In the Lectionary

November 18, Ordinary 33B (Mark 13:1-8; Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-25)

Sometimes we need a good old-fashioned swig of bracing disillusionment.

When the disciples gaze upon the temple in Jerusalem, they see permanence: “What large stones and what large buildings!” Jesus, the one they suspect just might redeem and restore Israel, bursts their messianic bubble. “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” The restored temple will not be the epicenter of his work. Not only that, but truth will be shaken, the world scorched by war and rumbled by competing kingdoms as nations jostle for power and every ruler and his uncle claim Messiah papers. There will be earthquakes and famines. “This,” says Jesus, “is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

Jesus’ teaching about the temple fits with his words about where we place our treasure—his warning about moths and robbers. The reading from Daniel speaks of the “time of anguish such as has never occurred since nations came into existence.” Daniel knew that what happens in the day-to-day life of countries and rulers has cosmic implications. Michael fights for God’s people. God’s kingdom cracks the foundations of earthly kingdoms like a stone thrown from heaven (Dan. 2:44–45). The Son of Man receives “dominion and glory and kingship” (Dan. 7:14). The earth is porous to the ways of heaven.

This means that while our work is on earth, the measure of our hope is in heaven. The Lord works in circuitous ways, and we can’t always know the import of our acts and sacrifices and lives. Things fall apart, even crafted and precious things. We fail. And yet even failure can be woven into the greater work of God.