Pentecost 26 – Sunday, November 18, 2018

November 18, 2018  

Daniel 12:1-3
Mark 13:1-8

The Apocalypse!
Both of our readings today are about the Apocalypse—
From the Old Testament, the entire book of Daniel is apocalyptic. From the New Testament, the book of Revelation is the most common example. But here we have, in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13. Mark’s take on what Jesus said about end times.

Except, Mark is really writing about what had already happened, and about what was actually happening. As one scholar wrote:

Another way of understanding this text… might be to consider it a radically honest confrontation with reality. According to most scholars, the Gospel of Mark was written in about 70 ce, toward the end of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the year the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Read against this backdrop, the situation in which “Not one stone [of the great buildings of Jerusalem] will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” is happening before their eyes  (Mark 13:2). Rather than shying away from current events and dwelling on false hope, the author is simply telling the truth. He goes on to provide crucial advice that ultimately grounds his message in hope: “Beware that no one leads you astray” (Mark 13:5). (Sundays and Seasons, Pentecost 26 “Theological Reflection”)

The temple had already been destroyed.
Mark was writing what he heard Jesus say about what WOULD happen.
Mark knew what Jesus said would happen was happening.
His first readers/listeners knew what Jesus said WOULD happen was happening.

And so Mark told them, in the midst of destruction and revolt—don’t let anybody lead you astray. And he told them “Do not be alarmed” (Mark 13:7).

A scholar wrote: “…the goal of biblical apocalyptic is not about creating a sense of hopelessness; it’s ultimately about hope” (Sundays and Seasons reference above).

When fires rage all along the western coast of the United States, when caravans of people flee their homelands seeking safety, when wars rage decade after decade in the Middle East, when terrorists seek to create fear with bombs, when people walk into schools and churches and nightclubs and military installations and randomly shoot other people—it is much easier to sink into hopelessness than it is to hang onto hope.

When politicians build walls, not just between nations but between people, it is much easier to be alarmed than it is to reach over the wall and trust one another.

Where do we find our hope?

In Psalm 16 it is written:

8I have set the Lord always before me;
because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 
9My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.

When fires rage we can choose to see: where there is fire, there are firefighters daring to believe in their abilities to fight that fire. And there we find hope.

When caravans of people gather together to flee the violence and destruction of their homelands we can choose to see: the communities along the way that provide the travelers food, that provide the travelers shelter, that provide the travelers comfort. And there we find hope.

When wars rage around the world we can choose to see: residents of warring nations joining hands and reach out to each other in peace. And there we find hope.

When terrorists and armed shooters do what they do to instill fear in the world we can choose to see: those who refuse to be afraid, those who continue to walk out of the doors of their homes and into their schools, into their churches, into their synagogues, into their workplaces. And there we find hope.

When Temple walls were falling and Jerusalem was revolting against Rome—early Christians chose to find their hope in Jesus Christ. Their hope was strong enough to build a faith tradition that is ours today.

Jesus calls us to fight the fires of evil. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry. Jesus calls us to clothe the naked. Jesus calls us to shelter the homeless. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. Jesus calls us to never fear, for God is with.

God is with us.
Jesus loves us.
This is our “Blessed Assurance”, forever. This is our hope.
Amen.