All will be thrown down

All will be thrown down

By the Very Rev. Peter Courtney, Dean,
St. Andrew's Cathedral, Honululu

Preached November 15, 1998

I have never slept in a temple before. Oh, I have dozed in church or two, but never slept in a pharaoh's tomb, or a pyramid. At the retreat I went to last week in Las Vegas I stayed at the Luxor, a 30 story black glass pyramid which can be seen from the airport over four miles away. I was prepared for the glitz; I had experienced that before. I was not prepared for the scale of a 4,400 room resort; the huge faux fronts of stele's, sphinxes, enormous buildings, and the vast spaces inside the pyramid. I have never seen so many hieroglyphics in my life. Every elevator has the usual buttons and on the sides a huge panel of ancient writing. Wouldn't it be funny if it were a sub-liminal message encouraging us to spend and gamble.

I fully expected huge blocks of granite to slide out from the walls in the hallways as I walked down them, sealing me in. Some of the hallways are like secret passages. You walk into what looks like a wall only to discover that it is another passageway which slides off at an angle. The architects have been to all the same movies as I.

Having gawked at an American temple built in 1993, I read with you from Luke 21: "When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said: "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.""

One of the favorite outdoor sports in Las Vegas is watching the demolition brigades implode buildings. "Not one stone is left upon another; all is thrown down." You can look it up on the Net and see the videos endlessly blowing in buildings which another generation thought would last forever, and yet "great is the fall thereof."

There are another 12,000 rooms abuilding in Las Vegas. The occupancy rate of the Luxor is 95%. Still we read in our newspaper about how Las Vegas is over-built and heading for a crash. "the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another."

Here in Hawai'i we know about crashes. We don't blow up our buildings, the termites eat them, a tropical implosion. We are still reeling from the capital invasion of a decade ago as our real estate values have descended to 1988 levels. Not only is this painful for people who own real estate, but more painful for those who could not afford it for 10 years.

Jesus is speaking about his version of Las Vegas. His temple had 20,000 workers. Today, like the Luxor, it would advertise positions available on the Net for food vendors, cashiers, maintenance people. I met a big fat guy in the elevator who courteously pushed the down button for me. His cart said: Refrigeration. I asked him, "so you are the refrigeration guy." He said, "yea, we do the ice machines and coke machines and some heating and cooling. There are four of us." Four guys just to repair the ice machines! I am sure the ancient temple like the modern one required lots of experience and good references to work there.

So Jesus goes on describing the things that will happen before the Temple is thrown down: "There will be earthquakes, famines, plagues, dreadful portents and signs." This is all bad enough, but then he says: "They will arrest you and persecute you and hand you over. THIS WILL BE YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY."

Jesus' followers knew what "testify" meant. It meant witness to the truth. No matter how deluded and greedy and self-satisfied and serving the culture had become, the time to testify had come.

Here in our state where one party outnumbers anyone else by a 6 to 1 margin, the Chinatown bookmakers came out on the money by predicting the recent electoral results almost to the penny. The margin was miniscule. The discontent is a form of testimony, of witness. One of the ways we know it is truth-telling and witnessing is that it has been discounted and poo-pooed by the people in power. The response to the truth is always sabotage. Or as scripture tells it: "You will be betrayed by brothers and parents, by relatives and friends..."

Of greater concern to us than politics, as important as it is, is our witness, our testimony to the power of God and the grace of God. Is there enough of this witness in any of us to convict us, to have us hauled before the governor to be accused of being a meddlesome Christian? I know that some of us would be sentenced to death for our Christian convictions. Sentenced perhaps, as Jesus says "You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair on your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."

It will not surprise any of you to hear that the Cathedral lost a $1,000 pledge for 1999 because we witnessed against the evil of persecution against gay and lesbian people in our state being perpetrated by 70% of those who vote. God only knows what the other half of the voters would say if they had voted.

No wonder endurance is the price of gaining our souls; it takes endurance to stand against persecution. It takes all of us together to let go of gifts that are bribes; it takes all of us together to make this temple not only adorned with jewels, but glisten with the tears of the righteous as the temples of this age are thrown down. It takes every one of us to work together to make this temple not one of greed and American consumerism, but a holy place of prayer and witness.

If anyone here has not made a commitment of talent, time and treasure to your Cathedral for the coming year, please rush home and get your pledge card out of its safe hiding place and mark it with your witness. "Do not be terrified, and do not be led astray by the majority. For many will come in my name and say "I am He." They are not. They have been led astray by effective demagogues and are victims of their own ignorance. Let your pledge card witness for you so that you can be counted with those whose "endurance will gain your souls."

Barbara Brown Taylor has written that the biggest danger for the people of faith in our time is that they will be indifferent and fail to witness to the power of God and the wonder of God. The church is the only people who can and should do this witness. Please join me. I need your company for endurance.

The Good News is that our gifts to this temple are not coins in a slot machine. There are no chances here. We have been bought and paid for. Our response is faithful endurance.


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