Friday of the Week of Lent I
[Jesus said,] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 23:37-24:2)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 38:1–12; Psalm 50; Matthew 23:37–24:2
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2CMv4Lp
After being asked, on the final day of the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”, Benjamin Franklin reportedly answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those of us who live in the United States are naïve if we think that our republic and nation could not be lost one day. Governments of every kind have come and gone, often vanishing through their loss of ethical, moral and religious grounding. Dr. Franklin was right to caution citizens of the U.S. that it must be a daily responsibility to maintain and safeguard the republic, lest it be lost through neglect, ignorance or divisive special interests!
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time, as well as his disciples, saw the many magnificent buildings in Jerusalem, including the massive temple with its elaborate rites, ceremonies and sacrifices, and trusted that the Lord God would protect and defend the holy city. As God’s chosen people, they assumed Jerusalem would never be lost and the temple would stand forever. Jesus knew better. Jesus had just condemned the current leadership, expressing “woes” to the scribes and Pharisees. Now he declares their “house” desolate and forsaken. In the next verses, Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. To this day, there is no Jewish temple in Jerusalem—only a wall as a reminder and a remnant.
Our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in North America often comment that it was a blessing to them that they were not able to keep their buildings when leaving their former denomination. Church buildings often become monuments—temples to founders and benefactors, museums exhibiting artifacts from the past—with little faith manifested in the present. Sometimes it is better to leave church buildings and institutional structures behind, rather than allowing them to become financial and organizational burdens that are the sole focus of the congregation. Church buildings and institutions come and go over time. The word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8)!
Prayer: Lord God, help us cling, not to buildings and institutions, but to your Word! Amen.
Lenten Response: Look at the 2017 NALC newsletters on the NALC website, www.thenalc.org, to find photos of the different settings in which NALC congregations worship.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.