In 2001 when I traveled to the temple ruins in Jerusalem (often known as the Wailing Wall, sometimes known as the Western Wall), I immediately noticed three things.
1. The guns pointed at me. Israeli soldiers take security very seriously. You just keep moving through security lines and pray you don’t set off any alarms. (Ironically, I prayed more there than I did at the wall itself.) Not a suprise.
2. The hustle and bustle. I visited the site twice, on two different days. Each time, there were hundreds of Jewish men cantoring, davening, random cloisters of men celebrating bar mitzvahs on-site, throwing candy. There were tourists from all over the world, in all different types of clothing and tradition, tucking prayers written on paper into the wall spaces. And quieter women, also praying, in their own separate section. (Women and men are not allowed to pray together in mixed company, except in the Reform circles of Judaism.) In fact, I remember thinking this scene looks exactly like a picture I would study in the encyclopedia, circa 1984. Again, not a suprise.
3. The architecture itself. This was a suprise. How did the stones get placed there without modern-day equipment? How were they cut so evenly? What are the dimensions and how much do they weigh? What kind of rock is this, and where did they even find it? How long did it take to build? Just how many slaves gave their lives for this temple, anyway?
Though the Temple I am referring to was not yet completed in Jesus’ time, the architecture was impressive enough for the disciples to comment, even to marvel, from the opposite vista on the Mount of Olives. You will read all about that in our Gospel Lesson for Sunday, Nov 15, 2009 from Mark 13:1-8.
Architecture may impress. But–marveling over things that you can see, and trusting in the One you cannot see–are two different things.
Lord of all times and places, we trust in your greatness alone. Amen.