Heap of Rubble
Rev. Joshua D. Gill
Church Historian Diana Butler Bass recently wrote the following:
I didn’t sleep very well on Tuesday night following elections. It was a grueling, ugly political campaign, and it did not turn out as I had hoped and worked for. After turning off both the television and the lights, I found myself tossing and turning, worried about the future, and feeling sad…
On Wednesday, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. “I’m afraid” were the words I most often heard yesterday from friends and colleagues. Not “I’m so disappointed,” “I’m angry” or “We’ll do better next time,” but “I’m afraid.”
It wasn’t an exaggeration or a metaphor. I talked to people literally afraid — eyes wide with worry, all suffering from sleeplessness…. , full of dread and a vague sense of communal terror…Afraid.
And, while listening to my friends, I knew something else. If the election results had been the opposite, a group of women sitting somewhere else…. that would be saying the exact same things as my friends were saying: they were afraid.
And, when I push past my worries about policies and politics, that’s what really makes me afraid. That we’ve come to fear one another.
For some politics has become a zero-sum game with only winners and losers. Some people follow politics the way some people follow fantasy football, hanging on every moment, every word, and at times it can lead to their own personal apocalypse where they feel as though their world is crumbling around them.
I would suspect apocalyptic literature is probably one of the least understood forms of literature in scripture. This lack of understanding is likely why one of the most famous apocalyptic books, the Revelation of John was almost not included in the Biblical canon. This genre of biblical literature uses symbolism, political narrative, and allegory to share a truth. Often this type of literature rises in popularity during periods of unrest, persecution, or political upheaval: the Babylonian Exile or the Roman occupation for example.
These passages from Jesus are no exception. Scholars often refer to this text as the little apocalypse. It is likely that the gospel of Mark was compiled during or shortly after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in the year 70. So those hearing this words would have likely known of or experienced firsthand the destruction of the temple from the Jewish war.
Jesus’ opening comments about the stones becoming a heap of rubble are again Jesus levying criticism on an unjust system that would take the last coins of a widow. The second scene in our text, Jesus takes a position of rabbinical authority and four of his closest disciples approach him asking when these things will happen. He offers two warnings, that we should watch out for false teachers. Josephus mentions messianic pretenders during this period, people that came as false messiahs.  The world continues to be full of false messiahs that want you to place your trust in them, messiahs with empty promises. Jesus then shares words about wars, earthquakes, and famines, these are not mean to be predictive or revelatory as much as they are a call to sustain hope during difficult moments.
One of the ways I often think about passages like these are as metaphors for the personal apocalypses we all face. A way of thinking about those moments in life when we experience something so difficult it feels as if our world is crumbling around us. The moment when the fragility of life comes into focus, when we realize how precious life truly is and we are left mourning. Maybe the apocalypse is the way a marriage ended or a problem you can’t seem to work through, or an addiction you can’t beat or a child you continue to grieve. Or maybe your personal apocalypse is something different — maybe it is about the way you see things changing around you in your community, in the culture, and in the church. Maybe it is a general worry about the next generation about their values, beliefs, and the way the way they live out faith. Maybe it is concern about what the church will look like in ten years.
This conversation comes shortly before the crucifixion. In just two chapters Jesus will be betrayed, mocked, and executed by the state. The disciple’s entire world will be torn apart, their lives had become a heap of rubble. Yet, when they fixed their eyes on Jesus they become new people. When fix our eyes on Jesus we become new people. Nadia Bolz Weber tells the story of a young parishioner named Rachel. Rachel called Nadia and was crying on the phone. Rachel who had been estranged from her parents had recently gone back home to visit them and trying to rebuild their relationship. Through a tear-filled conversation Nadia learned that Rachel’s parents’ church would not allow her to partake in communion. Rachel had just spent the last year rebuilding her life and attending the church House for all Sinners and Saints. One of the keys to her recovery was this open table that allowed all people to come Jesus. Just about every Sunday for the last year she had seen a woman stand behind the table and invite all people without exception to receive the Lord’s Supper. For Rachel this had changed her and going back home and being told she could not receive Jesus was too much. Rachel gave Nadia permission to share the story with members of the church. After worship Nadia pulled a small group together and told them what Rachel said. One of the members of the church Stuart upon hearing this story and identifying with her pain said, “Well then we’ll just have to take her communion at the airport”. So, a small group of misfits whom the larger church had rejected showed up to Denver airport at 10pm with a cardboard sign that said “Rachel Pater” on one side and “Child of God” on the other. They waited at the bottom of the escalator. Then all together they made their way to the interfaith prayer room. They spoke about how Jesus was betrayed and how through him we receive new life and freedom and they shared the body and blood of Christ together. 
We will all face an apocalypse, but if we fix our eyes on Jesus, Jesus will meet us in that moment; maybe in a conversation with someone we disagree with, maybe through a group of misfits, maybe in a prayer from a faithful friend, but Jesus will meet us.
 Diana Butler Bass, The Cottage: Sleepless in Virginia, 11.4.21
 Connections: Year B, Volume 3 (Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship) (p. 487). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
 Nadia Bolz Weber, The Corners: On Communion. Who gets the goods? 6.20.21