November 14, 2021
Proper 28, Ordinary Time 33
Sunday Between November 13 and November 19 Inclusive
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Mark 13:1-8, The Message or Mark 13:1-8, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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Zowie, Christmas music has already been playing in the malls for weeks now, and the Lectionary gives us a dire warning about not being led astray - not being deceived by the many who will say, "Here is your salvation." Try preaching that in those malls.
Chapter 13 is what is commonly called a "Final Discourse." As Malina and Rohrbaugh comment (page 206, see footnote below):
What is distinctive about final words before death in the Mediterranean world (and elsewhere) is that the person about to die is believed capable of knowing what is going to happen to persons near and dear to him or her.
These are not predictions about a far distant future, but a reading of the signs of Jesus' present times that is heightened by the dying person's approaching the humanly unknowable realm of the divine. Indeed, Jesus' words about the destruction of the Temple are stated as a simple fact.
As happens frequently in Mark, a public teaching by Jesus is given a more detailed explanation in private - in this case to the 4 who were the first to be chosen as disciples.
Let's see - this text talks about many who will falsely say, "I am he;" about being led astray; about wars and rumors of war; about earthquakes; about famines; about birth pangs. Where is the Good News?
The text should certainly shake us from mistakenly thinking the Good News is Easy News or Happy News.
Indeed, the Greek word that is translated as "Good News" means "Royal Proclamation."
Whatever system of government may currently be in power, God's Royal Proclamation comes as a Word that evokes an accounting from - and possibly a confrontation with - earthly rulers. And as Jesus simply observes: don't be led astray, earthly rulers never accept accounting kindly. There will be resistance.
The text invites a "fire and brimstone" sermon, and if that is your bent - go for it. Just try to not be one of the false prophets who leads us astray.
Another tack might be to muse with your congregation upon the question the disciples asked:
What are the signs - in us, in our congregation, in our country - that God's Royal Proclamation is about to be accomplished?
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 204-206; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Mark 13:1-8 (NRSV)
1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 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."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark 13:1-8 (The Message)
1 As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, "Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!" 2 Jesus said, "You're impressed by this grandiose architecture? There's not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble."
3 Later, as he was sitting on Mount Olives in full view of the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got him off by himself and asked, 4 "Tell us, when is this going to happen? What sign will we get that things are coming to a head?"
5 Jesus began, "Watch out for doomsday deceivers. 6 Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, 'I'm the One.' They will deceive a lot of people. 7 When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history, and no sign of the end. 8 Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. But these things are nothing compared to what's coming."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.