Jesus and Apocalyptic at the Shard
Jesus and Apocalyptic at the Shard
Daniel 12: 1-3, Hebrews 10: 11 – 14, 19 – 21, Mark 13: 1-8
Hilfield Friary 15. 11. 2015 Br Hugh SSF
- In our Old Testament reading, Daniel was writing at the time of the Maccabean revolt. He was calling the Jews not to get take sides or to get dragged into the violence – but to resist non-violently. Daniel called them to spiritual warfare with the powers that be, not violent warfare. But let’s look at this morning’s Gospel and a different period of violence a few centuries later.
- Mark was writing in the 60s or 70s. He writes as if Jesus is speaking during the period leading up to the Jewish revolt and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. What might Mark write today? What prophetic words might Jesus make about our situation today? It’s a global situation, much bigger than the Roman world, of course.
- As Jesus was stepping off the escalator at London Bridge Station, one of his disciples said, Look, Teacher! What staggering height, what enormous concrete sheets of glass. The Shard – that temple of Mammon – must have more ‘wow factor’ than the Eifel Tower or the Empire State Building had when they were first opened.
- Do you see all these great buildings, replied Jesus. Not one concrete block will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down, along with the 5 star hotel in the middle. The media empire of the Russian oligarch who built it will go bankrupt – and in the 2050s when the Thames barrier is swamped in a storm surge, people will ask why the architects had such short term vision.
- A bit later Jesus was sitting on a bench near the Greenwich observatory, looking down on London’s building boom. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately. Tell us, when will these things happen? And how can you be so sure that what you are saying will really happen?
- Jesus said to them, Watch out that no one deceives you – and by no one, I don’t just mean people you know or people you meet – I mean no TV channel, or advertising campaign, or disinformation from the corporate world or internet rumours. Big business and advertising knows exactly how it wants us to think – it wants us to have no idea that we are even being deceived.
- Many will come in my name claiming I am he and will deceive many. When you see Trade Unionists wearing badges saying Support JC (as there were at the Tolpuddle festival), beware – they are not referring to me but to a well-known Labour politician. Much more seriously, when advertising tells us money makes us happy they are deceiving us – when you have the money you just want more.
- When you see yet more pictures of the wars in Syria, or South Sudan, or reports from journalists in, do not be alarmed. Nation will rise against nation, class or caste or race against each other. Such things will happen but the end is still to come.
- When the Daily Mail language of illegal immigrants or dole scroungers starts to wear you down do not be alarmed. Politician will gain easy votes by demonising the outsider, the lazy unemployed, the dole scrounger, the Muslim with unBritish values (whatever British values might be), the shirkers not the strivers. Ministers will make the gesture of joining in the bombing Syria without putting boots on the ground, as they say.
- There will be earthquakes in various places – they will be especially destructive in places where builders cut corners; many will die – as those Bangladeshi women who make our cheap clothes.
- Famines will be made much worse by climate change, and salt water will kill the crops in the great deltas long before the Thames barrier stops working properly. Of course there will be enough food for all 8 billion of us but so much will be wasted that a billion will continue to eke out life on less than a dollar a day.
- Earthquakes, changing climate, refugees and the walls they have to face, bombs and slaughter in Paris, and drones over Middle Eastern villages, these are as apocalyptic as the events of AD 70 were. They are also the beginning of the birth pangs of the new age.
- Perhaps that is what Mark could write today.
- The letter to the Hebrews – our second reading – reminds us that Jesus the High priest offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins then sat down at the right hand of God and since then has been waiting until his enemies would be made a footstool – he would have victory over the terrible things in our world. Mark was saying that during the Jewish revolt with all its terrible suffering, Jesus was waiting for his victory to become apparent. Think of Masada when the Jews committed mass suicide rather than be massacred by the Romans – Jesus was waiting for victory over such suffering. Today Jesus is waiting for victory over the horrible anger and hatred and revenge that the gunmen have made in the terrible killings in Paris. But I think he is also waiting for victory over our western attitudes to the Islamic world, over our racism that leads to this anger – perhaps think of the insults of the French cartoons.
- So whether we lived in the time of the Maccabean revolt or the Jewish revolt or the endless violence of today, we are called not to become violent ourselves.
- Yesterday Br Clark said we need radical patience – or wasn’t it revolutionary patience? – either way a good phrase … steering a line between taking sides in violence but not being apathetic and neutral, but sacrificially involved in prayerful creative ways.
- For example, our Diocese of Salisbury is asking us all to wear these green ribbons – marked Creation Care Climate Action – in the run up to the Paris Climate Conference next month.
- Also, The Catholic Worker’s latest number has an article on protesting against the Arms Fair in the Excel Exhibition Center in September – knowing how the arms trade leads to the wars that lead to migration. Of course we have a major arms company only a few miles from here in the form of the helicopter factory.
- In the terrible violence of our world nothing is new. Let us take hope that this is normal, as normal as it was for Daniel or for Mark’s community. We are living in the birth pangs of the new age as surely as they were.