Beginning of the End - Weekly Reflections 11-11-15

Texts for Sunday November 15

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

This week is the last Sunday we hear from the Gospel of Mark in the Revised Common Lectionary’s “Year of Mark” - next week we hear from John and then we move to the “Year of Luke”. So our Markan sojourn ends rather abruptly with this obtuse reading in Mark 13:1-8 about the temple stones being brought done and wars and earthquakes and famines. 

This text directly follows last week’s text where Jesus is sitting opposite the temple’s treasury noting a widow who throws all she has into the coffers of the Temple treasury. And, by the way, that Temple culture is the very system that oppresses her. 

So what do you think Mark is saying in the first 2 verses? Many people assume the disciples were awed by the size and scope of the Jerusalem temple; one commentary compared them to Gomer Pyle with his “gollllly!” (very dated reference, sorry). Maybe they hadn’t been to Jerusalem before. Jesus dismisses their awe with a not very clear “you ain’t seen nothing yet” attitude.  

But let’s think about it using the framework of “systemic oppression”. If the disciples knew that Jesus was challenging the political system of the Temple, what tone could their exclamation take? Perhaps it was a “REALLY? You are kidding me. We are taking on something that big and powerful??” Then Jesus’ dismissal sounds like a challenge to the authority. Hmm.

Also, the Gospel of Mark was written around the time that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. So we, the reader, have that additional knowledge - the Temple has been or is soon going to be destroyed. What does that add to this scene?

We then move into a more intimate setting with the disciples to get some clarity about the timeline of the signs of the beginning of the end which are called apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic sayings arise when life and society get uncertain and scary. It is…..comforting? talk about how things are going to go until the crisis is over. Probably true for the disciples who still aren’t sure what Jesus is planning; probably true for the community in which Mark was written as the disagreements with the Mother Ship of Judaism grow stronger and as the iron hammer of Rome is coming down on their nation. And for us now - when aren’t we facing the end times? 

Since Advent moves into apocalyptic readings, I’m sure I will opportunities to reflect more on this topic. For now, I thought I’d share something about apocalyptic from Carolyn Brown whose blog, Worshiping with Children, guides me as I interpret the weekly lessons to the younger ones in my ministry.  

To children this [Biblical]  apocalyptic says:
- You matter
- You can make a difference
- The world is not always safe.  
- There is a war going on between “good” and “evil,” between getting what I want and living as one of God’s loving people.
- Horrible things happen to each of us during our lifetimes.
- Sometimes each of us must be brave and endure hard times.
- No matter how it looks at the moment, the bad guys will not win.  God will.

What do you think?

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, November 15, for more ways to reflect on these verses.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245