(I am not preaching this week because we have A DISCOVERY Day at St Paul’s. But if I were this is what I would be saying…)
Do you ever think about the end of the world? Have you noticed how often tv shows or movies are about then end of the world? I recently saw a cable TV show on the Mayan calendar that some (wrongly) interpret as being a prediction of the end of the world. Then there was the Left Behind series of fiction very loosely based on the book of Revelation. Especially since the advent of the nuclear weapons with their annihilating capacity many have a sense of fear and foreboding. But if we look at THE BROAD SWEEP of history there has long been a human concern over how the world will end – and if it will happen soon?
In the scripture readings for Sunday we hear some echoes of the same things specifically at the end of the Gospel. We are at the end of the season following Pentecost – the lessons have changed from Jesus teachings to these readings about the end of the world. As we draw to the close of the Church Year, the liturgy directs our attention toward the close of history. This genre of literature is called “eschatology” (from the Greek eschaton, meaning “last things”) and is a recognized —though not a popular—part of the Christian writing. These are not usually lessons that people like or relate well too. It is easier to hear of healings and miracles, or bread and fish, even to hear of a widow’s sacrificial offering
The Gospel today is a portion of Jesus’ discourse taken from Mark’s Gospel. Most present day scholars believe these words reflect the experience of the early Christian community recorded by Mark and may refer either to the threat of Caligula to put his image in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem, or to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Roman authorities in 70 CE.
When we hear Jesus words about wars and rumors of wars, nation rising up against nation and all manner of manmade and natural disaster it may well seem to be talking about the news in the headlines for the past decade. But we need to see it in context. There has never been a time in the recorded history of humankind when there has not been wars, disasters, rumors and uprisings.
There has never been a time in which Jesus words were not applicable. I believe that Jesus is not describing any one particular time in history but is offering people an attitude – a way to live through great change and upheaval. Jesus is saying that we must see the possibility that God can bring out of the changes, chances and uncertainty new realities. An Anglican preacher, theologian and author Herbert O Driscoll writes – “we have the choice to either be mourners for the past or working with God we can be midwives for the new reality that is coming to birth.” That is the first message I see in our Gospel reading.
The second is the assurance of God’s presence in our lives at all times, places and circumstances. We need this assurance that God is not absent in the midst of the crises and confusions of life. The Spirit of God dwells within us and we dwell in God.
Finally there is implicit here the message that despite all the evils of, and in, the world we must not give ourselves over to the values of the world. We need to maintain ourselves and our core values in order to live faithfully. We are like yeast in the loaf of our society – a small presence that can transform the whole if we focus our efforts to do so.
Faithful living is about gratitude, about sharing, about recognizing our abundance, about helping others; about loving our neighbors no matter what else is happening. And when we choose to live faithfully in the midst of life as it is – it does not matter when the world will end. For we know that we are held in palm of God’s hand and there is nothing is life or death, in the world as it is or as it shall be that can separate us from God and in God from those we love.