l sat in church on Sunday listening to this sermon by Ray , one of our Lay Readers , thinking " l wish that the good folk on JWN could hear this , they might be quite surprised " Then l thought " Why not share it ? " l know , l think too much .
" l wonder what you make of this reading from mark . It has been seized upon by all sorts of people through the ages . It is no surprise that it is sometimes called the little apocalypse . It is compared with the book of Revelation which some see as a doom laden account of the end of the world . It is a gift for those who insist on predicting the end of the world . Almost every few years we get definite dates for this to happen . Every one so far has had to be adjusted slightly due to it being a non event . A few years ago there was a story of a man who said he had survived ten or more lightening strikes He put this down to God preserving him for a special job . A joker suggested that it might have been that God was using him for target practice .
The world is full of people who claim to know the mind of God . Often we get explanations on the lines of natural disasters being a punishment by God for some supposed transgression by man . We had it in the 1980s when Aids was described as God's punishment for being gay . This was quickly dropped when it was realised that at least as many straight people as gay people were getting the illness .The devastating Hurricane Katrina was also attributed to the wrath of God by some.
This brings us to today's reading from Mark where Jesus is warning against the dangers of listening to to false prophets .Through the ages there has been no shortage of false prophetting .I don't think that there is suh a verb as prophetting but it sounds good .With so many prophecies over the years it is easy to remember the failures of the self appointed prophets .It is so tempting to pass them off as slightly barmy ,Yet they get more than a few followers who believe every word .
When Jesus said there will be many false prophets we should take note . If only because history has proved him right time and time again . We , quite rightly , dismiss these prophecies which predict the date and sometimes the exact time of the end of the world . What about those billboards announcing that the end of the world is nigh . Another source of amusement for passers-by .
Quite a few mainstream Christians try to tell us that wars , earthquakes and other natural disasters are fulfilling the words that Jesus is said to have spoken in this passage from Mark and also the passages in Revelation . It is of course very easy to be drawn to such prophecies and get sucked into assuming that this time it's for real and people need to be warned . What we should be carefull of , however, i assuming that all prophets are talking rubbish . Paul mentions prophecy as one of the Spiritual gifts . Prophecy in this case being the ability to speak the word of God . It does not mean the ability to see into the future like a fortune teller .
The difficulty we might have is in sorting out the real prophets from the false one . There may be some signs that might help us . if we study the Old Testament prophets we find that they were mainly concerned with showing how their nation was behaving which went against the principles of goodness and justice . . Their prophecies looked at what was wrong and gave warnings about what would happen if they didn't change their behaviour . False prophets , however seem keen to find answers to contemporary problems by using quotations from the Bible .
l have lost count of the number of times l have said that the Bible is not a reference book of answers to life's problems , Yet , well meaning Christians still insist on throwing random verses or half verses around to prove some point or other . This does not mean that the Bible is irrelevant . It does , though , have to be read in context .When the gospel of Mark was written the Jews had risen up against the Romans who had responded by destroying the Temple and killing many people . That was the start of the Jews being dispersed throughout the world . l don't think that this passage from Mark is meant to be a forecast of things to come . l think it is a message of hope and encouragement . Some were reading the signs and calling this the end . What did Jesus say ? Ignore the false hopes Don't listen to the false prophets, keep your faith in good times and bad . . The implication for his contemporary listeners was simply that the temple may have been destroyed but the Church is still alive . God is with us despite the difficulties .
History tells us that the problems facing us are likely to be with us for a long time . Climate change , destruction of wilf-life habitats , homelessness and so on . At the moment , apart from Brexit , most of us are fairly secure . We would be like ostriches if we were not aware that our situation is vastly different to many around the world . Yet , we tend to look at our own situation and ignore most of what is going on around us . This is perhaps why the false prophet looking at his or her own immediate community disasters and projecting them on to the whole world for signs of impending doom seems so irrelevant . The true prophet can see the bigger picture picture .
The scientists who warn us of the dangers of climate change . The environmentalists who tell of the pollution of our oceans by plastic . The horticulturists who report a decline in insects due to the use of pesticides . Perhaps it is these people who are the true prophets today rather than the ' religious folk ' They are more in keeping with the examples of prophets in the Old Testament .
We only fool ourselves if we don't admit the frequent failures of those who predict the imminent end of the world . We are just foolish if we pretend that only the events which directly affect us are the ones that matter . It is neither panic nor blissful ignorance that Jesus is calling us to .
Jesus is telling us that we can face the worst that the future holds with hope and the knowledge that actions born of love have more to offer than despair . Remember Paul's wonderful words at the end of 1 Cor 13 . There are three things that remain when all else has gone . Faith , hope and love . The greatest of these is love .l really think Jesus was saying much the same "