The Apocalypse is Just The Beginning
I learned this week that the book of Mark is sometimes called the book of the tiny apocalypse. I immediately understood. Everything is exploding and Jesus never minces words. I like to think about the gospels as the same story different genres of movie. Mark is the action movie, directed by the same dude who does all the transformer movies.
This weeks lectionary ready was an especially big and ugly explosion. It is short, you can read it:
13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
The disciples: Jesus! Look at this amazing temple!
Jesus: LOL that will all be destroyed plus everything else and that is just the beginning!
This is a side note but looking at this passage it just absolutely cracks me up that people use Jesus as a a reason to be constantly positive, like do you even know Him?
Every time I preach the question I ask when coming to a passage is this: Where is the good news? That isn’t always a hard question to answer. This week it was challenging.
This is where I landed: I think that no matter how surprised we are by the shit show that is late capitalism in America in the midst of a pandemic we are more or less pretending is over, the good news is Jesus is still here with us. God is not surprised. Even when WE wish we could abandon this current monstrosity called reality, Jesus picked incarnation. Whew. I hope I never get over it.
I am so struck by the disciples. Look at this amazing thing! Look at what we incredible humans have built! Look at what we did! “Yup,” Jesus says, “And how are you gonna feel when it all comes tumbling down cause friends that is exactly what is coming.”
There are so many institutions that I thought were Too Big To Fail that are now showing serious signs of wear. The UMC, America, Democracy, it all might go under. What am I even supposed to do with that? How am I even supposed to function? In this passage we don’t get a how, but we do get a warning. Whenever you think it is end, this is just the beginning.
I think I used to use this passage with Jesus rolling his eyes, but now I hear it as a gentle assurance. Abby, I know that pretty much every single generation has been sure this is THE END, and I know that you maybe have more of a right to that than everyone who is currently alive. Counterpoint: This has happened before. More than once, and yet the world spins on and also I am still here with you.
I am not the first to tell you that the word apocalypse means revealing and in so many ways we ARE in an apocalypse even if it isn’t THE apocalypse I thought so much when the Left Behind books came out. But I want to make sure you know it can feel like everything is coming crashing down, and really that is okay. Jesus knew this was going to happen. Jesus was planning on riding this out with us. Jesus wants us to know that the thing that we think is going to be the very end of everything is extremely painful but also the beginning of something new.
I wish I could end this with a TA-DA! I am no longer sad about being a Methodist! All the sad I had just led to this NEW AMAZING BRAND NEW PLAN THAT I AM READY TO ANNOUNCE RIGHT NOW!
I don’t have any of that. I have some inklings. I am going to keep following the breadcrumbs that are in the wilderness one piece of manna at a time. I am not going to stop lamenting that this junk is so so hard right now. But I am going to put a teeny tiny piece of hope in the idea that there might be something else on way. For now, that’s enough.