Mark 13:1-8 • November 18, 2012
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
Wow! What a gospel reading to lead us into this week of Thanksgiving.
The 13th chapter of Mark’s gospel reminded me this week of the story of a young boy who woke up early in the morning of his birthday. He looked out his bedroom window and saw that a large pile of manure had been placed on the driveway of his house overnight. He didn’t know that his father was using the manure that day for fertilizer in the family’s backyard. The birthday boy excitedly jumped out of bed and ran out of the house, grabbed a shovel, and started frantically digging into the manure pile.
His buddy from next door saw him shoveling and came over to see what in the world his friend was doing. “What’s going on?” he asked.
To which the birthday boy responded enthusiastically, “I’m digging out my birthday present. With a manure pile this big, there has got to be a pony in here someplace.”
Which of course brings us to our gospel reading today. This chapter in Mark’s gospel is often referred to as Mark’s “little apocalypse”.
So I’ll honest right away. I’m not a fan of this kind of language or literature, but it is the gospel before us today. It’s sometimes called apocalyptic literature or an area of theological study known as eschatology – the study of the end times. For some reason, human beings for several thousand years have been, and I would argue continue to be, fascinated by this type of literature and thought. Predications of the future consume us. We want to know what the future holds. Not only what will happen later this week, but also what’s going to happen when the world does come to an end as we know it. And we want to know when. I’ve never understood why we want to know when. Is it so we can be ready or something?
Believe it or not, Jesus challenging words in today’s gospel, and the words of similar apocalyptic style writings in the Bible like the book of Daniel or Revelation, are in fact not predictions of the end of the world. For as long as apocalyptic literature has existed, we have skewed its meaning into something that has little to do with what it actually means. These texts often address political unrest during a specific time in history or oppression taking place in society. They’re not about the end of the world or predicting the return of Jesus.
The word apocalypse has little to do with destruction in the Hollywood movie – end of the world – winner take all – kind of destruction that we think will happen when the world ends – in whatever definition for the end of world that you want to use. Apocalypse actually means “to reveal” or “to uncover”. So, what might God be revealing or uncovering.
I think Jesus is inviting us, to stop digging. To stop digging for predictions that we think will tell us the future. To stop digging in the manure pile so to speak trying to find a new pony or a new temple. To stop digging for an answer to a problem that you are trying to fix by yourself instead of reaching out to someone for help. Just, stop digging.
Right before this conversation between Jesus and his disciples in today’s reading, Jesus has addressed issues of power, misplaced priorities, and justice – or rather the lack of justice. It’s been a busy and grueling few days.
Now – travel with me through time from this first century exchange outside the temple walls of Jerusalem to this day, right now, in the temple of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. Think about all the things that you brought with you to worship in this temple that have caused you to be exhausted from digging. Not much has changed really, has it? Human beings like you and me still misplace our hope in grandiose temples that we build, or individuals that we place on thrones of power, or our never ending quests for more and more wealth, or celebrating the strength of one that defeats another. Life is still chaotic.
In spite of great scientific and social and technological advances over the past 20 centuries since Jesus walked the earth, millions of people still suffer from oppression and injustice, still live in poverty, and still suffer from great violence. If you’ve seen any news in the last week you know this to be true. Wars and rumors of war; famine and gruesome death; earthquakes and destructive storms continue.
I know I’ve been quoting Professor David Lose from Luther Seminary a lot recently, but he has been writing some really incredible things in the last few months. Here’s what Dr. Lose wrote this week in a reflection about our gospel reading this week. “We want to know when, we profess, so that we can be prepared, so that we can be ready. But perhaps that’s the point: we are invited to be ready all the time. We are not called simply to live our lives with no thought of God or neighbor but keenly looking for the sign of God’s imminent coming so that we can clean up our act. Rather, we are called to live always anticipating the activity of God.
We are called to live now, allowing the promises of God about the future to infuse our every present moment. Because when you live looking for the activity of God here and now, you begin to see it. God shows up in all kinds of places, working with us, for us, through us, and in us. You just have to look.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, take time to look this week. God is active today making all things new, giving us hope for tomorrow. Our gospel reading today speaks a word of truth and hope that you and I need to hear. And I’m not talking about terrifying predictions of the end of the world. I’m talking about Jesus words in verse 7. “Do not be alarmed.” Jesus says.
Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when you hear of wars and rumors of wars.” What wars are raging in your life that only the peace of Jesus Christ can turn around?
Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” What kingdoms do you need to let fall right now in order for your world to be turned around by God and made new through his love for you?
Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed when there are earthquakes in various places and famines.” What earthquakes do you feel shaking your very being today? What hunger are you trying to fill by non-stop, frantic digging? Turn around. Come to the table. Be fed.
Do not be alarmed. Jesus Christ, your risen savior and Lord, is with you today and will be with you in every tomorrow. Amen.
- The Son of Man and the Little Apocalypse (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (doohan.id.au)
- Who is the Faithful One? A Lectionary Reflection (bobcornwall.com)