been over 300 mass shootings in this country this year.  It’s becoming almost routine to hear about them on the news.   Then we hear about the thousands of people who are fleeing poverty, political oppression, and gang violence in Central America, carrying their children and all their possessions for miles every day, desperate for the opportunity for a new start at life. 


It was sad for me and my family to see that what had once been big, beautiful church buildings were not much more than rubble and a few signs about where things used to be. It was sad to see once thriving churches turned into museums and cemeteries, especially in places where nation rose up against nation, places that my ancestors left because of famines. 


And yet, while we were there, the bells from the new church across the street were chiming. 


This passage of scripture, this apocalypse, is a clear reminder that the things we build may be beautiful and useful for a time, but the things we build will not last.  The stones the disciples pointed out to Jesus were huge.  One of them would not fit inside this sanctuary.  Herod the Great had completely renovated and expanded the Temple a few years earlier.  This Jerusalem temple was magnificent, yet it was destroyed completely in 70 AD by the Romans. Archeologists occasionally find one of the original stones. 


Yet, this passage of scripture is a message of hope.  Jesus wasn’t one to look at the world through rose tinted glasses.  His message was not that everything will be great if you just believe in God.  


I find hope in those ruined churches, those graveyards.  It doesn’t matter to me that I didn’t find any graves of my ancestors either, because I have inherited something precious from them, and from all those people who worshiped with them in those places.  You see, I don’t need their buildings.  They passed down the faith.  They passed down the message of Jesus Christ. 


I find hope in those piles of rocks and those graves.  I remember what Jesus can do with a grave.  And, maybe, I am a descendant of that pastor who went to Maryland as a missionary in 1658.  If not a biological descendant, I have still inherited his gift of faith. 


Valarie Kaur, in her message to the interfaith watch night service in 2016 said, “What if the darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?”  


What if?  Jesus compared to pains of this present life to the pains of a woman in labor.  I have been in labor twice.  If you have been there, you know what I mean. The nurse who taught the childbirth class the first time I was pregnant described labor pains to us.  She said it feels like an elephant has his foot on your belly.  As labor progresses, the elephant picks up the other three feet. 


I didn’t believe her when she first said that.  And with my first pregnancy, I had some good medication.  The second time I had a baby, they didn’t give me any drugs, and Bethany weighed over 9 pounds.  That nurse was right about the pain. But, I have 2 beautiful, wonderful children who were worth every second of pain.  


Jesus says, that in this present life, we are just at the beginning of the birth pangs. But, we know that labor pains are the signal that new life is near.  


There is an old parable about two babies. The original version is attributed to Pablo Molinaro. Perhaps you have heard it. (https://thebacajourney.com/two-babies-talking-in-the-womb/)



The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 

The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“Ha. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….” 

My friends, this present life is just the beginning of the birth pangs.  That is the good news for today.  Amen.