We know that as people of faith, lesson number one is we don’t get to pick out what parts of the Bible we will follow and which parts we will not. It is either all Word of God or none of it is.
November 14, 2021
Tell Us When This Will Be
Mark 13: 1-8
Pastor Heather McColl
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 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 birth pangs.
Tell Us When This Will Be Mark 13: 1-8
It would be so easy to simply let this text be about the “end times” and how we as people of faith are called to prepare for them or rather, how not to prepare for them. Or, if we really didn’t like what Jesus was saying in this text, it would also be so easy for us to shrug our shoulders and say that this is the crazy part of the Bible, the part which we really don’t hold as Truth. And then we would be free to move on to other parts of the Bible, parts which we like better than this crazy weird type of talk found in the Bible.
It really would be so easy for us to do all those things. However, we know that as people of faith, lesson number one is we don’t get to pick out what parts of the Bible we will follow and which parts we will not. It is either all Word of God or none of it is. So as much as we would like to move on or dismiss this text as something that doesn’t apply for us as people of God today, we simply cannot do that.
Part of us growing in faith is struggling with the text, all the texts, and finding the Word of God in it for us as God’s children. And when we do that with this particular text, we discover that Mark is offering some insight to us as people of faith, insight which reminds us how easily it is to become distracted along our journeys of faith.
Here’s what I mean by that: As we may remember, at this point in the story, Jesus has already entered the gates of Jerusalem. He has already been welcomed in as one who comes in the name of the Lord by his disciples. Jesus has already spent the week preaching and teaching at the Temple and during that time, some very important moments have occurred.
Jesus has cleansed the Temple, driving out all those who were selling things there. He has encountered hostile questions from the powers that be regarding his authority. The higher ups at the Temple are wanting to know who exactly gave Jesus the right to say all that he does, especially since so much of what Jesus says contradicts the rules and regulations of the Temple institution. And on top of all that, Jesus denounces the scribes, calling them out as ones who are all fluff but no substance. Needless to say, tensions are running high every time Jesus enters the Temple. All of this is background for the conversation which Jesus has with his disciples in our text today.
In this chapter of Mark, one of the disciples commented on the beauty and grandeur of the Temple. Jesus overhears this comment and replies that all that they see will be destroyed in the days to come and if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus goes on to talk about wars and insurrections, explaining that all this needs to happen because it is the birth pangs of something new.
The thing we need to realize is the bad stuff Jesus is mentioning in this text is nothing new. The events which Jesus names happen in society all the time. By the time Mark is writing all this down the Temple had already fallen. The first generation of disciples had already begun facing persecutions. The early church was already being put to the test. Their preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God was making the powers that be uncomfortable, just like it did when Jesus spoke the same things years before. What Jesus is supposedly predicting is nothing new.
You see, we forget all this when we look at this text because we only see the bad stuff. In reality what Jesus is pointing out is that as humans, too often, we put our trust in imperfect institutions, in imperfect people, in imperfect systems and we lose sight of what matters, of what is real. We become distracted by other stuff, whether that be church budgets, or how many people are in the pews or the newest technology or even experiencing too much change and we don’t like it. Please don’t hear me say those things are not important or relevant. What I am saying is that they cannot be our focus as communities of faith and we think we are working to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
In our text for today, Jesus is telling the disciples that oftentimes along our journeys of faith, both personally and communally, we lose sight of what is eternal, what is Truth, what is the reasons of why we do what we do as people of faith, things like the promises of God, things like the love and grace of God. We get distracted and forget the larger picture…the larger picture of God’s Kingdom coming to reality here on Earth for all of God’s people.
As people of faith, we hold to a different narrative, a narrative where death does not have the last word, a narrative which tells us that God will always find a way, a narrative which reminds us that love and life will always overcome.
Mark is reminding his community, reminding us as people of faith that we know how the story ends. Mark reminds his community, reminds us as people of faith what we are called to do. Mark is reminding us that the Gospel has never been about playing it safe. It has never been about predicting the future so we would be assured of what steps to take. Rather the Gospel, the very thing which transforms us into the people God created and calls us to be, has always been about offering us reassurances to give us strength during times of adversity and hardship. It has always been about us challenging the status quo so that all may experience the love and grace of God. It has always been about knowing faith is not fearing the world.
Or let me say it this way…As Midway Christian Church here and Midway Chrisitan Church online, as we are beginning to discern who we are in this new reality, we are realizing that all the changes which 2020 and 2021 have brought us have not been all bad. This time of reflection has helped us discern that our life pre-Covid no longer exists and any effort to try and bring it back distracts from our mission at hand, that mission of reclaiming what it means to be people of WELCOME.
This mission is framed in the beautiful stained glass above our front doors but we cannot get distracted by its grandeur. This mission of Welcome is dangerous. It is challenging. It is uncomfortable. It is not a warm and fuzzy kind of mission. It is a mission which challenges us to shatter a few of our idealistic images of who we used to be and face the harsh truth of how we missed the mark over the years. This mission of WELCOME calls us to engage in conversations which tell another side of the story, a side which has been ignored or dismissed. This reclaiming of our mission of WELCOME is reminding us of the larger picture…a picture where all are invited to come to God’s Tables as God’s Beloved.
This reclaiming of our mission of WELCOME is our way of becoming focused on the Gospel message, the very thing which shapes our words and actions as disciples of Christ, so that all will know that God is in the midst of it all, bringing about a way of peace, a way of joy, a way of reconciliation, so that all will know God’s Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, November 14, 2021 – Tell Us When This Will Be Mark 13: 1-8.