Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birth pains: Ordinary 33, Year B

This Week's Lectionary Texts:
1 Samuel 1:4-20 or Daniel 12:1-3
1 Samuel 2:1-10 or Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Photo by Brendan Esposito at The Brisbane
This Week's Reflection:
There are probably lots of folks in the USA right now claiming that there are clear signs of the end of the world as we know it. Hurricanes hitting New York City followed almost immediately by a snow storm, not to mention the fact that Barack Obama was elected to serve a second term as president. I've seen some posts on Facebook that make it clear that some folks think that Armageddon is upon us. (I would like to point out that many of these same people would have claimed that God had ordained Romney for the job had he been elected, but when Obama is elected, then the morality of America is called in question. I would like to point out the hypocrisy of that, but I'll keep it to myself.)

Etna Volcano Paroxysmal Eruption January 12, 2011 by gnuckx
From the first disciples, folks have been expecting the end to come any day now. Over the centuries we have used all kinds of natural disasters or political situations as evidence that the day is just around the corner. I guess growing up in the south means that images of the apocalypse are ingrained in my psyche from early on. I remember quite vividly a dream I had when I was a teenager. I was riding in a car with someone and we came to the top of a big hill on the street on which I lived. My house was supposed to be on the other side at the bottom of the hill. Instead as we approached the peek of the hill, the car stopped and we looked out onto a world that had been destroyed. The road was gone. The houses were gone. Our church was gone. Our home was gone. Beyond that hill, there was nothing other than flames of deep red fire bubbling and burning like lava from a volcano. Sounds like many descriptions of the End Times that I heard growing up. I suppose if I were to analyze the dream, it would have had to do with the fear I felt as a teenager who was worried about screwing up so bad that God would leave me to burn.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the texts this week. Well, the Mark text is that one where Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple, where he warns the disciples that the things of the dominant culture are coming to an end, "where nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines" Yep, must be right around the corner!

Earthrise from
Here is what sticks out to me, though. Jesus goes on to say that these things will be just the beginning of the birth pangs. Birth pangs. From Hannah praying for a son whom she would ultimately give over to Eli to raise as God's servant to the very earth upon which we live, this week is all that while there is pain in giving birth, the new life that comes is worth every minute of it. Though there are all kinds of questions about the end of the world as we know it, though keeping awake and ready is a good idea, though the dominant culture in which we live will come crashing to the ground, what Jesus is telling his disciples then and now is that we live as people of hope because these signs that often feel scary and confusing are really the birth of new life, of a new heaven, of a new earth. Just like Hannah dedicating her son's life to God, we dedicate our own lives to God's work in this world because in and through that new life is born again and again.