"Apocalyptic eschatology is essentially about God working on behalf of humanity, and that is what is introduced in the beginning of this discourse. It leaves God alarmingly free and open to the future."
Commentary, Mark 13:1-8, Micah D. Kiel, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons
You keep vigil, O God, over the fortunes of your people, guiding their destiny in safety as the history of the world unfolds. Increase our faith that those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall rise again and give us your Spirit to bring forth in our lives the fruit of charity, so that we may look forward every day to the glorious manifestation of your Son, who will come to gather the us into your kingdom. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 13:1-8
God makes me nervous. Can I just be honest about that for a moment. When I sit quietly and think about the nature of God, God's unfolding work, my human place within his cosmos, I am aware that I am very nervous about God and how "alarmingly free" the God I believe in actually is.
In our passage today we begin a series of teachings by Jesus which make clear that God's purpose is both great and forever. At the center of the events unfolding is Jesus in relationship to the Temple.
Not unlike the prophets who offered a vision of Jerusalem's future, or the future of the kingdoms, Jesus offers in our passage today a clarity about nature of the Temple and the downfall which is part of the cosmic plan.
For our comfort we might easily want to remove the power of these words from taking hold of our hearts by locating the passage historically within the writing of the Markan Gospel following the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 a.d. Though I agree with this scholastic and critical view, we must always caution ourselves to keep from removing the prophetic voice from our own ears by making this passage simply about the past. Jesus has spoken but the living word also offers us a challenging word today.
The purpose here in Mark is to clearly not speak about the Temple. That is not the point of the text at all! The point of the text is to reveal that the old world is passing away. Not unlike the passage from Revelation we read last week where in it is clear that a new heaven is already rooting itself in the world and upon taking root is forcing out the world of man. The point of Jesus' words and the prophecy is to show the reality that this is the new age of God and this is an age that is to be marked by faithfulness and following the living God and Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us: be careful though because humans will always build new temples and new religions and new teachings. People will come and they will be false prophets and false leaders. They will tell you a truth that you will want to hear - the church is ruined. They will seek to lead you - follow me for I know the truth. They will offer a vision that the things of the past are not fading away in the midst of a new future. What is rooted in Jesus' warnings is not so much that there will be these false teachers but humans out of their desire to be comfortable will seek after them hoping to extinguish the discomfort of God's unfolding destruction of the age of man.
When human beings get uncomfortable we follow instead of disciple. When we are feeling the very foundations turn into ashes below us we want a new stronger foundation; and we rarely look forward but look to those who will comfort us with the past. We look for false teachers who offer us a shelter from the storm, the safety of a castle keep, and the island home. We look for teachers and prophets who will lie to us and tell us that God is safe and predictable and not free.
I am reminded of the Grand Inquisitor in Doestoevsky's Brothers Karamazov as he questions the Messiah upon his return. The Inquisitor is a cardinal and promises that the world the church is creating is better than the world Jesus promises. He says to the Lord, "So we have done. We have corrected Thy work and have founded it upon miracle, mystery and authority. And men rejoiced that they were again led like sheep, and that the terrible gift that had brought them such suffering, [your gift of freedom] was, at last, lifted form their hearts. Were we right teaching them this? Speak! Did we not love mankind, so meekly acknowledging their feebleness, lovingly lightening their burden, and permitting their weak nature even sin with our sanction? " The temple is passing away even as we speak and it shall be rebuilt as the new heave takes root in our midst.
Nostalgia is after all the idea that we look back at a time that never really existed and make it into a reality which can be compared to the reality we experience in the here and now. It is a way of looking back to a time and place that keeps us from facing the time and place we inhabit today.
Christians have always lived in between the earth which is falling away and the heaven which is not yet fully revealed. We live in a time which calls not for seeking shelter in the storm but rather for being the shelter in the storm for the world's fearful. We are the ones, like Jesus, to see the times and the seasons, to know that the what we cling to as humans is passing, that heaven is coming and that safety is not guaranteed but adventure is promised. This God we worship is free and alarmingly so. This God we worship has a plan and the plans of men are falling in the wake of its eternal progression.
We are as a Christian people invited to cling to Jesus and his love and to counteract the seasons of change. We are invited to counteract the seasons of change, not by clinging to the temple which is crumbling, or by following every fad that promises a return to a golden age - but rather to counteract the world with love. So let us endure the birth pangs for the kingdom that is to come requires disciples and apostles to midwife its labors through a mission and proclamation of love.
Some Thoughts on Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25
"What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is."
"Covenant," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.
"As the author grounds his goal for church participation in the eschatology of Christ's session, he grounds the guarantee of Christ's session in the character of God. They can hold their confession without wavering, because the one who promised is faithful."
Commentary, Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] (Pentecost 25B), Amy L.B. Peeler, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.
"An intimate and frank relationship with God, openness with one another, and bold public witness that perseveres in the fact of opposition these are the characteristics of the confident community portrayed in today's lesson."
Commentary, Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] (Pentecost 24B), Susan Eastman, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.
And, we are given a revelation of Christ as king of heaven. That he is seated at the heavenly throne. He has completed his work. He has completed his faithful work.
Here the author then turns to make it clear that this image he offers is none other than the suffering servant image of the old testament. The author is doing a quite remarkable job of weaving the story together. We get a sense here then not simply of the continuation of ancient ritual and sacrifice but a greater theme of a creative trajectory.
The author then invites us to respond to the eternal movement of God and the high priestly sacrifice. We are invited to respond with a clarity of purpose and livelihood crafted as a gift in response to God's work. We are also invited to hold fast to our faith. We are marked as Christ's own forever in baptism and our reciprocity is to express this faith through love and good deeds. We are no longer to be bound by other sacrifices, but instead a response to God's mercy and love with mercy and love.
And, in case you were wondering if the author of Hebrews was an Episcopalian...you are correct. This work is always to be yoked to a worshiping community!