Don't pray for revival
Bible Reading: Mark 13:1-8
Those four words. The bane of a driver's life.
Youve just settled in to a long, long drive, having checked that everyone who needs to go to the toilet has gone
the car is running smoothly, the traffic is OK.
And then they come. Those four words that will bring even the strongest character to breaking point.
Are we there yet?No, Gordon, not yet. Try reading your book for a while. Or play number plate cricket. Or count the trees. How will we know we are there?
Because the car will stop and well all get out.
Are we there yet? How will we know?
A quick quiz for you.
What do all of these dates have in common?
One of them was while I was at College in Sydney
The prediction was that Jesus would return at Ryde, (which was just down the road),
and I remember that there were several people there who walked round in hard hats all day
as a reminder of the prediction
Mark plays with us when it comes to talking about the disciples.
The way he often talks about them shows me that he likes to make us feel good about being stupid.
Its a very comforting gospel for people who dont always think they fully understand what Jesus is on about.
Just after Jesus has been in the temple and has been undermining the very system that the temple represented
as a way of losing track of what God is on about, and abandoning Gods preference for the poor and suffering
they wander out of the temple, and the first words that one of the disciples says
"Look at this magnificent building."
And Jesus smiles sweetly at the moronic comment, demonstrating grace after grace,
and tells them all that this magnificent building and what it stands for will come tumbling down in ruins.
Were sort of used to the idea that there is no such thing as permanence
in the era when things are manufactured with built in obsolescence deliberately with a wearing out date.
Todays latest technology is tomorrow's landfill; the job we're doing now might last 5 years, might last 10;
the house we're living in will probably be home to someone else in 7-10 years;
1 in 3 marriages will be over in 15 years;
your kids will be gone after 20 years - but they'll keep moving back till they're 40;
your heart and your hips are doing well to survive 60 years;
the earth will one day lose its air and water, and crash into the sun;
the sun will either explode or burn out, and the universe will end in a crunch, or a whisper in eternal darkness
Not necessarily the cheeriest of thoughts at all times,
but the concept that things arent permanent tends not to faze us all that much.
But we still have some things that we either long to hold on to
or that we long to get back to their earlier state of glory.
The Jewish understanding of the Messiah before Jesus turned up on the scene
was that he would be someone who would restore things to the glory days of King David & Solomon
when the Jewish state was at its peak of power
and the temple was a symbol of that time.
And Jesuss words now only a few days from when he is killed is a really clear statement
that theyre not going back to those glory days
that they will not find their hope and their strength in returning to something that was so good.
I was speaking with a colleague this past week Chris Udy who used to be at Wesley UCA in Forrest
and he was reflecting about the way that we like things to be refreshed for us in life and in faith.
He commented pretty wisely, I thought, that usually when people talk about and pray for revival,
they really mean resuscitation - they want God to pick up the broken and dying pieces
and breathe life into them again.
They want things back the way they were, when we were young and strong and comfortable.
But that's not the way God works.
We dont get security by heading back to the days of David and Solomon
In fact, did you know that revival is not a Christian concept at all.
God doesn't work by resuscitation - God's methods are redemption and resurrection -
and for both redemption and resurrection to take place, something must first be lost, or die.
Here in this weird passage in Mark 13
put in as a bit of a slap in the face to the disciples looking to relive glory days
Jesus talks about a new birth, a new life, that comes out of destruction.
A few days later, the Christian Church is born from a new life that comes out of a crucifixion.
The warning isnt just about not getting fixated on when Jesus will return
Dont bother trying to predict the second coming (by the way the concept of a 2nd coming is also not biblical)
its also a much deeper warning about making sure we look at life through a Christian world view
If we look for revival meaning resuscitation then we miss out on what God is really on about.
Just about anyone with a little bit of skill can get some sense of refreshed energy into something
whose time has passed.
But as a guy called Fred Craddock once said, "Maybe people are obsessed with the second coming
because, deep down, they were really disappointed in the first one."
I wonder if it is that it becomes easier for us to think about the way that Jesus will come
and take us back to the glory days,
rather than us put most of our energy into living out the implications of the first coming.
Things will topple and fall.
Structures - those in which we find all sorts of security and stability
and those which feast on untruth and the oppression of those who are in need will have their day and will pass.
And out of the passing, out of the death, out of the destruction of things that we though would last forever
we get the chance to see God at work, in bringing to birth something which is new.
New birth. The bringing of something quite new out of what we thought had gone forever.
And the thing that will be born, the thing that will be resurrected in us and in this world
will be God's life, God's purposes, God's time.
Do you know the story of Coventry Cathedral?
It was bombed to ruins in WWII
When they went to rebuild later, thinking through how they would
noticed two timber beams, burnt and charred, had fallen in the shape of a cross.
They didnt re-build the cathedral over the top of the ruins trying to reclaim previous times
but left the charred beams among an altar of rubble, with the words Father forgive.
And they build a new Cathedral next to it.
"walk from Good Friday to Easter, from the ravages of human self destruction to the hope of resurrection.
For each of us, let us pray not for a revival, or a return,
but for a letting go, a dying, and an opening to new life in the way of Christ