TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Giving Birth...?

FOR THE Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, we find from the Gospel According to Mark that Jesus stood amid a world of monuments affected by sin, and told his followers of the unfolding future.

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”
 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?”
 And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet.  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. (Mark 13:1-8)

Of Human Mortar
From Mark we read Jesus’ appraisal of the temple in Jerusalem. That edifice had been under construction for many years, for the project had begun during the reign of Herod the Great. This was the grand temple for which many persons, rich and poor had given of their substance and treasure. Among the reasons for the building project, many authorities claimed it to be a sign of the economic restoration of Israel. So impressive was the structure that Jesus’ disciples marveled at the great work. To the leaders of both government and religious authorities, the temple seemed to indicate that Israel had attained a rightful place in the political world.
 Today we may consider that the temple was a wonder intended for world admiration. Jesus remarked, however, that before God… the days of its standing were not long. The remark that our Lord made comes to us in the longest teaching in Mark. Apparently the disciples’ comments triggered a long discourse. As a reality check it seems, our Lord seemed rather compelled by the sinful human pride expressed by his followers. He thus revealed the immediate and distant worldly future.
 He took Peter, James and John aside in a scene reminiscent of the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus warned his disciples of the upcoming trials which would befall them. To illustrate the future for the nascent church, he used the imagery of a female who was approaching birth.
 Jesus first warned the disciples against those who would falsely lay Messianic claims. He then warned of wars that were already underway and spoke of rumors of wars that were already in the process of forming. He told of great signs that would be fast upon the earth… earthquakes… famines… and pain. But these last, he continued… were but birth-pangs. The birth of the church was at hand.

In Heaven and Upon Earth…
For certain, during the immediate decades after the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, we see that  Roman rulers came and went in rapid succession. During the harsh rules of Tiberias, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, the church found difficulty to be upon them. The church born during the Jewish celebration of Pentecost became an infant which was often hunted, spoken of as bastardized, and yet they babbled with the joyous  message given by the Holy Spirit. The church thus spread from the cities of Antioch, Damascus, and Alexandria. The gospel spread across Asia Minor to Rome… to even more sites across the far Roman Empire.
 Indeed, the church emerged as a growing entity that, though at first hidden in pain and struggling to worship in house churches, emerged to give clear voice. And alongside Saint Paul, we Christians eventually learned to write! Indeed, during the 6th decade of the first century… some thirty years after our Lord crucifixion and Resurrection, Mark’s gospel reported in writing about the empty tomb. The scriptural Truth written then gave hope in a world that was struggling painfully beneath oppressive structures of temples and sacrificial systems.
 As the so-called “Golden Age” of Rome developed after the turn of the century, spiraling forward as a time of relative peace, the infant church became knit together by the power of the Holy Spirit. The people who for decades had carried the known name of “Christians”, were thus clad in more than swaddling clothes. They spread the gospel message far out into a hostile, but needy world.
 As to the prophecy spoken by Jesus, we know that the Temple indeed fell… destroyed by the Romans. The Jews were scattered. They were not allowed to worship in Jerusalem even as the fortress at Masada was conquered in 70A.D.. Thus an earthquake in faith did swallow Israel’s worship of God as the land fell into a spiritual abyss. The events indeed unfolded just as our Lord had predicted. But thanks be to God, amid turmoil the church grew as guided by the Holy Spirit. As told in Mark and echoed in both Matthew and Luke… the first baby steps of our Christian faith expression matured to a more sure and durable faith walk.

We're In Delivery?
The early church, born from the tumultuous time after Pentecost, began to fulfill the task given by our Lord. After his arrest, crucifixion, and Resurrection… Jesus had instructed his church about how to meet the daunting future. He instructed them to rightly use the spiritual stability that can never be aborted. He instructed us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to go into all the world, as recorded by Matthew…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

 With this mandate given, the early church preached, taught, and endured the trials of the first century. As the church today, therefore, we are also called to feel these birth pangs as we minister to persons in this very age. As we various Christian church denominations fret and worry about the wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines which would seem to surround and empty our pews, folding up choir chairs and cribs as demons pursue the persecution of congregations across the globe, let us be reminded once again. We need to view these times clearly as yet birth pangs. We are to rise up and learn to walk in faith. Let the Spirit carry us forward then… pushing us in labor to deliver the good news of God… even in these modern times.


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