Mark 13:1-8 (NRSV)
1 As he 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?" 5 Then 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.
In Anne Tyler's novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, there is a scene where a young boy named Luke is hitchhiking. He's on his way to visit relatives in a distant city but he's also running away from a troubled family. Three motorists give him a ride. All of them have troubled lives, their lives destroyed by some tragedy. Each of them is trying to put their lives back together.
First, there is the mother whose teen daughter is rebellious and hateful. Things are so bad that the mother uses her car as an escape. She drives around the city trying to remember her daughter as a young child. She tells Luke, "In those days she liked me a lot. I was a really good mother, and she liked me."
The second ride is from a middle-aged man whose wife is divorcing him. He is on a desperate journey into his past to visit all his old high school girl friends because, "They like me; they thought I was fine, or at least they seemed to."
Finally, there is the truck driver who gives Luke a ride. They pass a highway sign pointing to a hospital. The driver tells Luke that in 1956, he and his pregnant wife were traveling down the very same highway when his wife went into premature labor. He raced to the hospital and his wife gave birth to a five-pound baby girl named Lisa. The baby did not live. "I never bounced back so good. I pass that hospital road and you know . . . I halfway believe that if I made the turnoff, things would be just like before. Dotty'd be holding my hand, and Lisa Michelle would be waiting to be born."
All of these people are trying to reclaim a world lost and gone. They've lost hope. Jesus tells us that worldly things always stand the possibility of being destroyed or coming apart but He will never abandon us. The Temple was the disciple's world. It was the frame for their faith. If the Temple was on the verge of being destroyed, that meant history was finished. There would be nothing left from them to do but sing Psalms and wait for the end.
Someone once asked the great church reformer, Martin Luther, "If you knew the world would come to an end tomorrow, what would you do?" Luther replied that he ". . . would plant a tree." In other words, he would continue to do the hopeful and steady work of being a disciple. Temples and things of this earth will rise and fall but the love of God never ends. God's work will always be done, maybe not in ways that are familiar to us, but in God's way. May our faith and discipleship remain steady, faithful and enduring to the end. Think about it.
Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (New York, NY: Random House, 1982)