25 Pentecost Year A November 14, 2021 St. Paul’s/Random Lake
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs. As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’ —do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything. 24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Are you impressed?
A while back I was chatting with one of my hospice patients when he suddenly declared that he thought the end was coming. I of course wondered why, and he said because of everything he saw around us seemed to fulfill the Bible’s prophecies. Today’s gospel reading (to which I added the rest of Chapter 13 of Mark) is one of those predictive passages, otherwise know as Mark’s Little Apocalypse, apocalypse meaning referring to the end of time.
In this passage, Jesus “describes wars, earthquakes, famines, and nations rising against each other. According to author, Adela Yarbro Collins, “Motifs of war, earthquakes, and famines are very general apocalyptic commonplaces.” It is easy to imagine…events like the destruction of the Jewish Temple or a Jewish/Roman war felt like a telos, an end, for those who watched them unfold.”
The same is unfortunately true by our standards today. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to roar on far beyond any of our expectations, climate change continuing to cause wildfires, storms of all kinds, heatwaves and floods, humanmade pandemics of the opioid crisis and systemic racism that continue to take lives at an alarming rate. As Simon Dein writes in an article called “COVID-19 and the Apocalypse: Religious and Secular Perspectives,” in the Journal of Religious Health: “Pandemics indicate the fragility of life and the world, chaos, engender paralyzing anxiety that the world is dissolving, a sense of detachment and raise significant issues of meaning resulting in existential crises.” These crises inspire big questions of who and how we are in the world; they likewise inspire big questions of in whom we believe and the shape that belief takes in practice.”
So, what do you think? Did my hospice patient have something? Should we be preparing for the coming end? In today’s reading (and beyond) Jesus has some words to guide us: “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” The beginning of the birthpangs. When we see signs that we think reveal the end of the world as we know it, chances are, it is only the beginning. Of course, when a woman begins to give birth, we never know how long it will take, so it’s good to be ready.
Later in this chapter, Jesus reminds us: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”
There will always be events going on in the world that may lead certain folks to foretell the end, but Jesus reminds us it is good to be prepared at all times. Times like the last two years simply incline us to be more on our toes.
So then, how do we prepare for this? Is it possible to prepare for this? Or do we just blow it off saying, eh, I can’t know the time, so why should I bother?
Yet, if we look deeper at what Jesus said about what must happen before the end arrives listen carefully because you and I may have a part in it. One simple verse, Mark 13:10: “The good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.” And you can have a part in that happening by sharing your faith story with others around you.
In the time of Jesus and for some who are persecuted for their faith, Jesus intimates that such sharing could be dangerous, but in our time and location it could be as simple as doing good for someone and giving God the credit, or sharing with someone who is struggling how our faith in Jesus has helped us endure and remain strong. As Jesus says, if an opportunity arises for you to share your faith: “do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” God’s spirit will always be with you to guide you.
In today’s gospel, the disciples were so impressed by the temple grounds, but Jesus reminded them that manmade things aren’t meant to last., “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” And as someone who has visited the temple mount in Jerusalem, I can attest that what was so remarkable to Jesus’ followers is no longer standing.
Think of all the human creations that astonish and amaze us—great buildings and structures, how hard it is to keep quiet after a good movie or when your favorite sports team wins a game. We need to share the good stuff.
However, all those earthly joys are temporary. The good news of Christ is forever.
St. Paul stated this so well in his second letter to the church at Corinth: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
We live by faith, not by sight.”
As believers, we have nothing to fear. The best way to prepare for the promised end whether it is sooner or later and to know our God story and share the good news of what Jesus has meant to us.
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” Amen.