St. Paul’s – Proper 28 – 11/14/21
When James Bond orders his signature martini, this is always what he says. [Shaken, not stirred.] The phrase signals a long-running amusement for serial Bond fans. Why? Bartenders and drink afficionados know that no one makes a martini by shaking it. The drink is always stirred. But then Bond never does anything by the book. And never gently.
The famous 007 has his personal preferences. But more than that, his presence packs a wallop. When he is engaged in a mission, he’s all in and streamlined like a locomotive. Suave but lethal, nothing can stop him from fulfilling his goal.In pursuit of his commission, Bond doesn’t merely stir things up. He shakes it up and delivers results fast, cleanly, and efficiently.
Writer Simon Gallagher asserts that Bond’s preference for shaking his martinis mirrors that of his creator, Ian Fleming. The choice however also reveals Bond’s performative mythology: he is a guy who is determined to make an impact. The shaken martini is a clue to who he is and the nature of his mission. Murky and mysterious, yet delivering a swift kick, agent 007 always comes through victoriously, often by unexpected and utterly surprising means.
Similarly, Jesus’ baffling but awe-inducing behavior must also have both fascinated and terrified his disciples. Notorious for saying and doing unexpected and unconventional things, Jesus was about as subtle as an earthquake. So, as they sat with him that day when he predicted that the monumental Jerusalem Temple would dissolve into rubble, they were worried but intrigued.
Jesus had just finished an entire tirade of complaints against the Jewish institutional system, run as he saw it by power-hungry legalists, who were taking advantage of entire communities of faithful and obedient folk. Like Bond’s martini, the Temple megalith is a metaphor, which imposing stone edifice appears like mere Lego in the hands of God. Its grandeur is an illusory power-structure that can be easily broken by the Lord of All Creation.The world declares no contest.
Jesus’ prediction is not the first time he’s shaken things up. He has deliberately thwarted religious customs, has challenged the authority of the priests and leaders, has incited ire for his comments, has hung out with
undesirables, has caused a ruckus in the Temple, and has undermined his colleagues. He’s considered a dangerous but to date untouchable person to be watched.
But like Bond, Jesus is an echo of His Creator. When we see Jesus shaking things up around Judea, he’s not acting randomly, and definitely not unintentionally. He’s the Emmanuel, God with Us, and God’s got a mission.
Ever see a hurricane touch down? It looks so beautiful in the sky, this great big tower of wind and rain, awesome in its power. Out to sea, it’s an amazing sight to behold. But when it comes ashore the landscape is forever changed. A hurricane is never subtle. We aren’t talking about a gentle stirring breeze here. We are talking about packing a punch that can annihilate entire towns in one fell swoop.
God on a mission is something like that hurricane. When God comes down to earth, God is sure to shake things up.
When Jesus was born, something amazing happened. God touched down. Gradually and decisively, things had been ramping up. God had a plan. A mission to fulfill. Mary knew it. Joseph knew it. Elizabeth knew it. Even Herod knew it. For goodness sake, the demons even knew it! Everyone it seems, except those in charge. But it’s always that way, isn’t it? Those who think they have the most power and control are by far the ones sporting the greatest illusions. In Jesus’ day it was no different.
The Pharisees and Sadducees, the Scribes and Priests, those wielding power over the Jerusalem Temple were set to be brought down a notch, and things were about to get messy. Soon, the Jerusalem leadership would experience a come to Jesus moment. By the time we see Jesus in Mark 13, things were coming to a head. God was about to shake things up big time, and the disciples would need to be prepared.
Jesus says, Don’t be alarmed. These things must happen. For as we all know, any truly new beginning always has come out of a messy ending.
The economist Joseph Schumpeter called it creative destruction – the principle that in order to create something truly innovative and new, you must first fully destroy the old façade. Creative entrepreneurship results from the destruction of old systems, which creates space for new innovation to grow.
Or think of it this way –what contractor would build a new house on a faulty foundation? Or simply patch new walls on rotting boards? The rot would prevail. No, to build something new that will be better and last, you first have to bring down the house that is there. It takes a wrecking ball to a failing structure in order to make space to build something beautiful and new.
But faulty, shifty, devious contractors do exist. Some will try to sell you a false bill of goods. Some will try to patch up problems with shiny exteriors and offer you a shiny new home with a rotting interior. These are the kinds of deceptions Jesus warns against. Especially because Jesus knows our human fascination with shiny and cool.
Look at the disciples’ reaction to the awe-inspiring view of the Temple from the Mount of Olives, where he was teaching them later that day. They are looking out over the mount at the glistening, imposing, architecturally stunning Temple on the hill with its thick stones and its massive gates. No doubt the setting sun cast a golden hew upon the striking, eye-catching structure. Rabbi, look! What awesome stones and buildings! they said.
Jesus replies, Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.
Obviously, Jesus knew the shock value of this statement. And he used it to explain what it means for God to fulfill God’s mission.
The old system and ways will be destroyed. And God’s new kingdom will be established. Does this look awesome? You have no idea in comparison how amazing God’s kingdom will be! Since God touched down, God had been covertly making changes throughout the area. Crowds followed
Jesus wherever he went. He left his mark on countless of those he healed, both psychologically and physically. His parables fed people with new and different food. His provocative accusations to the powers that be caused some to whisper, others to seethe. The changes had begun. The fissures and cracks in underneath the Temple façade had begun to widen. Soon the quaking would begin, and God’s mission would be fulfilled.
Today, in our world, God is still shaking things up. Sometimes, it begins with cracks in the systems.Sometimes, it can start with a slight rumbling. But be sure that when God touches down, when Jesus is in the house, things will begin to change. And sometimes that means a destruction of the old to make way for the new.
Scary? Maybe a little. The Holy Spirit is no fainting flower but a downright hurricane style force to be reckoned with. Let the Spirit in and you’re going to experience the ride of your life! Jesus’ words are clear: tighten your seatbelts and get ready for the tide to come in.
But disciples of Jesus know how to surf the waves. We get out our boats. We build our arks. We hop on our rafts. And we go where God tells us to go. You are not to fear. God has got this.
Don’t be afraid of letting the Spirit shake things up in your lives and in your churches. It’s the way that you know that Jesus is in the house.And that he’s making way for a new Kingdom community.
Think things are amazing just the way they are? You have no idea the plans that God has for you! Just wait and see. I can’t tell you what is to come. But I can tell you, when Jesus is the architect, the results will be awesome! More awesome than you can possibly imagine.
Tighten your seatbelts. Get out your rafts. Jesus is coming. And he has a message for you!
Let us pray:
as we walk with you,
we come to you with some painful, tough questions about the future.
Will our cancer heal?
Will our families find a way to stay together, in spite of our past hurts? And what about our country?
Will those in authority wisely lead us through present dangers?
Are we able to overcome our sinful past
and be more faithful to you in the future?
Will the world beset by so many tensions and difficulties,
come apart or implode under the weight of so many problems?
we do not know what the future holds.
Yet we do know who holds the future.
Do not leave us to our own devices, Lord, keep working with us,
keep telling us that truth that we are fearful to hear,
the truth about ourselves and our world
that we are unable to tell ourselves.
Thereby we will be able to face the challenges of the present
and of the future, confident in your strong, resourceful love for us.