Morning Musing: Mark 13:28-33

“Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that he is near – at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Now concerning that day or hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven nor the Son – but only the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Do you know what a paradox is? Unless you’re boned up on your literature lessons from middle school, it may be one of those words you know, but not really. I’ll help you out. A paradox is a statement that takes two ideas often considered to be opposites and puts them together in a way that makes them both true at the same time. For example, take the adage, “The louder you are, the less they’ll hear.” On its face, that seems totally counterintuitive. If something gets louder, it seems you would be likely to hear it better. When I’m watching TV and can’t hear what’s being said very well, I’ll turn it up louder to fix the problem. And yet, when when I get angry enough that I yell at my kids, they don’t really hear anything I say to them. A quiet conversation with someone is more likely to convey information accurately than if you shout at them. It’s a paradox. In this last part of Mark 13, Jesus is summarizing His conversation with the disciples about future events. As He does so, He offers them a paradox. Let’s explore this together.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:21-23

“Then if anyone tells you, ‘See, here is the Messiah! See, there!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Do you remember the Easy Button commercials from Staples? (Here’s a classic one.) The idea was that offices need an easy button when things get tough. Whenever a thorny challenge comes up, you just tap the button and like magic, the problem is solved. In the context of the commercials, it was often a Staples employee who showed up offering solutions for whatever was the problem. The ad campaign was wildly successful not necessarily in that it generated so much business for Staples (although it probably did), but because it successfully registered the idea of an easy button into the pop cultural lexicon. When your ad becomes a cultural movement, you know you’ve hit it out of the park. The reason the campaign was so successful, though, was that it tapped into a longing all of us have for easy solutions to tricky problems. We don’t like facing resistance to our forward progress. When we do, we want someone to come along, wave a magic wand, and make them all go away. This goes whether we are talking about traffic jams, or challenges entirely more significant than that. Jesus here warns us that such a desire can lead us down the wrong path if we’re not careful. Let’s talk about it.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:19-20

“For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of creation until now and never will be again. If the Lord had not cut those days short, no one would be saved. But he cu those days short for the sake of the elect, whom he chose.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The one thing that is consistent about our understanding of the apocalypse is that we don’t understand it very well. Oh, we have lots of creative guesses, some offered with all the confident assurance of knowledge, but we really don’t know very much. Because of this, we greedily grab up anything that seems like it might tell us something. For instance, in 2012, the big news of the year was that an ancient Mayan calendar ended in that year because they believed that’s when the world would end. They even made a fun, global disaster movie about it called…wait for it…2012. Happily, we sailed right on past the December calendar date of the end and are still chugging along nine years later. Let’s look some more this morning at another thing Jesus had to say about it. This bit of teaching really doesn’t add a whole lot of clarity, but it does give us something else worth keeping in mind.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:5-8

“Jesus told them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, “I am he,” and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but it is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

We love telling end-of-the-world stories. I’m not really sure why. There’s probably a psychological explanation out there somewhere. But whatever the reason, we love it. Don’t believe me? Do a quick search for how many books and movies and television shows are set in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic setting. Not only are there dozens and dozens of movies, but each decade of film history has produced more than the previous with 2010s producing more than double the number of any other decade. It’s almost like there’s a sense of impending doom that is growing with each passing year. Perhaps there’s something to that, but feeling like the end is near is not something unique to this generation. Every generation has had some point at which they felt theirs might be the last. When He began explaining His observation about the destruction of the temple to His disciples, Jesus started with a bit of perspective that seems more important today than it has ever been. Let’s look at this together.

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Signs of the Times

As we wrap up our series, You Believe What? this week, we are talking at the end about what followers of Jesus should believe about the end of the world. So often our thinking and questions about this huge topic are focused on timing. When you survey the Scriptures, though, something else rises to the top as the most pressing issue. This is the one that should shape our thinking. And like we’ve seen along the way of this entire journey, it’s a whole lot simpler than we make it out to be. Let’s talk about it.

Signs of the Times

 I thought I would give you a little test this morning. I hope you studied. Actually, this is one that most of you should technically be able to pass by virtue of the fact that you drove here this morning. Yes, that’s right, we are going to do a little road sign recognition exam. I’m going to put some different signs up on the screen and you are going to tell me what they are. And just because I played a dirty trick on you last time I did something like this doesn’t mean I’m going to now. There are not going to be any trick questions this time.

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