Friday, February 22, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 47: Hebrew Scripture "Rest/Catch Up" Day; Psalm 39; Mark 13

It's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.....
You may recognize that REM song. Hard to imagine it's around 25 years ago that I bought a copy of their album Document when I was living and studying in Scotland for a "year abroad" in college. Actually, I bought a cassette tape. All I had over there was a Walkman and a pair of battery powered speakers (actually, it was a "Walkman Sport"). Aside from the FM radio tuner, that REM tape and a couple of cassettes of British and Scottish "New Wave Bands" comprised the entirety of my music library at the time. You can imagine the use I put that tape to...by the end of the school year I could sing along to the whole album...even keep up with all the words of the song I just quoted the chorus from above...

In case you don't remember, were never a fan or have never heard the tune before, here it is:


It is perhaps a sad commentary on my generation's investment in media and pop culture that when Jesus starts talking about the "end times" in Mark, that song starts playing in my head. Jesus tells the disciples, as they marvel and the beauty and magnificence of the Temple and the surrounding structures that a time is soon coming when it will all be torn down and an abomination erected in its place. There will come a time, he tells them, when the world as they know it will come crashing down around their ears. As well, in those times as they look for deliverance, there will be leaders who rise up saying that they are that One; and they won't be. He cautions them to stay alert. He points out that the end (and new beginnings) will come to them with signs like the fig tree as it blossoms. Winter gives way to spring, and spring to summer. Barren becomes verdant, and the verdant thing will eventually bear fruit.

KEEP ALERT!

No one can know the hour or time. Jesus asks us not to be anxious about that moment; but instead to be vigilant and watchful, to keep awake and be alert to the opportunity to rise and act on behalf of the kingdom. Even in the midst of conflict, persecution (or worse, being consigned to an apathetic irrelevance), we are to keep our connections to each other and to him strong and at the forefront of our awareness.

That is a lot easier to say than it is to accomplish on a daily, hourly, minute-to-minute basis. Reference the above song...it is an avalanche of pop and cultural references that for the most part are lost to the present generation. They are just names and concepts you can look up on Wikipedia. They have become history and are no longer the present moment...and yet, if you were alive in those days and of a certain age, those names formed images and reactions. Each generation has its moments...we look for that moment of change, of a dramatic shift that tells us that the end is near, be it the end of an age or the end of time itself.

The Psalm today as well seems to link to that idea, focusing on a depressive anxiety that hopes God will soon put an end to all this pain, rejection and suffering....

And yet.....

And yet, our God is not a God of endings, or of end times...at least that has not been my experience in this life. Our God is a God of beginnings. Even the greatest, most terrifying and awful of endings, Jesus' death on the Cross, is a prelude to a radical new life, a profound new beginning for time, space, the universe and everything/everyone.

Jesus tells us that a lot of what we are attached to will inevitably pass away. Some of it will simple sift through our fingers, like old pop songs on worn out cassettes as they gather dust in a box somewhere in the attic...or by trauma as the world tears old habits and haunts down around our ears....but all of that is bound to pass.

What endures is Christ, after the Cross, after Resurrection...and he beckons us to new life.

So, keep alert...."the hour is coming...and now is....."

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