1 The reading from Mark sounds like the end of the world, the grand finale. However, what if that’s not what this gospel lesson is about? Maybe this passage is about “an” ending and not “the” end. Maybe there is more to our lives and our world than a beginning point and a single ending point separated and defined by time. Maybe, just maybe, beginnings and endings happen when we recognize moments of spiritual growth and transformation. 2 Perhaps that is why we begin with a story about an ending. Every beginning starts with an ending. This evening's gospel confronts us with a necessary ending that makes space for a new beginning. It reveals a darkness from which new light will shine. It shakes us awake to watch for the One to be renewed within us-the One who is always coming and bringing something new into our souls. That is the gift and Good News of this new advent season. Sometimes we need to wake up and face the necessary endings in our lives. 3 Each of us comes here tonight with all sorts of stories and experiences. I’m talking about the kind of stories and experiences that have defined us, shaped who we are, given meaning and direction to our lives, and have been the motives and drivers for what we do, how we think, and the ways we relate. They are powerful stories that give structure to our lives and upon which we have built our lives. They are central to our life and identity. They are the stories that shape our view of the world, ourselves, others, and God. I like to call them "temple" stories. 4 I’ve called them 'temple' stories because that is the context for this evening’s gospel. Jesus and his disciples have just left the temple. In Jesus’ day the temple was the center of Jewish life and identity. It gave the people meaning and direction. But Jesus reminds them that outward structures do not define them. Jesus is telling them that the story of their life and identity is changing and will be replaced with another. He’s telling them that they will need to let go of the old view of life, the world, themselves, and even their understanding of God. They 5 will have to let go of their "temple" story. And so must we. There may be events in our lives that have caused much pain and sorrow; they may be events and stories that have shaped how we live our lives and how we see much of the world around us. Hopefully we can begin to recognize how these painful stories have structured our lives. Hopefully we can put those stories beyond us and see how they no longer give meaning to our lives. Hopefully we can step back and reassess how these events have 6 impoverished our world and diminished who we are and who we really want to be and are meant to be as children of God. Hopefully, these types of "temple" stories can become a necessary ending. Gently setting aside these kinds of painful stories can be an awakening to a new life. It can be a way of moving away from that dark place into a new light that can shine. Divine light can help us create space for a new story. This process is not, so to speak, the end but an ending that can create a new beginning. That is the promise and hope of 7 this evening’s gospel reading and this holy season of Advent, a hope and a promise that will be fulfilled and met when we meet again the Christ who is always coming into our lives. So let me ask you: What are the "temple" stories you carry within you? What stories have been foundational for you but no longer give you a safe or lifegiving place to stand? In what ways have these stories defined and determined your life in such a way 8 that they have denied you the life you really want? How have these stories narrowed your view of God, the world, others, and yourself? Look for the places where your world is small and your life is impoverished and you’ll find a "temple" story. Look for the patterns of conflict and difficulty in your relationships and you will find a "temple" story. Look for the ways in which you continue to do the same old thing the same old way with the same old results and you’ll find a "temple" story. 9 Every "temple" story has a necessary ending. However, there is also a new beginning. It is the emergence of God's Holy Spirit which always brings the beginning of our new life and a new life story. Christ is our life and, hopefully, Christ is part of our healing and living story.