Mark 13: 1 – 8
Rev. L. Bryan McClain
Well I can honestly say that I have never been pregnant, but as far as the pain level is concerned I have heard that Kidney Stones are just as bad if not worse, and I have had that. If bearing a child is that bad, then ladies, I take my hat off to you.
That said, birth is nothing less than a miracle. A miracle that happens every day of every year, and it has happened for thousands if not millions of years. Think about it. Every day, a birth takes place often many births in every location on the globe.
What is so amazing and miraculous is that a life begins to form inside the womb of a woman, and it grows and develops, and takes shape and size. After a period of time, that life begins to move down a canal that up until that time is nothing more than a tiny tube no more than a centimeter in diameter.
But the gravitational pull of that baby plus the force of contractions that push the baby down begin to open up things that well just don’t normally do that. After a lengthy time and a lot of pain, something beautiful and wonderful, and brand new emerges.
Such is birth. The natural birth of anything begins not with joy, but pain. Yet that pain for the most part gives way to a profound joy, that miraculously changes the course of life itself.
Jesus responds to marveling exclamation s about the temple, “What large stones and massive buildings!” Jesus response sounds rather depressing, Not one stone will be left on the other, all will be thrown down. ”
The Disciples are concerned because Jesus is describing something that sounds like painful times are ahead. When will all of this take place and what will the signs be, they ask? And Jesus begins to explain; Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say that I am he. And they will lead many astray.
The words of Jesus address a phenomenon we continue to see today. IT is the doomsday phenomenon. You know the sky is falling the sky is falling, it’s the end of the world. You’d better be ready. Remember the Mayan calendar prediction just a few years ago?
What do people do? Panic, they begin stockpiling their basement with food, weapons, all kinds of supplies as if they are suddenly going to be thrown into a Futuristic Sy-Fy world like the Mel Gibson movies of Mad Max.
Jesus goes on to say, when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, Don’t be alarmed! WHAT??? Don’t be alarmed. This must take place, the end is still to come. We’re not there yet. It is not even the end when nation rises up against nation, not even after hurricanes and earthquakes, supers storms and Tsunami’s.
Not even after famines and droughts. No Jesus is not calling this the end times like so many of are ready to do. He likens it to birth pains. Birth pains, which are a natural albeit uncomfortable transformation in life, that forces us to make room for others who once were not there
So what Jesus is telling his disciples here is, “Yes, there are going to be painful times, for the Christian, for everyone who is anyone. Life as we know it is going to change, the old ways are going to give way to the new ways. It is painful, people are going to freak out, run around calling for the end and to get ready. Get your food and guns and ammo. Many will resist or deny, many others simply will not be prepared.”
What Jesus is telling his disciples is to not get caught up in the frenzy. Why does Jesus tell them this? Because he is saying it is not the end, but the painful times must come just before new life begins.
The reason we call followers of Christ disciples is not only because we are students, but being students we are to be trained and disciplined in the ways of faith. During this particular time when the Gospel of Mark was being written, Christians were facing extremely difficult times. Chapter 13 goes on as Jesus describes much worse things to take place before better days arrive. They were being persecuted and martyred. Life was not pleasant. The challenges we face today especially in America seem like a hang nail compared to what people of Christian faith faced back then.
Jesus is telling them, look I am training you how to respond to these troubling times. First, don’t panic. Have faith that this too will end. Trust that God will endeavor to bring you through, and new life will continue to flourish. Someone once asked the great reform theologian Martin Luther, what would you do if you found out the world was going to end tomorrow, He responded, plant my seeds today.
As Christians, we are not called to live our lives as though we are waiting for the other shoe to fall, we are not called to expect the worse and run for the caves, we are called however to be ready. And we are to be ready as a people who have received the training it takes to make it through tough times.
Are you in training? Do you know what to do and how to act with faith the next time a disaster strikes?
And they are going to strike, we thank God each time one misses us, but what about when it does hit, are we going to curse God, and wonder why God doesn’t love us anymore; Panic and run around like chicken with our heads cut off?
As disciples our discipline in faith teaches us to be patient, to serve, to walk with others, help to calm them down, offer encouragement and grace to an otherwise chaotic situation.
And if you think about it, we at WSUMC are watching something new or at least new to us in this 21st century being born. It is the rebirth of a youth group here. It may seem like to some of you old timers that you have done this before, but I would suggest to you that it is also different. We live in a different era, and these kids face very different challenges than even I did, and I am among the younger of you.
Of course they face many of the same problems we all did as youth, fitting in, discovering who they are, what they want to be, relationships and so on. But their world is so much larger and all that impacts them, living a life of faith is only a miniscule part of it and it is getting smaller. The news reported just last week that Millennials that is people born after 2000 are less likely to follow traditional church teaching. Yet they are seeking spirituality.
What has happened? Part of it does have to do with the fact that Churches have diminished as an influential factor in the lives of families. In part Churches have only themselves to blame. With the rise in clergy/child abuse, sexual indiscretions hitting the airwaves, along with hardline ideologies that unlike Jesus himself who took the time to listen and minister to the hurts and needs of people, many churches interpret the notion of ministering to youth as trying to fix them, before they ever have any realization that they are broken.
And the way many churches respond to the “So called sinners” of our day is more like a which hunt than it is to encounter them in the way Christ did. Couple those things with a world that is getting flashier and more glamorous everyday it is no wonder the church is losing youth.
So how does the church, that is you and me, and every church under the sun deal with this. Well, you do it the same way you would deal with a baby that comes into your life. You welcome him or her into your home, you hold them and feed them, and nourish them, you listen to their needs, and you love them regardless.
If churches can get back to seeing the young people in their church as more than prospect for the future and more than a problem for the present, but rather as children of God who need to be loved, recognized, taught, and most of all respected for what they bring to the table, (Or in short make room in our old world for something new,) Then not only will our churches have a fighting chance, but our Youth will come that much closer to knowing the God of the ages, Our God, Our Father in heaven, who has forgiven us, and loved us, welcomed us, and called us into his precious service.