Getting up this morning I thought: “Blog: harvest thanksgiving.” And as I was eating my porridge, a simple structure came into view. Which, as always, is a relief.
But I reckoned without today’s Bible reading with BRF Guidelines – which blew me over. As ever the Holy Spirit is knocking me off balance.
A familiar passage from Mark’s Gospel – 13:14-29 (I’m running a few days late). This is the difficult passage, known in the trade as the Little Apocalypse, in which Jesus talks about the signs of the end times.
It’s also a difficult passage because while Jesus is teaching both about the fall of Jerusalem some 40 years in his future and also about the cataclysmic Day of the Lord, our future. It’s not obvious how the two events relate to each other.
But clearly it is important to Jesus – and to Mark, who gives this teaching a whole chapter.
But then today’s commentator writes: “The ability to recognise the nature of what is really going on, to understand it in the light of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God, and to act accordingly is one of Mark’s key strands. “
At that point, the whole passage jumped out of the page and gave me a shake.
For that indeed is what serving Jesus is all about, especially in church leadership. And it begins with knowing what is actually happening, to understand the nature of what is really going on in our society and within our culture.
It frequently strikes me, certainly for those of my age group, how much our society has changed since I became a Christian all those 50 eventful years ago. Huge, titanic shifts in the plates undergirding our way of life have rearranged the way we think. Bob Dylan was right – they are a’changing.
Behaviour then which would have been considered outrageous, subversive, even illegal is now taken as normal, even expected.
But lest you think I am a Daily Mail reader, there are many welcome shifts, such as the status of women and the end of class deference.
It’s just that everything is now very different and the rate of change appears to be accelerating. We no longer live in a postmodern world – that is so 2001. Now we are, according to Andrew Hoborek writing in 2007: post-postmodern.
Times have changed
And we’ve often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
Any shock they should try to stem
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.
Cole Porter’s lyrics would be peculiarly apt had they not have been written in 1934.
As disciples of Jesus we need to not only recognise that this is happening all around us but to seek to understand what is going on, not least that we keep our balance and not like me as a teenager get flung off the Wheel of Death at the Southport Fun House.
But it is essential that as Christians we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds so that we think with a new operating system. We refuse to be taken in by this world’s values and ambitions.
J B Phillips made this remarkable translation from Paul’s letter to the Romans way back in 1947 – but his insight is just as relevant nearly 70 years later.
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.” (12:2)
Our minds are important. That in itself is a challenge to today’s way of thinking which is suspicious of reason, wary of logic. We are to honour God in how we think. Something to work at. And here the regular thoughtful and planned reading of scripture is absolutely essential.
So may we as disciples of the Jesus who upset the tables in the temple, may develop the ability to challenge our culture’s values and ideas.
We are called to think Christian – and everything else follows.