Mark's liitle apocalypse

Our Bible Lessons for November 15 to 21

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 15 to November 21, 2018
The Twenty-fifth Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Reviews

Bible reviews will return in the near future. Next up is The Complete Jewish Bible. It is published by the Messianic Jewish organization, whose members believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah. So it includes both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. Time got away from me this week,which prevented me from doing a review.

This Week's Image

Death on a Pale Horse

This week's image is Death on a Pale Horse and pictures an apocalyptic event foretold in Revelation. You will probably recognize the four horsemen. I chose this image to remind us that there is more about the end times in the Bible than we usually think about.

Gospel Lessons

Most of our reading this week relate, one way or another, to apocalypse, especially the complementary Hebrew Scriptures. The Oxford Dictionary of the Bible says this:

Though applied especially to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation to John, and called ‘The Apocalypse’, the word means more generally an ‘an unveiling’ of divine secrets and in the OT books such as Daniel and parts of Isaiah and Zachariah there are apocalypses.…The apocalypses traverse the whole range of human experience and beyond, from references to the social setting of the author (Dan.), to revelations of the events to occurs at the end of time and disclosures under the guidance of an angel….

Our Sunday and Wednesday Gospel readings are from Mark 13, which is often called The Little Apocalypse. These texts serve to remind us that we do not know when the end times will come, despite the ravings of some modern preachers. Our task is not to worry about the future, but to bring the commonwealth of God into being now, here, on earth.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons come from Timothy, Colossians, and Hebrews. Here are a few passages to give you a flavor of the readings:

God made you alive together with him [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:13b-14

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet
     “in a very little while,
     the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
     but my righteous one will live by faith.” Hebrews 10:35-38a

Complementary Hebrew Scriptures

All but one of our Hebrew Scripture readings are from Daniel. Our readings in the time of preparation are from the fourth chapter, which tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel's interpretation, and its coming to pass. In the time of reflection we read from Daniel 8. Without a scorecard, it's pretty tough to keep it all the images in chapter 8 straight. The little horn is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who set up a statute of Zeus in the temple, thus desecrating it. The rams two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia, and the great horn of the male goat Alexander the Great.

Why should we care about any of this? Here are some thoughts from the reflections on Daniel in The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume VII which I found helpful.

  1. “When we are introduced to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4, we recognize the proud and domineering emperor of the Babylonian empire—a regime built on the extortion and pillage of both people and resources throughout the ancient Near East. But this man undergoes a transformation by being forced to endure what he has inflicted on others. Furthermore, restitution is demanded from him for his sins, especially his treatment of the dispossessed. In Daniel, it is a humbled and transformed emperor who finally confesses that God's ‘works are truth’ and God's ‘ways are justice’ (Dan 4:37 NRSV).” So, first, have we avoided dispossessing others? And if not, are we capable of true repentance without going through what we have put on those whom we have mistreated?

  2. “The book of Daniel suggests that the mere fact that Christians may find themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether overt or more subtle), does not mean that they need bow to its authority. Note the interesting paradox in the words of 1 Pet 2:16 ‘As servants of God, live as free people’! The modern state is a reality in which Christians must work for more just and peaceful structures in our lives—not to preserve the sanctity of the state, but to uphold justice and peace as the way of the Christian in the world. Because God reigns, the state is merely a tool—sometimes to be used, sometimes to be prophetically condemned, but never to be baptized. In their involvement in the government of the state, whether it be political office or civil service or some other role, Christians should maintain a sense of the tentativeness of the state's role as a tool of God.”

  3. “[I]t is surely a mistake to try to pretend—as moderns constantly try to do—that we live in a world in which mistakes do not have consequences, whether errors in personal choice, misguided national policies, or worldwide environmental negligence. Forgiveness, after all, does not always involve avoiding the consequences.”

  4. How Long? Finally, there is the agonized question in chapter 8: ‘How long?’The second major theme of this chapter is that the time of wrath is limited and thus the people's suffering is limited as well. This is surely one of the most powerful appeals of apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic movements. Theologically, it is one of the most important messages of the book of Daniel for a modern world, It is the promise of the gospel that darkness will not last forever, that innocence will not be crushed forever, that justice will be had.” It has been crucial to me in my experience of recurrent major depression to know that this, too, will pass. In some ways, it makes the experience more bearable, even if it is still debilitating.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Most of our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures are about Samuel, his mother Hannah, and the priest Eli. Samuel is a crucial character in the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the last of the judges who ruled Israel after Moses, and he anoints Saul as the first king, and later David as the second king.

One of my favorite Bible scenes is the calling of Samuel. God speaks to him, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him. Eli finally realizes what is happening and tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” This story makes me ask myself how many times I have heard God's voice and thought it was a human.

Thank you for being part of the lectionary community. May these readings bring a blessing into your life.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summaries and Links for the week ahead

Remember that the links don't become active until the lessons are posted on our web site, at approximately 3:05 a.m. Eastern Time.

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 16
A song of trust and security in God.
Semi-continuous Canticle 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hannah's prayer

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:4-18 Nebuchadnezzar's dream
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:12-28 Hannah gives Samuel to God.
Both 1 Timothy 6:11-21 The good fight of faith

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:19-27 Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 2:18-21 The child Samuel at Shiloh
Both Colossians 2:6-15 Christ is the head of every ruler and authority. Just as you received Jesus Christ, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:28-37 Nebuchadnezzar praises God.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:1-18 God calls Samuel.
Both Mark 12:1-12 The parable of the wicked tenants.

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 12:1-3 God will deliver the people.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:4-20 God answers Hannah's prayer.
Both Hebrews 10:11-25 The way to God through Christ
Both Mark 13:1-8 The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 13
A prayer for deliverance from enemies
Semi-continuous Psalm 3 Trust in God under adversity

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:1-14 A vision of destructive power
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:19-4:2 God was with Samuel and the people knew it.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:15-27 The Angel Gabriel interprets the vision.
Semi-continuous Deuteronomy 26:5-10 A declaration to be made to the priest when the first fruits are offered.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 A call to persevere in faith

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 12:1-13:1 The future of Jerusalem
Semi-continuous 1 Kings 8:22-30 Solomon's prayer
Both Mark 13:9-23 The coming suffering.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Image credit: Death on a Pale Horse by Benjamin West, via Wikimedia Commons. This is a public domain image.