Malachi 3.19-20 For you the sun of righteousness will shone out
2 Thessalonians 3.7-12 Do not let anyone have food if he refuses to work
Luke 21.5-19 The destruction of the Temple foretold
Today’s gospel can, on one level, sound gloomy and grim.
And that is a fair reading of the world today, as it was in Jesus’ own day.
Many challenges, fears and worries stalk the world and our lives.
But equally clear is that we must not allow that fear to be the last word or have us in its thrall: for as Christians, as believers in God – we are not like other people, ‘who’ in St Paul’s words ‘have no hope’
We cannot be like that because of our belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4.13,14) and the enduring mercy of God.
This is all about how we face the fears of things that we cannot control ourselves.
It comes down to acting in the name of Jesus and having hope in the name of Jesus.
The world and contemporary culture will ridicule that, but he tells us, ‘by your endurance you will gain your souls’. (Luke 21.19).
This is all about being real with hope
In today’s gospel Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Indeed, in AD70 the Temple – which was the religious, political and spiritual beating heart of the life of the people of Israel - was torn down by the Romans.
The Temple mattered to the people of Israel; its destruction was a massive spiritual, psychological and emotional blow to the Jewish people.
The Temple was the sacrificial heart of the worship of Israel.
It was the meeting place on earth between the God of Israel, the Lord of Hosts, with his people.
The Temple mirrored the tabernacle sanctuary set up in the wilderness on divine proportions as the people journeyed to the Promised Land.
The Temple was an image of heaven on earth.
We can barely begin to imagine the significance of it to the Jews of the first century.
With the destruction of the Temple their world came crashing down.
To this day Jews lament the destruction of the Temple.
And for Christians the Temple is not without significance.
After all, Jesus was presented in the Temple, according to the Law of Moses, at 40 days old; he taught the Elders of the Law in the Temple whilst on pilgrimage there when only 12 years old; he cleansed the Temple of those who exploited Temple pilgrims and took away its sacred character as a house of prayer; he taught in the Temple precincts right up to his death.
In St John’s gospel, Jesus also equates his own body to the Temple.
In that he is saying that he is the meeting point of heaven and earth, of divinity and humanity; he is the place of prayer, of wisdom, of teaching and of sacrificial love.
His body, like the Temple, will be destroyed by his death on the cross; but will be raised again, unlike the Temple, in three days.
Through the anguish of destruction comes salvation and healing: this is what we call hope, and it is revealed in the Cross and Resurrection.
We see this pattern too in our first reading from the prophet Malachi who speaks of total destruction.
In some ways Malachi and the Biblical prophets sound something like the secular apocalyptists we hear a lot today.
A relentless stream of doom fills the airwaves: climate; cost of living; war, natural disaster, famine, plague, family breakdown, uncertainty of identity.
But a Biblical account of reality always involves hope, always involves promise.
Malachi gives us the perspective of God, the Lord of Hosts, that out of the dust of destruction: ‘for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings’. (Malachi 4.2a)
The Biblical imagination, which finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, does not offer a vision of the temple or of the world or of human lives and existence annihilated, but rather purged and transformed.
This is being real with hope.
Until recently the West lived with the secular liberal analysis that said ‘things can only get better’; that, somehow, Progress is inevitable.
That was utterly unrealistic and ahistorical, taking no account of our flawed humanity that needs amendment of life.
That has given way to another secular narrative of annihilation, despair and unremitting negativity where the young, especially, find the future hard to imagine.
Yet the Biblical witness insists that however desolate, barren and hopeless things seem we are in fact in the process of growth and purgation not destruction.
The Temple and the edifices we create will crumble, but God endures; hope endures.
The Christian account of the world is not frothy or naïve, but rooted in being real with hope.
This is asserted beautifully in the prophecy of Jeremiah, ‘For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)
The very act of stretching out your hands tonight to receive Christ in the sacrament is to reach out for the hope that comes from his name.
The future he is rests in our hands, so that we can go out and be signs of real hope in a yearning world.