Left out of the Lectionary. Keep alert.

December 6, 2017



The middle verses of Mark 13 are not appointed to be read in worship by the Revised Common Lectionary.  We miss hearing these hard words:


 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good newsmust first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 ‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything. - Mark 13.9-23


It is not you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit.  How comforting these words are when we just don't have the words.  Not that many of us will face councils and angry synagogues, but we all face family gatherings and bereaved congregations and emptiness in our hearts and simply don't have the words.  Don't worry about what you will say, the Spirit will give words.


But that verse also reminds me of a beloved story told by Prof. Don Luck during my first year of seminary: A preacher named Klaus decided one week that he was going to take Mark 13 literally and not prepare a sermon.  The Holy Spirit would give him words!  He went about his week of teaching Bible studies and visiting the homebound and thought not one wit about his sermon.  On Sunday, he stepped into the pulpit ready to have the Spirit speak through him.  The Holy Spirit gave him a few words: "Klaus, you're lazy!"


But Jesus' last words here should be the ones that we take most to heart - Be alert.  He has already told us everything.  We need not worry about figuring out the time and place or even running about looking.  We have already heard all that we need - God is coming to rescue us, and in Jesus, already has.

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