When I was in college, my goal was to make Donald Trump look like a pauper.
I had a dorm room to myself, and everyday I would sit in there and devour the Wall Street Journal trying to learn all I could about making loads-o-cash. I didn’t have posters of scantily clad women on my walls (although if Scarlett Johanssen… never mind), instead I had full page ads of initial public offerings that were advertised in the Journal. If an IPO ad was anything less than a full page, I didn’t put it up – they weren’t worth my time if they couldn’t afford or were too cheap for the full page.
Favorite movies at the time: The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox, and Wall Street with Michael Douglas – “Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel.” I probably had less than three dollars in my checking account, but give me some room and I’d make my own movie.
The summer I graduated from college, I took a trip to New York City and had a perfect stranger take my picture in front of my temple, Trump Tower. I thought a name change to Toles Tower was not too far out of my reach.
Obviously, none of that came to pass; however, other than not being Daniel Craig good looking, I’m not at all disappointed with my life. I know exactly how blessed I am. In many ways I feel like I do make Donald Trump look like a pauper, just not the way that I had originally planned.
I had spent a great deal of time building these temples all around me and I was a busy little priest running around satisfying the needs of those I worshipped, but over the course of the years, those temples began to crumble, eventually turning into these great piles of rubble.
This past week on Wednesday night, we watched the last episode of In the Dust of the Rabbi, and we were taken to Didyma where the great temple of Apollo is located. The temple was massive. One hundred twenty-two columns, each over 60 feet tall and 8 feet thick, supporting a roof that reached a height of over 90 feet, and covering an area of approximately 60,000 square feet. Massive. Considering they didn’t have the benefit of our modern machinery – and even if they had! – it was impressive.
Our tour guide, Ray Vander Laan, talked about how much time it took to build such place and the amount of money that it would have cost. And then he showed us what it must have been like to walk into such a place, how the size of the temple alone would radiate this sense of power and awe. What remains today? There’s a picture of it on the front of your bulletin. Some parts still stand, but basically it is all rubble.
We, as the human race, are good at building temples. They are all around us. Not only do they come in the form of our goals or buildings, but we turn people into temples as well. For example, you can Google the “Twitter Counter.” This fun little web site tells you who has the most followers on the social networking site Twitter. Coming in at number 100 on the top 100 is Kevin Durant (It is sad, but I had to Google him. He’s a basketball player for the OKC Thunder). He has 13.6 million followers. Just above him was Paris Hilton.
Coming in at number 3 was Taylor Swift and number 2 (Dear Lord, please save us!) was Justin Bieber. And numero uno with 88 million followers – any guesses? Katy Perry. There are 88 million people who not only want to know, but need to know when she sneezes. Yes, we will build a temple out of and to anything. We will go there to worship, we will make the appropriate sacrifices, and we will give to support it. Yet, like the temple of Apollo, these too will crumble and turn into nothing more than rubble.
No. I’m not trying to suck the fun out of life. Life is a riot and filled with things to see, experience, and enjoy; and I hope you do just that. My goodness, if you happen to be a Justin Bieber fan, then go buy his records and get yourself a front row seat at his concert, but don’t make him the recipient or place of your worship.
While Cyrus was emperor of the Persian empire, on the southern border of the empire, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds and completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him.
Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded Cagular, captured him, and brought him to the capital for execution. On the day of the trial, Cagular and his wife were brought to the judgment chamber. He was a fine looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him, described as a magnificent specimen of a man. So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance, that he said to Cagular: “What would you do should I spare your life?”
“Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home and remain your obedient servant as long as I lived.”
“What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?”
“Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you.”
So moved was the emperor that he freed them both and returned Cagular to his province to act as governor. Upon arriving at home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife.
“Did you notice,” he said to his wife, “the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you notice the tapestry on the wall as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the throne on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold.”
His wife could appreciate his excitement and how impressed he was with it all, but she only replied: “I really didn’t notice any of that.”
“Well,” said Cagular in amazement, “what did you see?”
His wife looked seriously into his eyes and said, “I beheld only the face of the man who said he would die for me.”
John writes, in the opening verses of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”
Towards the end of his Revelation, John writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’”
Jesus was in the beginning before time began. When all things have passed away, when all things have turned to rubble, He will remain. As he said in our reading, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Like Cagular’s wife, there is no harm in taking notice of the “temples” around us, but we don’t go to them to worship. And we must never get so caught up in it all that we no longer behold the face of the One who not only said that He would die for us, but did truly die for us and rose again.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and end of all things, and he is the beginning and end of each of us. Temples will always be built, but over time, even the greatest ones will fall into rubble. Therefore, behold the face of the One who is eternal. Behold the face of the One who died and rose for you. Behold the face of Jesus, our resurrected Savior.
Let us pray: Lord, we believe in you: increase our faith. We trust in you: strengthen our trust. We love you: let us love you more and more. We are sorry for our sins: deepen our sorrow. We worship you as our first beginning, and long for you as our last end; we praise you as our constant helper, and call on you as our loving protector. Guide us by your wisdom, correct us with your justice, comfort us with your mercy, and protect us with your power. Through Christ our Lord, the Alpha and Omega, we pray. Amen.