Transcript of the Post:
Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.
Today we explore a portion of the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 13 verses 1 -8, assigned for Proper 28 B which this year falls on Sunday, November 18th.
First Listen or Read Carefully: As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”
Now Look at this black and white image, a newborn infant. Notice the facial expression as the baby is ready to take in a deep breath, perhaps a first breath, and let out a bellowing cry. The newborn is likely being held by a health professional. Imagine the circumstances of this birth…perhaps it was totally uneventful, perhaps complicated, perhaps even a life-threatening emergency delivery. See the baby’s arms extended in in the Moro reflex. What else do you sense in this image about the infant, the attendant, the surroundings.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Reflect: In today’s Gospel lesson, known as “Mark’s little apocalypse,” Jesus first describes the destruction of the physical center of worship, the holy Temple of Jerusalem. He then speaks at length about a series of catastrophes that will befall humankind. Wars, rumors of wars, international strife, earthquakes, famines. Countless horrific disasters, some natural, many a result of human actions or inactions. This is a bleak portrait of the world as it is, a place of brokenness, corrupt politics, fear and suspicion, mindless violence, hatred, self-preservation. At the least, this is an unpleasant picture we would rather not see or contemplate. But one that we must face as people looking through the lens of faith, as we identify the immense chasm that separates the current reality from the dream of God. Yet at the very end of this saying, Jesus hints that there is more to come, saying “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” Some will lament this, seeing only more distress in the future. From another perspective, as followers of the Jesus movement, we see the end of the labor pains, and anticipate birth, a new life, a new creation. Look again at the image of the newborn, with arms wide open, almost seeming to embrace the unknown future, living in a world of love imagined by the Creator.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Act: Find a way today to be a messenger of hope, rather than a prophet of doom. Not in some “Pollyanna, everything will be OK” way. But in a way that while clearly knowing that the status quo is unacceptable, knowing also that each one of us humans has the responsibility to play a role as an agent of change. How you do that as an individual or as a member of the Body of Christ only you will know best. Take the risk to discover your gifts for transformation. You have them. Use them![Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]
[Image: “Newborn” Location: not specified Photographer: Alex Hockett, posted on Unsplash.com]