25th Sunday after Pentecost (November 18, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Dan. 12:1-3; Ps. 16; Heb. 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-8
We spent the week in Harrisonburg, Virginia, enjoying quality family time — including with our granddaughter Sydney, who becomes more talkative by the day. Elwood and Lorene Schrock have graciously made an apartment available to us for the duration of our home leave. We thank God for their generosity.
At this time of November, we especially remember our fathers. If still living, Daryl’s father, Jesse Byler, would have turned 84 on November 18. Cindy’s father, Vernon Lehman, died four years ago on November 19. We miss them greatly.
We are grateful for the legacy of Christian faith that our fathers have left to us. Cindy’s father had a servant’s heart, always looking for ways to lend a helping hand. Daryl’s dad had a shepherd’s heart, encouraging many through gifts of teaching, listening and counseling. We still draw strength from their examples.
In the Middle East, things have heated up this week:
- In an unusually direct attack on King Abdullah, thousands of Jordanians protested rising fuel prices. The government says the increases are necessary to offset $5 billion in losses related to Jordan’s fuel supply.
- There are now 230,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan; 100,000 have registered with UNHCR. With winter coming mobile houses are replacing tents at the Za’atari Refugee Camp. Small businesses – including falafel stands – are beginning to spring up in the camp.
- Israeli military strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip increased dramatically this week, as have rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about the end times.
Daniel contrasts distress and deliverance. “There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence,” writes Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.” (Dan. 12:1)
The writer of Hebrews portrays Jesus — who has for all time offered a single sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:12) — as waiting at the right hand of God until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet (Heb. 10:13). As we “see the Day approaching” we are to hold fast the confession of our hope (v.23); provoke one another to love and good deeds (v.24); and meet together and encourage one another (v. 25).
Mark describes a time of conflict and disaster – wars and rumors of wars. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” Jesus prophesies. “There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark 13:6-8) Therefore, we are to be alert and keep watch (vv. 32-37).
The Psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge (Ps. 16:1), offers counsel (v.7) and will show us the path of life (v.11).
We live now in extraordinary times – not unlike what Jesus predicted thousands of years ago. Our task is not to despair. Or to make bold claims about “end times.” Rather, we are to be alert and keep watch, living out our faith day by day through love and good deeds, and by encouraging one another.