Luke 21: 5-6
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be throne down.
We get caught up sometimes in focusing on what is not important instead of what is important. We get caught up in the ephemeral, the temporary, instead of focusing on what lasts. We get caught up in appearances, instead of focusing on the essence. We get caught up in what is on the surface, instead of what we can find in the depth of things.
I am privileged to live and work in a beautiful place, and while walking around UVA's grounds the other day, I was struck by the physical beauty and wonderful setting all around me. What a glorious place to study and learn! However, the essence of the place cannot be be the buildings, rather the spirit of learning that takes place in the students, the teachers, the coaches, and all those who support this process. When we get caught up in the appearance, we can forget the essence.
Likewise, there are many beautiful churches, including the one where I serve now, St. Paul's Memorial, here in Charlottesville. The space itself has the possibility of aiding prayer and worship and fellowship. Certainly, it is great to have spaces where folks can gather, where we can explore our faith, where we can praise God and give thanks for all the gifts given to us. However, the building is not what lasts, but God's love does.
We get caught up sometimes in focusing on what is not important instead of what is important. The "beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God" will someday be thrown down, like wooden blocks on the floor of a child's room - they are ephemeral, temporary structures. The true and deep and permanent structure is God's love for us, and God's command that we should love each other and love God is really the essence.
Jesus was not confused, he saw that it was dangerous to allow worship of God to become "worship" of a building, even the Temple in Jerusalem itself. How can we get clear? How can we look to the essence rather than the form? "Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself." "Go into the world, preaching the Gospel to all people!"
Loving God, help me to focus on what endures, rather than what is fading away and as I focus on your love for us, help me to also love my neighbors, and to share the Good News with all people. Amen.