Today, 0 Lord, we offer you our sacrifice of time, energy, and love, knowing full well they are mere tokens of the awesome faith you inspire within us. Accept these gifts, that they may continue the good work in Christ — in our church, in our community, and in the world. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
There is fear 0 God, and there is uncertainty in many human hearts—even in our hearts today—and for some—every day. There is aimlessness in the hearts of others— senseless excitements about the details of the end of time, bout the signs that are around us, for us to read and to understand—and yet they have no peace in this knowing and often argue about the meaning of things with others instead of breathing in the strength of earth and sky and breathing out love and compassion upon their own selves and the self of the world around them—the world you have made.
0 Great God, you know about Fear, Aimlessness, Senseless excitements, and deep depressions of the soul. You understand the afflictions of the lonely— of those who have no one to draw were abundantly clear. When disasters hit, Jesus' followers should get to work and leave the end time prognostication to God alone.
Message : “Keep calm and carry on.”
A priest and a pastor are standing by the side of a road holding up a sign that reads "The end is near! Turn around now before it's too late!"
A passing driver yells, "You guys are nuts!" and speeds past them. From around the curve, they hear screeching tires—then a big splash.
The priest turns to the pastor and says, "Do you think we should just put up a sign that says 'Bridge Out' instead?"
We've all seen the cartoons of the bearded, crazed man atop his soap box, wearing a sandwich board that informs us that `The End is near!!!'
People have been prophesying the end of the world for thousands of years.
And there are still many examples today....
Remember the Year 2000 crisis? For months leading up to the calendar flipping from 1999 to 2000, we were told that all the computers on the planet would fail, planes would fall from the sky, power grids would fail and the world would be hurled into eternal darkness.
A host of 'New Age' scientists' (and please note that ! have both those terms inside quote marks) spent the better part of the new millennium telling us that the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar in December 2012 signaled with absolute certainty that the Earth was to perish in a massive black hole in the center of the galaxy.
Good old David Meade, the pseudonym (which means, aside from a few other definitions, someone too embarrassed by their own blather and nonsense to give their real name) of an American doomsday-crier, made all kinds of headlines last year when he informed us that, following a lifetime of study and research he had determined that the here-to-for hidden planet Nibiru would suddenly appear in the heavens and crash into the earth, putting an end to all life.
That was to happen on September 23rd, 2017. And then it was to happen in December of 2017. And then March of 2018.
Currently, Mr. Meade's apocalypse is due on an unspecified date between May and December of this year. Brothers and Sisters, keep awake!
Today's Gospel reading from Mark is a bit of a tough one, if we choose to interpret it literally. Following a day of teaching in Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, he and his disciples leave the city to rest. As they do, the disciples comment on the beauty of the temple. Jesus wastes no time in informing them that it would soon come crashing to the ground. And, once clear of the city, proceeds to talk about the coming end of days.
Mark 13 is commonly referred to as the 'Little Apocalypse'. Today's reading focuses on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and further along in the chapter Jesus speaks specifically about how it will be in the end times, when God's judgement is brought down upon the world.
And it seems like no matter what the tragedy these days, someone is always more than willing to get out into the media and attempt to connect it to God's judgment. The California wildfires are God's wrath against the liberal Californian culture.
The spate of mass shootings across the United States are not the result of ridiculously lax gun controls and very human prejudice, but rather God's judgement of a faithless Country.
This instinct to interpret current times through the broader lens of God's judgment is not new. Examples appear throughout the Bible. For those who believe God's Spirit does work in the world through signs and miracles, such tragedies can function as intellectual puzzles, but they should never stop us from responding with heart, head and hands.
Jesus spoke often about the end times and certainly not in ways supported by a modern scientific worldview. For Jesus, the belief that God controls history was fundamental to his perspective.
Not long before his arrest, Jesus was with the disciples in the temple. As they came out, one of the disciples exclaimed his awe of the structure. "Look, Teacher, what large stones and large buildings!" he said. Indeed, ancient historians wrote that the temple in Jerusalem was magnificent. If its massive size was not impressive enough, much of it was covered in gold.
Jesus' response must have caught the disciples off guard: "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down".
The disciples too must have been in a mood to discuss the end times because next, when Jesus was sitting opposite the temple on the Mount of Olives, some of them asked for further explanation. "When?" they wondered aloud, "What will be the sign?" Jesus responds in his trademark roundabout way.
Jesus warns of those that would lead them astray. He tells them not to be alarmed by "wars and rumors of wars" which, if you ask me, are some of the most alarming prospects imaginable.
A more troubling time would be coming, Jesus explains. it will include war, earthquakes and famines. But they are not to be afraid since, "This is but the beginning of the birth pangs" (Mark 13:8).
Jesus' response is the first century equivalent of the famous propaganda poster produced by the British government during World War II that boldly proclaimed, "Keep Calm and Carry On."
Now, if any of you have spent any time at all on the Facebook or the Twitter these days, you've seen the many, many, many revisionist versions of this iconic poster from WW2 Blitz-era England. "Keep Calm and Grow a Beard"................................................. "Keep Calm and Use the Force".... Or even "Keep Calm and Avoid Zombies".
But the original message behind this poster was to persevere. Perseverance through adversity, through calamity and through terror.
Like the disciples, something makes us want to know every detail about when and how our future — and God's ultimate justice — will take place. Certainly, knowing the severity and destination of future superstorms will help save lives, but the disciples were longing for more. They wanted a blueprint. Perhaps they hoped for a way to save themselves as they interpreted the signs of the time.
In this passage from Mark, Jesus uses language and terms common in other biblical books to help reveal what is currently hidden to the disciples. It was common, around Jesus' time, to mix visions, symbols and dreams to disclose a future more important than the present reality.
Mark 13:1-8, and similar passages in Daniel and Revelation, long for a future in which oppression is a thing of the past, but they should not be read as an end time recipe book with detailed step-by-step instructions. The coming times are sometimes described in vague, rough, violent terms, but the ultimate end is full of God's justice and peace.
Trust in God means living a life expectant and hopeful for Christ's return; it need not be consumed by explaining every world affair in terms of God's super-plan.
Discipleship calls for a faith in which ultimately, despite our present struggle, God's love is sovereign. We need not micromanage the signs of God's judgment. Instead, we are called to manage our lives and conform them to God's vision of justice, love and peace.
Believers today take many different approaches to waiting (and interpreting) the end times. Some read into the Bible explanations that simply are not there, mislabeling natural catastrophes and man-made calamities, and causing more hurt and confusion in the process.
Note that in this passage, Jesus does not suggest interpretation of the troubles ahead will be easy. In fact, he warns of exactly this danger of overly-clear explanation. Many will come in his name, Jesus cautions, but they are not he. Since we are so prone to confusion, Jesus explicitly advises against alarm and overreaction.
The faithful response to disaster is not pointing a finger, or making shocking headline-grabbing accusations, but service to God and neighbor. Sadly, we know too that one day there will be another storm, another shooting, another earthquake.
We must break the cycle of interpreting these events in ways Jesus specifically warned against, and instead, follow the one who healed at every opportunity, who urged care for those without food and shelter, who loved beyond all love even in the most desperate of times.
Keep awake! Trust in God. Keep calm, and carry on.
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