Archive for the ‘Mark 13’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Second Coming of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness, Divine and Human

DECEMBER 3, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1-8

Psalm 80:1-7 (LBW) or Psalm 98 (LW)

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:33-37 or Mark 11:1-10


Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Protect us by your strength and

save us from the threatening dangers of our sins,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13


Stir up, we implore you, your power, O Lord, 

and come that by your protection

we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins

and be saved by your mighty deliverance;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 10


These assigned readings, taken together, portray God as being faithful and fearful–not a warm fuzzy.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

  1. Isaiah 63:16b-17 and 64:1-8 come from Third Isaiah, from the time in which Jewish Exiles had begun to return to their ancestral homeland.  The text indicates great disillusionment as well as the confession that Judea did not live up to long-held expectations of a verdant, fertile paradise.  Yet consider, O reader, that God had ended the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Psalms 80 and 98 have different tones.  Psalm 80 fits tonally with the lesson from Isaiah.  Yet Psalm 98 has a triumphant, celebratory tone.
  3. The pleasant tone of the introduction of St. Paul the Apostle’s First (really Second) Epistle to the Corinthians belies the corrective tone that commences in 1:10. The focus on the faithfulness of God in the introduction meshes with the other readings.
  4. Assigning the account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the First Sunday of Advent is a tradition in lectionaries of the Lutheran and Moravian churches.  The faithfulness of God exists in the flesh in the reading.
  5. Mark 13:33-37 reminds us that God is faithful, so we need to be faithful, too.

I do not fixate on the Second Coming of Jesus, for I know too much about the tradition of failed expectations and specific dates to play that game.  Also, I affirm that God will attend to all matters of the Second Coming.  Meanwhile, feeding hungry people and working for righteousness/social justice is a better use of time than attending any prophecy conference or reading any book about prophecy.  Besides, much of the content to the interpretation of prophecy is dubious, as the passage of time proves.  And righteousness is right relationship with God, self, others, and all creation.  Biblically, righteousness and justice are interchangeable.  Certainly, working for righteousness is more important than guessing the identity of the Antichrist.

The early part of Advent is about the Second Coming of Jesus.  The latter part is about the First Coming of Jesus.  Much of the challenge of Advent is not to become distracted by the busyness of December, with all its shopping, advertising, materialism, and parties.  These distract–or can distract–one from simple, quiet faithfulness to God, who is faithful.  God may not always act according to our expectations.  That is our problem, not God’s.











Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (Humes)   3 comments

Above:   The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain

Exile, Liberation, and Lamentation

DECEMBER 3, 2023


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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:14-37


There is good news and there is bad news.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible hail from different times.  Psalm 80 is a national lament from the final days of the northern Kingdom of Israel.  One may recall that the theology written into much of the Old Testament regarding the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles was that persistent, collective sin had brought them on.  Isaiah 64 comes from the Third Isaiah portion of the Book of Isaiah, after return from the Babylonian Exile.  The text, which one understands better if one reads Isaiah 63 first, indicates collective disappointment with the shambles the ancestral homeland had become.

Good news follows bad news in Mark 13.  In a passage that obviously invokes the descent of “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7, Jesus will return.  Yet one also reads a note of caution (“Keep awake.”) in the context of language to which one can correctly add,

or else.

St. Paul the Apostle anticipated that day was he wrote to the argumentative congregation in Corinth.  Before he pointed out their faults he remined them that God had granted them awareness of the truth regarding God and Jesus Christ, as well as the means to speak of that truth.

The two great themes of the Hebrew Bible are exodus and exile.  When exile ends, we may find that we have new problems.  Yet we can rely on God, who continues to perform loving, mighty acts.  Will we accept divine liberation, or will we exile ourselves?






Devotion for December 30 and 31, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Scan (from an old book) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Discomfort with Scripture

DECEMBER 30 and 31, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 3:10-17 (December 30)

1 Kings 3:5-14 (December 31)

Psalm 147:12-20 (Both Days)

Mark 13:32-37 (December 30)

John 8:12-19 (December 31)


Psalm 147 is a happy hymn of praise to God.  Reading, chanting, or singing that text makes people feel good and holy.  But what about other psalms and parts thereof?

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who take your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

–Psalm 137:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The pericopes for these days constitute a combination of the comfortable and the cringe-worthy.  King Solomon, after obeying his father’s advice and conducting a royal purge after his accession, allegedly received wisdom from God.  He also built a beautiful Temple in Jerusalem, financing it with high taxes and using forced labor.  The Temple was, in the Hebrew religion of the time, where people found reconciliation with God.  And it existed courtesy of the monarchy.  Solomon was using religion to prop up the dynasty.  Meanwhile, the details of Solomon’s reign revealed a lack of wisdom, especially in governance.

Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12-19) fits easily inside the comfort zones of many people, but the entirety of Mark 13 does not.  That chapter, a miniature apocalypse, proves terribly inconvenient to those who prefer a perpetually smiling Jesus (as in illustrations for many Bibles and Bible story books for children) and a non-apocalyptic Christ.  Yet the chapter is present.

The best approach to scripture is an honest and faithful one.  To pretend that contradictions which do exist do not exist is dishonest, and to lose oneself among the proverbial trees and therefore lose sight of the continuity in the forest is faithless.  Many authors from various backgrounds and timeframes contributed to the Bible, that sacred anthology.  They disagreed regarding various topics, and theology changed as time passed.  Yet there is much consistency on major topics.  And, when certain passages cause us to squirm in discomfort, we are at least thinking about them.  Bringing one’s intellect to bear on scripture is a proper thing to do, for higher-order thinking is part of the image of God, which each human being bears.






First Day of Advent: First Sunday of Advent, Year B   35 comments

Above:  Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, Circa 1635

Expectations Versus Reality

DECEMBER 3, 2023


Isaiah 64:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil–

to make your name known to your adversaries,

so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,

you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From ages past no one has heard,

no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

who works for those who wait for him.

You meet those who gladly do right,

those who remember you in your ways.

But you were angry, and we sinned;

because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,

or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,

and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,

and do not remember iniquity forever.

Now consider, we are your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

16  Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand,

the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17  And so will we never turn away from you;

give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18  Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God for you because of the grace of God that has been given to you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind–just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you–so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:24-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake– for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Many science fiction movies and television shows depict human-like aliens who, oddly enough, speak Earth languages fluently.  This is, of course, a conceit made necessary for a long time due to limited special effects technology and budgets, the fact that actors are humans, and that many audience members dislike reading subtitles.  This also reflects the fact of our frame of reference when pondering extraterrestrial life; we seek life as we know it.  But what if life as we know it is rare and life as we do not know it is more plentiful?

Let us apply that principle to Messianic expectations.  It is natural to seek a spectacular display of divine power and presence, especially when one lives under foreign occupation or when the troubles of life seem too difficult to bear.  But what did we get?  The picture I placed at the top of this post says it all:  a baby.  He grew up, died, and rose again.  In fact, I write this post on the Feast of the Ascension in 2011.  With that departure came the promise of a Second Coming, but when?

Many of the earliest Christians, including St. Paul, thought that the Second Coming was soon.  That was, of course, nearly two thousand years ago.  After Paul, the canonical Gospels, written after the First Jewish War, reflected expectations that Jesus would be back any day now.  That was nearly two thousand years ago.  Over a century and a half ago, William Miller predicted more than one date for the Second Coming.  He was mistaken.  More recently, Colin Hoyle Deal, writing in the late 1970s, thought that Jesus would return by 1988.  He had 101 reasons for this.  (I have a copy of his book.)  Hal Lindsey, also writing in the 1970s, thought that Jesus would come back before 2000.  And Harold Camping has issued more than one faulty date for the end of times.

Jesus has not kept the schedules some people have calculated for him.

God will tend to the details of time quite well without our predictions; may we tend to our earthly vocations and not waste time getting in over our heads.  We are called to be agents of God and faces of Christ to those to whom God sends us.  This is our reality.  So I ask you, O reader, some questions:  Whom has God sent to you?  To whom has God sent you?  And how often did any of this not match your expectations?  What lessons have you learned from the discrepancy between your expectations and your reality?