1st Sunday in Advent

by Crossings

Interim Apocalypses – Until HE Comes
Mark 13:24-37
1st Sunday in Advent
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
Here’s a Crossings matrix for the Gospel on Advent I (December 1), our first one for the year of Mark. The revised common lectionary text is Mark 13:24-37. 
Peace & Joy! Ed Schroeder

Preliminaries:

  1. In the year of Mark, the text for the end time is Mark’s apocalypse, chapter 13. With 34 texts from Mark this lectionary year, only one (Advent 1) was taken from Mark 13. Too bad there’s not more. Mark’s apocalypse is the linchpin between Jesus’s final confrontation with the people of the temple (chapters 11 & 12) and the passion narrative (14 & 15). For us as church that chapter is also the linchpin for our connection (or to expose our dis-connection) with the Jesus of the Passion narratives.
  2. Mark’s entire gospel proposes a theology of the Crucified Loser to a community perplexed and tempted to apostasy by virtue of their own experience of suffering and their own profiles as losers, not winners.
  3. A Messiah for losers is the good news of Mark’s gospel. It surfaces especially in his 31 uses of the Greek word: ochlos, most often mis-translated as “crowd, throng, multitude.” As Korean Minjung theologians from Korean Seminex have shown, ochlos in Mark is not a quantitative term, but a qualitative term: the crowded-out, the outsiders, the folks trashed by the operating systems of the old eon, both its churchly and its worldly systems.
  4. Mark’s proposal for Christians vis-a-vis the End Time is as follows: The End Time is any time that is “a time for confessing.” Thus there already have been many end times and will very likely be more before the actual “last” of the last days. The question of the faithful disciple is not “When WILL it be?” but “Is it Apocalypse NOW?” (= the issue of watching or sleeping). If it is, then the question is: “Am I/are we on the witness stand, and if so which Messiah am I/are we confessing?” (= the issue of being astray or elect.). And then comes the item of the confessing itself vis-a-vis hatred, betrayal, death sentences to intimidate the believers and keep them from confessing Christ on the witness stand (= the issue of confessing or being ashamed of Christ with its corollary of his confessing or being ashamed of us at the Final Apocalypse).
  5. In Mark 13 Jesus addresses the end-time problem of disciples — both then and now. Read the entire chapter before you proceed any further here.

DIAGNOSIS

D-1: Asleep. It is apocalypse now (v.30), and the disciples are asleep. That is bad news for them.

D-2: Astray. Worse yet, a more serious malady underlies their sleepiness. They are astray, disciples astray about the Messiah, of all things. Mesmerized by false Messiahs, or false notions (theologies of glory) about the true Messiah, they are in fact disconnected from him and his words. But it is only his words that are guaranteed not to pass away, whereas the words of any other voice or power in “heaven and earth will pass away,” when it is Apocalypse Now. That is super bad news for them.

D-3: Ashamed. Worst of all, by this de facto confessing of a false Messiah, they blow their option for confessing the true one (in Mark’s language being “ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation”), and the lethal consequences of that are that they lose in the final judgment (“of him/her will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” 8:38). Disciples blowing their time for confessing when the apocalypse is now are blowing it when it is apocalypse then, the final one. That is the worst news of all.

NEW PROGNOSIS

P-3 (Good News for D-3): The Merciful Apocalypse in the Ochlos-Messiah. The “beginning of the Good News of Jesus, the Christ,” according to Mark (1:1), is that he initiates the beginning of the end time, and that in him God’s kingdom is here — in short, it is apocalypse now (1:15). But his apocalypse is different from the one expected. Instead of judgment for the sinners and reward for the righteous, he condemns the obviously righteous ones and befriends the obvious rejects. And then he has the chutzpah to claim that his “mercifully premature apocalypse which boldly scoops the final one and actually averts and thwarts it” (R.W. Bertram), already has advance approval from the One who will be on the bench in the final apocalypse.

Note on the ochlos-Messiah. Jesus is both the Messiah of the ochlos and is himself ochlos. The shame of the D-3 diagnosis (above) is on them and on him. He willingly elects the rejects. For this he is himself rejected — also by God, in Mark’s one (and one only) recorded word from the cross. Mark rubs it in by recording that it was another outsider, a pagan Roman, who first caught on “as he stood facing him” (the confessor’s position?): “Truly this man was the Son of God.” Mark’s skimpy Easter data nevertheless affirms that the “crucified Jesus of Nazareth…has arisen.” And now as the risen one, i.e., the living crucified, he picks up his leadership back in the old haunts where the disciples are at home, back in “Galilee…as he told you.” Note Mark’s last sentence (short ending) with the disciples “fleeing, trembling with astonishment, saying nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” What does that sound like but disciples blowing it at their time for confessing: flight, fright, shaking, and keeping their mouths shut to everybody. That sounds like confessors asleep, astray, ashamed.

And yet he goes to their/our Galilee “before us” so that the next time it is apocalypse now our confessing would be better once we had taken another look at his merciful premature apocalypse. Easter shows him to be God’s Elect-Reject. That closes the case before the court on all the rejects he elects. Or in Mark’s way of saying it in the negative mode (8:38): it closes the case on all those rejects who elect not to reject this ochlos-Messiah.

P-2 (Good News for D-2): Spirited Confessing in the Apocalypse Now. The call to the witness stand when it is a time for confessing is, not surprisingly, in the context of all hell breaking loose. The scene is truly apocalyptic: siblings betraying siblings, parents doing their kids in and vice versa, and even if you don’t get betrayed by significant others, you stand a good chance to “be hated by all for my name’s sake.” The “powers” that hold society and church together are as secure as an earthquake zone. Confessors get beaten up by their congregations and hauled into court. And all of that, says the ochlos-Messiah, so that the good news can first be preached to all nations. And how does it get preached? From the witness stand right in the midst of apocalypse now. And who is managing that show? The Holy Spirit. So no advance planning on what to say or how to say it or how it will come across. Instead of strategy-considerations that inevitably bring anxiety (for no one earthling can predict the future when it is apocalypse now), the agenda is careful listening to the Spirit of the ochlos-Messiah and then simply saying what you heard. Confessing is homo-logia, saying the same thing, i.e., saying what was previously said to you by the one whose “words will not pass away.” What else could possibly be relevant and needful they are when everything else IS passing away!

P-1 (Good News for D-1): Taking Care of the Store by Gathering the Ochlos. The Master leaves and puts his servants in charge, “each with his/her work.” And what is that work? As his designated emissaries (angeloi) they tend their part of the store by “gathering his elect from the four winds” (whither churchly and worldly establishments have blown them), “and from the edges [not ‘ends’] of the earth and heaven” (whither they have been shoved, marginated, by the operating systems of the old eon).


The crossing between these three levels of diagnosis and three levels of prognosis proceeds as follows:

Prognosis 3, The Merciful Apocalypse of the Ochlos-Messiah, is big enough to trump Diagnosis 3, the worst news of all, the shame of our failure at the final apocalypse.

Prognosis 2, Spirited Confessing in the Apocalypse Now, is the winning trump card for the loser’s hand of Diagnosis 2, confessors gone astray to a false Messiah, even if they call him Jesus.

Prognosis 1, Minding the Store by Gathering the Ochlos, is the grace imperative to rouse the sleeping disciples of Diagnosis 1 and alert them to their magisterial assignment for the interim apocalypses “until he comes.”

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