July 17, 2022: Sixth Week after Pentecost
Five Pentecost, July 17, 2022
Hospitality is a sacred duty in many traditional cultures. Where travelling was a dangerous
activity, and there was no support mechanism for those on long journeys, caring for the
stranger at one’s gate was a duty and a responsibility. One might need the same generous
support oneself one day.
Besides, one never knew who one’s guest might be. The story of Abraham and Sarah at the
oaks of Mamre is a classic tale of entertaining the representatives of God unawares. In the
narrative in Genesis 18, the three men speak, but “the Lord” joins in the conversation. The
three men make the promise that Sarah, in her age and past childbearing, will bear a son. The
Lord ponders whether to warn Abraham about the fate waiting for Sodom and Gomorrah, while
he walks with the three men.
The three guests are messengers of God. In Christian tradition, this story was taken to mean
that the three guests were the three persons of the Trinity. You may know the famous icon
painted by the fifteenth-century Russian artist Andrei Rublev, where three identical figures,
sitting to eat their meal, are depicted with angels’ wings. That icon is also known as “The
Trinity” and became the acceptable way to represent the trinity in the Russian Orthodox
tradition. Countless reproductions of Rublev’s icon continue to be made and sold as devotional
pieces, greetings cards, or art prints.
Hospitality was just as critical to the world of the New Testament. Jesus’s ministry depended on
hospitality. Jesus accepted invitations to dinner with Levi the tax collector and a Pharisee called
Simon alike (Luke 5, 7, also 11). He used his presence as a guest to make moral and pastoral
points. He gave advice: be a humble guest, and you will encourage your host to raise you to a
higher place at table. Two weeks ago, we heard how Jesus sent out the seventy missionaries:
they were to accept hospitality from whoever welcomed them and stay in their homes.
In the light of all these stories, there is something slightly jarring about the story of Mary and
Martha. And when something jars in the Bible, you can be sure that something important is
This story of Martha and Mary occurs only in Luke’s Gospel, and it is not assigned to a particular
place, only to “a certain village”. You will of course recall that in John’s Gospel, Martha and
Mary are the sisters of Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus raises from the dead. The two stories
do not seem to have much in common – except for the very different personalities of the two
sisters. In both Gospels, Martha is the practical one, the one who speaks her mind and gets
things done – the ordinary, necessary things.
In John 12 Jesus goes to Bethany, some time after the raising of Lazarus: Martha serves the
meal, while Mary pours costly perfume over Jesus’s feet. Again, Mary gets into trouble; again,
Jesus defends her.
You may well feel sympathy for Martha. She knows what hospitality is about. There is work to
be done, and it will be done better and more quickly if everyone takes their share. And there is
Mary (the younger sister, the dreamer, dare we suppose?) sitting at the feet of the teacher.
You may even feel sympathy for both sisters. Each is trying to do the right thing, and each is a
reproach to the other. Many of us have to perform both roles in our lives: the practical things
have to get done, but the spiritual things must also not be forgotten. (Tell me about it.)
So what is going on in this challenging story? At least two messages are calling out for our
First, at this point in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus puts enormous emphasis on getting the word out
about the appearing kingdom. The word must be heard. There are never enough people to
share the word; there is barely enough time to spread it. At his transfiguration, a voice was
heard saying ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ [Luke 9:35] That was in the chapter
immediately preceding this one.
The urgent priority was for people to listen to what Jesus had to say. Mary was obeying that
call. As the Greek original says, she listened to Jesus’s Word, his logos: the Word that brings the
world into being and the Word that transforms it from its broken state. Jesus taught what
Martin Luther King Jr would later refer to as “the fierce urgency of now”: indeed, Dr King’s
sense of the urgency of racial and economic justice was surely rooted in his knowledge of
Second point: the world of the first century was very gendered. Usually, the men talked and the
women served. Discussion, especially about God and God’s law, was usually a male activity. In
the early Church, it would largely become a male activity once again. But not for Jesus. Lurking
in the New Testament are passages which repeatedly tell how women are not only the friends
and supporters of Jesus and the disciples: they are messengers of the word, examples of faith,
of loyalty and commitment. Women stay with Jesus when his male disciples desert him. The
message of his resurrection is given first to a woman.
A highly esteemed feminist theologian suggested that this passage in Luke described Martha as
representing early [female] leadership role in the early church, being replaced by a more
passive role represented by Mary. Jesus’s praise of Mary would be the voice of the early church
praising women who engaged in silent listening to the word, rather than practical organizing.
Martha is being criticized for the sake of a male church. That seems to me a problematic way to
read the text (and I say that not just because I had a difficult encounter with that feminist
theologian at Harvard over 20 years ago). The text does not say that Mary listened passively;
Jesus taught by asking questions, by engaging in dialogue.
However, we should always listen to the stories of Jesus’s ministry with two other eras in mind:
the era when the Gospels were written down, and our own time as we read and hear them.
Early in its story, the Church had to do lots of Martha-like things. Luke knew that best of all the
evangelists. The Church organized the sharing of goods to benefit the poor; it organized
communal meals; it organized the mutual support of one congregation for another. As I said
two weeks ago, this process of growing structures was absolutely unavoidable, then as now.
The household of faith is a household, and there is household stuff to be done in it. Luke, most
of all, knew that well and took it seriously.
But, as the Gospel says, Martha was “distracted by her many tasks”: in the Greek original, she
was “turned around this way and that” by “much service”, much “diakonia”. This same caring
for the needs of the community prompted the establishing of the order of deacons in the Book
of Acts. This “diakonia” wasn’t a bad thing in itself. In fact, it was essential. Without a meal
there would be no opportunity for conversation.
I sincerely hope that, in the coming months, we shall be able to retrieve more and more of the
sharing of food and company with each other that was such a vital part of our common life
before the pandemic. There is no doubt that more shared food and companionship would
strengthen those of us who are already gathered, and help to bring new friends to join us.
However, it is important not to make the diakonia, the “tasks”, the primary object of our
common life. If one begins with the diakonia, one mistakes what is secondary for what is
primary. We do not serve in order to hear and believe: we serve because we heard and
Our primary purpose is to hear the Word of God’s love for the world, a love that calls us in turn
to a life of mutual love and service. The Word nurtures faith, and faith then becomes active in
service. We did not cease to be the Church of God, even when we could not safely gather in
person and had to meet online. We do not cease to be a community of the sacraments, even
when we are not (quite yet) able to share the common cup of Jesus’s blessing at our Eucharist.
The story of Mary tells us something vital about hearing the Word. It is for everyone in the life
of the community that lives by Jesus’s Word. The Church is not divided up into hearers of the
Word and those who just help things along. Hearing, reflecting, sharing and above all living the
Word is for all of us. That is “the better part, which will not be taken away from us”. All of us.
1 Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 57-68.
Submitted by the Reverend Doctor Euan Cameron
July 3, 2022: Fourth Week after Pentecost
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Four Pentecost, July 3, 2022
How do you create a movement?
The spontaneous way in which Jesus here calls and sends out the seventy (or the seventy-two,
depending on which source we read) reminds me of conversations that one often hears about churches,
and also about seminaries of theological education, where I have been involved for the last twenty
One sometimes hears planners and administrators say that “the Church needs to be less of an
institution, and more of a movement”. The implication is that we ought to spend less time worrying
about maintaining buildings, growing endowments, or deciding what exact administrative structure we
need – and more time thinking about how to expand the message of the Gospel, to grow the numbers
of people whom the Gospel reaches, and to energize those who are already in the family of faith to be
active in the world.
It's a seductive argument, and one can see why church leaders and administrators appeal to it. It can be
a way of short-circuiting the conversations that parishes feel that they (that is, we) most need to have.
However, any religious historian will tell you several general points about movements. First, they rarely
happen because the leaders of an institution tell them to happen. It is much more common for them to
grow spontaneously, even randomly, when someone on the margins of, or entirely outside the religious
establishment, appears with a new message.
Secondly, they will be disruptive. Any church administrators who call for a new movement need to be
very careful what they wish for – though that of itself is not to say that disruption is always a bad thing.
Thirdly, movements have a kind of half-life. Almost by definition, they don’t last long in that form. They
either grow into a more stable form – more like an institution, in fact – or they die away. The many (far
too many) separate branches of the Christian Church that we see across the world testify to as many
“movements”, which constructed institutions to perpetuate themselves. Even the movement which
inspired the push for independence in this country 250 years ago led, very rapidly, to the creating of a
On the other hand, two and three hundred years ago, here in New England and across the colonized
parts of this country, there were two waves of revivals known as the First and Second Great Awakenings.
These movements, led by a succession of charismatic preachers, swept through the churches of their
day. And the question then was, what do we do after the whirlwind of the revival is past? When you
have been “revived”, what do you do on Monday morning?
What then does this Gospel story of the early “Jesus movement” have to tell us now?
The un-named seventy apostles did not achieve their appointment as missionaries of the kingdom of
God. They filled in no application forms; they underwent no background checks; they passed through no
process of discernment. Jesus called them and sent them out with very simple instructions: “eat what is
set before you; cure the sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
And we hear that they were astonishingly successful. When they return to Jesus (who, in this part of
Luke, is on his long march through Samaria and Judaea to Jerusalem) he sees their mission as a triumph.
He has a vision of Satan falling from heaven, since even the seventy missionaries have power to cast out
evil spirits. In effect, Jesus says “see how the evil in this world can be conquered by the power of the
Spirit, working through quite ordinary people”.
Jesus seems to have believed, as many of his followers did before and after his death and resurrection,
that there was a fierce urgency about spreading the news, that time was short. Maybe the call to the
seventy can be regarded as an exceptional moment, provoked by the urgency of the moment. And yet
the evangelist we know as Luke wrote this account some fifty to sixty years later, when the sense of
urgency had been, shall we say, stretched a bit.
Have you ever wondered what became of the seventy? They are not mentioned again in the Gospels.
Post-biblical tradition, including a work attributed to Hippolytus of Rome around the early 200s, gave
names for all of them, as did other works written in the Eastern Church in the Middle Ages. In fact,
considerably more than seventy names have been proposed for them in total.
The lists of names are questionable. First, there are not nearly enough women among them (maybe two
or three) whereas we know that women played important roles in Jesus’s mission. Even more strangely,
most of the names are Greek or Roman, rather than Hebrew or Aramaic. Most if not all of the seventy,
the lists tell us, went on to become apostles, martyrs, or indeed bishops, to one of the dispersed
congregations of the early church.
In other words, as it tried to remember the seventy, the early Church was already becoming
institutionalized, and adapted to its host culture: more settled, more Graeco-Roman and more male.
The names of the seventy are not authentic, and it is better to keep them nameless.
Why is that so? What would it feel like to form part of one of the greatest and most important missions
in the history of the world, and to have no-one, absolutely no-one, know your name years afterwards?
We are familiar with the leaders of movements who make a name for themselves. Maybe they even
have, against their will, a church named after them: Lutheran, Wesleyan.
But most of us who participate in the life of Christ’s church will not make a famous name for ourselves in
the world. Most of us will not have charismatic gifts of spiritual power. We shall, instead, bear witness to
the love of God in the way that we live together and support each other. We shall show the world that
there is a better way than one based on endless acquisitiveness, competitively pushing past others, or
But Jesus said something very important to the nameless seventy apostles. ‘Do not rejoice at this, that
the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
Being numbered among the beloved of God counts for more even than the power to cast down evil
spirits. Because God chose those who had no outstanding abilities, we learn something important about
God’s sovereignty in this world and beyond it.
There is no hierarchy in the love of God. There is no course of promotion or progress in the love of God.
One does not ascend to a higher level of God’s love, either by one’s own efforts or by spiritual gifts. That
includes the rather disturbing, but absolutely crucial thought that we cannot make God love us more by
our religious activities.
None of us loses anything because others, whom we maybe are tempted to think are less deserving, are
also found to be among the beloved children of God. (That was the lesson for the prodigal son’s brother,
and for the labourers who started working in the vineyard at the first hour of the day. We can see just
how important Jesus thought it was to put this particular message across.)
We do not need to build a movement. It is already among us; we just need to recognize and respond to
it. The love of God is already present with us, and there is literally nothing greater than we can hope for.
When we feel called to work for the kingdom of God, to share the love of God among those with whom
we live – whether in a church community, or in our workplaces, in our families, in our neighborhoods –
all we have to do, in a sense, is go with the flow of the Spirit that is pulling us along. But don’t resist it.
Don’t contaminate the Spirit with any sense of achievement, of status, of progress in living more deeply
into the love of God. Because we are already there.
The un-named seventy do not represent the exceptional apostles. They do not represent those uniquely
and especially close to Jesus. They represent all of us.
‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven’.
Submitted by the Reverend Doctor Euan Cameron
June 5, 2022: Pentecost
Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022
Welcome to the Feast of Pentecost. As Acts makes clear, this day was already a festival in the
Jewish tradition. It took place fifty days after Passover, and was also known as the “Feast of
Weeks”, since it occurred seven weeks after Passover, if one counts inclusively.
In Christian tradition, Pentecost, like the Easter Vigil, was traditionally celebrated by baptism of
candidates who had been prepared by instruction in the faith. In our Book of Common Prayer, it
is one of four Sundays at which baptism should preferably be performed. Recognizing that this
is one of these baptismal Sundays, we shall read the reaffirmation of baptismal vows in place of
the Nicene Creed this morning.
Only Luke-Acts preserves the story that Jesus left his disciples after 40 days of post-resurrection
ministry, and that the disciples received the gift of the Spirit after another ten days. John’s
Gospel does not assign the gift of the Spirit to a precise time (if anything it is at the Last Supper,
but not only there).
However one tells it, this story from Scripture is about a gift: a gift both of communication, but
also of confidence: having the message of Christ within one, but also having the courage and
confidence of Christ to utter that message.
The Jews of the scattering, or diaspora, were dispersed to the limits of the Middle Eastern and
Mediterranean worlds. They had retained their faith, but had absorbed the languages, and
many of the cultural habits, of the peoples where they settled. The disciples were miraculously
able to be heard in all the languages which these scattered communities spoke.
The story is symbolic: the confusion of tongues, which took place as the Tower of Babel was
being built, is now reversed. The dispersed were being brought together again. (Never mind
that most of these people would have understood Greek, at least as a second language.)
But how does this once-in-a-lifetime event translate into something which becomes the
everyday principle of sharing the faith to all peoples of all languages?
Peter explains it in a long quotation from the prophecy of Joel, where the prophet spoke of God
pouring out God’s spirit on all people, as part of the restoration of the people of Israel, probably
after the exile. (Peter adds only the reference to the “last days”, which is not in the original
prophecy, but speaks to how the early Church understood Jesus.)
Deeply embedded in the Jewish heritage of the first disciples was the belief that God could and
would give inspiration to God’s followers: sometimes to particular chosen prophets and
leaders, but sometimes – as in this case – to all devout believers indiscriminately.
John, who does not preserve the story of the gift at Pentecost, nevertheless says a great deal
about the spirit of God being given to Jesus’s followers.
He gives that Spirit a special name, paraclétos, or “Paraclete” as some Christian poetry and
hymns preserve it, rendered by “advocate” in today’s reading. It’s an unusual word in the Bible,
found only in the writings associated with John in the New Testament.
Paraclétos, literally “one called alongside”, was originally an advocate or spokesperson in court.
It does not mean someone who intercedes for us with God: rather, it is the one who gives the
disciples voice, so that they can proclaim God’s message to the world, faithfully and in
confidence. (The word “comforter”, found in older versions, is a mistranslation.)
In the Middle Ages, a Dominican Friar called John Bromyard told the story of a village shepherd
who was asked about his faith. Did he know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? He replied
that “he knew the Father and the Son, because he tended their sheep; he knew not that third
fellow: there was no-one of that name in his village”.
Neglecting to think at all about the Spirit is one risk. At the opposite extreme, there is also the
risk of claiming too much acquaintance with the Holy Spirit, even of trying to control it.
When I was an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1970s, evangelical students often asked each
other “when did you become a Christian”? I gradually learned that, in the theology of
evangelical Anglicanism, it was expected that one should have an experience of inner
conversion, with a sudden dramatic sense of the presence of the Spirit.
In some communities, it has even become the custom to pray at specific times and places for
the imposition of the Spirit. In our former parish in England, the vicar led a program of adult
education, which was intended to conclude with prayers in the Church for the gift of the Spirit.
Instinctively I found myself deeply uncomfortable with this practice, and wondered why.
My discomfort may have been based on two things: first, the Spirit does not follow human
rules. It appears on God’s schedule, not on ours. Sometimes it arrives early, as in the house of
Cornelius; sometimes it arrives late. Second, the Spirit is not about an individual’s journey, but
about the life of a community. It speaks where people are gathered together in the name of
Jesus. It binds a loving group of fellow-believers together; it does not create elites.
The spirit, the “advocate”, does just what Luke described in Acts 2. It gives us voice, and
enables us to communicate something which is too extraordinary and wonderful for human
language. The Spirit helps the Church to express the message in the language of the people who
are being addressed. That means, so that different cultures and groups of people can hear it.
The spirit does not nail down the presence of God to particular forms of words; it finds the
words that the circumstances need. The Spirit is always missional, and always ecumenical.
But before we speak, we must listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, and pass on the message:
we are not devising our own message, but listening to the message of the risen and ever-
present Christ. What is the message that we need to hear for these times?
The example of Jesus teaches us, very clearly and repeatedly, that it is important both to speak
out against the wrongs in our world, and also to love those with whom we disagree. That is not
easy; because cultural conflict breeds, and feeds on, fear and distrust between one group of
people and another.
It is fear – the conviction that others do not affirm one’s right to exist – which leads people to
accumulate and then defend their holding of absurd numbers of weapons, whether that is
private ownership of handguns and rifles, or a nation’s accumulation of unimaginable quantities
Fear of an aggressor, often imagined more than real, lies behind the unprovoked invasion of
Ukraine. It also leads to many of the mass killings in this country, made all too easy by the
chronic and either irrational, or politically cynical, fear aroused in some quarters when sensible
regulation and control of weapons are discussed.
The Gospel has a response to this paroxysm of fear, distrust and alienation.
The Spirit offers a particular, very special kind of peace, which Jesus described in the last verses
of our Gospel. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world
gives.” Not the peace that consists simply of the absence of conflict; certainly not the peace
that comes as a result of victory in conflict, as the Roman Empire understood it.
Jesus’s Jewish heritage taught a particular way of understanding peace. Peace, Shalom, was not
the mere absence of conflict, or the aftermath of victory and conquest. Shalom existed when
the community lived together in mutual respect, in harmony with each other, with nature and
In the Christian adaptation of Shalom, the community could find peace even in the midst of
conflict, or of persecution. By living together in mutual love and support, one could know the
peace of God, even when all around one was fear and hatred.
In the gift of the Spirit, I pray that we may together find the words to express the love of God,
and to share it with those around us who need it so very much, in these most troubled times.
Pentecost blessings to you all.
submitted by the Reverend Doctor Euan Cameron
January 9, 2022: 1 Epiphany/Baptism of Jesus
1 Epiphany/Baptism of Jesus: January 9, 2022
At this time, many of us are taking down Christmas decorations. Some have already done so. The lights that have confronted the darkness in Nature are making their way to closets or attics. However, our ancient Christian ancestors, who first celebrated these mysteries, we're just getting started.
As a Church celebration, Jesus’ coming in human flesh, began in the 1st century and it began in what we call the East – Egypt, Syria. And the feast day was January 6th and was called Epiphany, Theophany. Greek words that mean “Making known of something hidden, a manifestation of God’s presence on earth. The date, January 6th was chosen for the same reason December 25th will be chosen for Christmas 200 years later: it was the time pagan feasts celebrated the “return of sunlight”. What better time to celebrate the coming of the Light of Christ in human flesh, in human history. The focus was an adult Jesus.
It wasn’t until around 335 CE that Christmas on December 25th was established in Rome. Again, the reason this date was chosen was because Romans celebrated the “birth of light” on this day. At its Roots Christmas proclaims “the incarnation of the Word”. Indeed, the ongoing incarnation of the Word in human life and human history, now, as the carol sings, Christ is “born in us today”.
As time passed, the story of the Annunciation, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth in the manger, angels singing, shepherds watching, Magi following a star are so beautiful, are sung in carols, celebrated in paintings and played out in pageants that today Christmas, for many people, is a return to a silent night and peace on earth when we become spectators to the wonderful birth of the child and celebrate a huge birthday party. If we arrive at that point, we have missed the meaning of Christmas.
Epiphany challenges such a focus. The Gospel read is of a journey of strange people, Magicians from the East. People who thought the movements of the planets and stars revealed events on Earth. They saw something and they interpret it to be of such importance that they undertake a dangerous journey seeking the one born king of the Jews.
This story is found only in Matthew’s Gospel and is used to teach his community that Jesus is a gift to “all the nations”. Not confined to one religion or race or people. Matthew’s community, originally, all Jewish, as was Jesus, the apostles and disciples, now finds pagan peoples of his day seeking the one born king of the Jews. Matthew’s story points out that the divine-human child is being made manifest to these pagans just as it was to those magicians who come in search to worship the child, while Herod who, had all the information he needed to know who this child was, nevertheless is seeking to destroy him. It is a message the Church must listen to again and again.
On this Sunday following Epiphany, we see the Church has quickly moved to an adult Jesus, in whom and through whom the presence of God is revealed. Today, at the baptism of Jesus a voice from heaven declares “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. “
Who Jesus is, revealed by a star at birth is now proclaimed by God. In the monastic office of Epiphany, reference is made to this baptismal scene, but also to the wedding at Cana and the scene of Transfiguration on the mountain. Strange to include these events when Christmas is still in our imaginations.
But Cana, in John’s Gospel presents changing water in to wine as the first sign that manifests who he is that Jesus presents to his disciples. Because of this, we are told, they believed in him. And on that mountain that comes much later the voice again proclaims, “this is my beloved Son”.
Baptism is the focus today. When we were baptized the sign of the cross was formed on our forehead and proclaimed: “you are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own, forever.” We acknowledged that we are Christ’s dwelling place on earth today. In a moment we will renew the vows we made at baptism. We commit ourselves again to do the works that manifest Christ’s presence on earth here and now.
Howard Thurman, Minister of the Gospel, Civil rights leader, mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helps set the scene for us.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner.
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among sisters and brothers,
To make music with the heart.
Let us. Amen
Submitted by the Reverend Brendan McCormick
December 26, 2021: Christmas 1
November 21, 2021: Pentecost 26
PENTECOST 26: November 21, 2021
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church’s year, is known as Christ the King Sunday. By the Church’s standards it is recent commemoration, less than a hundred years old. Today we reflect on what it means to give the title of “King of Kings” to the risen and glorified Christ.
November 14, 2021: Pentecost 25
25 PENTECOST: November 14, 2021
If you go on the Internet and type in “Predictions for the end of the World”, you can find a very long list from the time of Christ until today. In fact, in the 78 years I have been on this earth there are 84 predictions of the end of the world. What struck me was that some people predicted The End more than once. Pat Robertson 4 times and Jehovah's Witnesses 9 times. You would think credibility would suffer when the foretold day came and went. It also seems strange to me that people claiming belief in a God who sent his only Son into our world and spent so much time and energy teaching and empowering us how to live in this world are in such a hurry to leave it.
However, our first reading reminds us there have been “times of such anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence”, that the end was something that could be hoped for. This reading comes from a time about 175 years before the birth of Jesus. The empire Alexander the Great built, had been divided into three sections at his death. One section, centered in what is Syria today, was ruled by a violent king who had mercilessly crushed a revolt in Israel in which many were killed and so much destruction that it certainly seemed a “time of anguish that never had been before”. Even worse, this ruler, ordered a statue of himself be placed in the Holy of Holies. The most sacred part of the Temple. No greater affront to the faith could be imagined. Surely, God would have to enter the battle and destroy the evil empire. However, God did not enter the battle. 100 years later this evil empire was defeated by another empire – Rome. Rome, however, became the evil empire at the time the Gospel of Mark was written. In 70 AD the Roman Army put down a rebellion in Israel which resulted in the destruction of the Temple and much of the city of Jerusalem. Most of the priests and many people were killed. At the same time, Christians were enduring severe persecution, especially those in Rome, where Mark’s Gospel was probably written. To many, it looked as if both the Jewish faith and this small Jewish offshoot group that followed Jesus Christ were being destroyed. The end must be near.The first Christians were mostly Jews who proclaimed Jesus to be Messiah. The Jewish scriptures were their scriptures. Jewish practices, on the whole, were their practices; added to and modified. But the destruction of the Temple and City changed Christianity as well as Judaism.
Temple sacrifice and having a nation were no more and so local rabbis and the Jewish communities scattered around thworld were now the anchors of the faith. Torah and Talmud, the Law became the foundations of the Jewish faith as it struggled to survive. Christianity, on the other hand, gradually became a religion of gentiles, separated from Jewish life. From the same roots, two separate religious traditions developed. At times, with disastrous results and unbelievable crimes by Christians against Jews. But when will the end of the world come? We hear Jesus, today, warning us about those proclaiming intimate knowledge of its arrival. “Beware that no one leads you astray.” But then what? These past weeks, scientists have been warning us of the catastrophe resulting from climate change to come. What are we to do? The author of the second reading captures Jesus’ admonishment to us to not be alarmed, but to be aware. “Patient endurance” is not the word Jesus uses, but it is used 49 times to express a gift the Spirit gives for us who are aware. New Testament. Christian communities, living in a hostile world, were called to a life of patient endurance. This is not something passive but a call to action; act with the power to withstand hardship, to not be afraid, to persevere, carry on in the struggle. We are not to be led astray, but we are not to become immobile or unconcerned.The Jewish theologian, Abraham Heschel has said: “True religion begins with the awareness that something is asked of us.” In our Collect we accepted quite a task: “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…”
Everlasting life is planted within us here and now. Let us receive the gift of “patient endurance” and as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. Let us provoke one another to love and do good deeds. Deeds that preserve our Earth, save the lives of many, care for creation. And finally, through the power of the Spirit, let us encourage one another to endure.
Submitted by Reverend Brendan McCormick