a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sermonette: 19 November, 2006 Mark 13:14-23

Mark 13:14-23
14“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18Pray that it may not be in winter. 19For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’ —do not believe it. 22False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be alert; I have already told you everything.

The Liturgical year ends with the same theme with which it begins; the final days, the End of all things, and the Coming of the Christ again in Glory. In today's Gospel Reading, which is taken from "Mark's Little Apocalypse", the Evangelist describes a scene that seems more like a science fiction novel or one of those "Left Behind" novels than the Good News. He describes a period of great suffering, in which false Christ's will try to deceive even the wisest of disciples by signs and wonders and omens. The reading ends with Jesus warning his disciples to remain alert- and essentially not to be fooled by those who claim to represent him, but teach a faith contrary to his message rooted in love of God and neighbor.

We know this reading is here because we are headed toward the Feast of Christ the King and the beginning of Advent; but, what are we to make of all of this? Well let me start by saying what we, at least in the Anglican Tradition, do not make of this. We do not read this as a prediciton of some final "tribulation period" wherein God will test or punish the hearts of human beings, before destroying evil with the Second Coming. Now that is not to say we do not beleive that Christ will come again- we confess that belief at every Mass. However, we have historically read apocalyptic texts in the Bible more as a description of how life in the world is experienced in tension with how life in God's kingdom is experienced. This Gospel reading is not (only at least) about how God will finally triumph over evil in the end of days; but, it is also about how we experience God's triumph over sin and evil in our lives here and now. It is about how God is present and experienced now in times of great suffering and anguish. It is about the Good News of a compassionate, merciful God who "shortens the days of suffering" lest we perish from the agony; a God who will not allow us to endure more than we can bear, but will provide a way of relief; a God who will bring redemption out of loss, life out of death, blessing out of curses, and glimpses of the Kingdom by the waters of Babylon.

I lived 34 years of my life without experiencing very much suffering at all. And then, in a period of two years experienced more suffering than some people experience in a lifetime. I look back and often wonder, "How did I not lose all of my faith in God?" Of course God's grace sustained me- along with the love of many who carried me to Jesus when I could not go to him on my own; but, there was some conduit that existed in the suffering that fed sustaining grace to me. Moreover, it was in and through this suffering that I really learned what the Kingdom is; it was through this suffering that God delivered me from years of bondage to deceit, shame, and oppression. It was through this suffering that the Holy Spirit led me from death to new life, to falsehood to truth, from a wounded heart to heart filled with joy and peace.

The Good News in this apocalyptic reading is that Jesus comes to each of us in those times of anxiety and pain. When our world is crumbling and we feel that end is near, Jesus comes to redeem and to restore. Jesus warns us to be alert, because there are those who want to tell us that suffering is a sign of God's disfavor- a punishment for our sins; or, else they fool us into wallowing in self-pity and missing out on the redemptive work that God desires to do in our suffering.

Right now the Anglican Communion is enduring the pain of schism. Many are tired of it all and want to give up and walk away. In fact, we read weekly how this or that parish or dicoese has decided to walk away from the pain, instead of struggling through the suffering in order to participate in God's saving actions in the world. And it is sad, because these who walk away fail to see God's hand at work in all of the labor pangs of the birthing Holy Spirit who is calling forth a fuller experience of the Kingdom of God among us. They are walking away, and they will not see the Son of Man Reigning among us when He turns our ashes into beauty, our tears into rejoicing, and our mourning into dancing.

Our Hope lies in Christ's Return, when evil will be finally overturned and God's Kingdom of Peace will hold sway. But, we do not have to wait for the sweet bye and bye to participate in God's Reign. The Kingdom of God is within us, as our Lord said, and Christ's Reign can even now be seen if we will only open our eyes and hearts and see Him at work in the world around us. We pray, "Come Quickly, Lord Jesus"; but, we seek His appearing not only with Clouds in Glory, but also in the faces of every person that crosses our path. Even so, Come Lord Jesus! Amen.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 10:31 PM


Very nice Rob.
Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:23 AM  
Amen, and amen.
Blogger KJ, at 8:55 AM  
Rob, how is Zac?

I will call you today... There were so many good things that happened here. I have to tell you about the sermon too! My rector has had some very good insights this month.

Blogger Luiz Coelho, at 10:24 AM  

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