April 22, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 13:7-8 and 24-27.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginning of the labor pains….But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
This sure sounds like it's taken from the Book of Revelations or from some of the prophetic writings in the Hebrew Bible.
The "beginning of the labor pains" — the birth of a new age, a time without time where the lion will lie with the lamb. God's kingdom, not the principality of government or king. It's coming will be marked by all these signs, which echo the cosmic events preceding the gathering of God's people into His kingdom, language and imagery that would have been familiar to Mark's readers. None of these Hebrew Bible descriptions include the coming of the Son of Man, though. That reference as we have seen before was to the prophet Daniel who wrote down his vision of a mysterious figure coming in human form on the clouds of heaven. "When he (the son of man) reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed."
As Shea in Eating with the Bridegroom states, “[W]hen a new way of thinking, feeling, and acting arrives and threatens the established order of things, the best way to express it is in cosmic collapse….The old arrangements are over. Heaven and earth are passing away, and it is the words of Jesus, words that are creating an alternative way to be human, that is bringing them down. These words are the new reality, and they will not pass away.” The members of Mark’s community and later the readers of his gospel witnessed a cataclysmic collapse of their world, the destruction of Jerusalem, the ordered center of the Jewish world. Mark was reassuring them using Jesus’ words that frightening as these events were, it was not the end. There was more to come as the new age was birthed. “[T]he history of sin, chaos, and tragedy will continue after the destruction of Jerusalem,” as Moloney writes in The Gospel of Mark.
The end would come with the second coming of Jesus, which they believed was imminent. These are the words of visions and vivid imagery; these are metaphors not forecasts or warnings of real events. The stars will not literally fall from the sky, although for those who profited from the world known up until that time it will seem as if they are and the sun darkened. Their days of wealth, power, and privilege will be over. That’s the message: Jesus will come again and the old order will fall away. Or as Sanford writes in The Kingdom Within, ” The image of the Son of Man appearing in heaven is not to be taken geographically. It is the inner heaven where the Son of Man, the archetype of completeness, will be found.” It’s not “out there” that we will see the coming of Jesus; it’s inside each and every one of the faithful.
Those who remain faithful, who work for the kingdom of God, will be rewarded; they, the elect, will be gathered from the four winds, the four corners of the earth. Every man and woman who has honored the sacred, the spirit of God, in every person and all manifestations of God’s creation are the faithful. That’s the message I get: persevere and the kingdom will come. Then I will see the Son of Man in all his glory.