Dominion Chalmers United Church The Rev Dr. George Hermanson Nov 15, 2015 Mark 13:1-8 1st Samuel 1:4-20
Mark’s passage this week is a difficult one. When we understand that he is building a narrative that will sustain the early community, we get insight on the passage. He uses the oral traditions that the early community shared. Then he tries to address particular issues of that early community.
Mark is not a history book but a work of art and imagination, built on experience. Having experienced God Mark has Jesus imagine what would happen if we commit ourselves to God’s dream.
His focus is a common theme of God desiring that the kingdom come on earth and that there will be a people who will respond and live the kingdom values.
Mark is realistic for he knows that there is competition for our loyalty. Not every thing is clear. There are set backs. There are victories. It is hard to be faithful. There are real questions about the efficaciousness of God. It is easy to slide into hopelessness and lack of faith. His stories deal with people like us who are looking for some light to break into the cracks.
Mark’s description is of the anxiety of the time — things are out of joint and chaos is everywhere. His metaphors are a symbol of creation out of diversity and chaos, of making something new out of the old. This speaks not only to his time but to ours. We know that in a real sense how we have done and experienced the church is over. We are in a time of where is God? For we are faced with the difficult task of the end of the taken for granted meaning of the church. Our numbers are down and will continue to decrease. Christians have declined by 8 percent over the last 8 years.
The church is going through the BIG question: How shall we live our faith?
Samuel reflects on the need to discern when things look hopeless. Hannah is barren, thus of no account, yet she is sign of God’s care for she gives birth to a son — out of time and unexpected. The writer wants us to see this as way of discerning the nature of God’s rule — overcoming barren reality — that within it is hope and life. There will be unexpected epiphanies and we need to learn ways to discern the outbreaks of hope.
Mark is reflecting back from the resurrection, creating a story about sacred space — it is every where. The stories about healing and preaching illustrate that nothing is outside of the presences of God. The stories discern the light of God within complex reality. Sacred space is the whole world, God is within every nano second and reality.
This morning’s reading is the dramatic shift in the story. Danger is everywhere. The times are out of joint. Chaos rains.
When times are out of joint there is a temptation to move to despair. Or retreat to the status quo, to move back to how things were, or at least how we thought they were. When time is out of joint and there is a sense of hopelessness, there are those who use religion as a means of cleansing. They become terrorists because they see the world as evil, culture as evil, and those different from them as evil.
We can identify with Mark’s community for we live in times of unjust wars, rumours of wars, and times of terrorism. We know people suffer. The innocent die. There are groups that wish ill will. So we are tempted to move to despair and unfaith — to see no hope or health.
To address these feelings of hopelessness, Mark reminds the people who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who came announcing that the kingdom of God is here, in this reality. It is a rejection of the elevator god, one who is up there. It is a radical insight, that what we need is here. It is an affirmation that God is found here in this world in daily events and moments of mystical experience. The problem is we don’t have the eyes or the ears to see and hear the love of God in our reality. We live in noise. We create noise so we cannot hear the music of love.
There are many who seek deception and strife. In times when things are out of joint there are many who seek to exploit our fears. It can be a political group and it can be a religious group and the most dangerous are those who claim their political viewpoint represents what God desires.
To cover the anxiety we build monuments, structures, ideas that reflect our ego. We make the church as one of those monuments. Our world makes the penultimate ultimate — the perishing eternal — the temporary the permanent. We need to remember that while the temporary can be beautiful, and it is only temporary. We do this so we can discern the beautiful that lasts.
So Mark reminds the people that in times of anxiety discernment is crucial. He has given some hints about the reality of sacred space being present. It is the healing of the outcasts, the care of the widows, the expansion of sacred space to the edges of society, and hospitality. He suggests that God’s light is always breaking through the cracks in the cosmos.
Like Leonard Cohen’s song — there are cracks in everything that lets the light through:
“There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering Every heart, every heart to love will come but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That's how the light gets in.”
We are called to join with those who discern the light that breaks into reality. It is to see within all things the hints of God. It is to understand that even the most mundane activity may contain hints of God. We judge culture and activity by how the common good is enhanced. We judge outcomes by how much beauty is created. We judge activity by how people are built up and healed.
This redefines the church. The church at its best sees every thing as sacred. It is willing to let go of how things have been done to live as those who dream a new reality.
God’s dream is for the care of all of creation, to see all as important to God’s being. In this we have a hint on how to live. God is luring us to compassion and justice, our joining is how light breaking into our time and space. When we have hope, even in the darkest times of experience, we know there is light breaking in. Our job is to help the light become stronger, to point it out, to join with it, to celebrate it by our living.