A reflection on the readings for Advent 1B:Isaiah 64. 1-9, Psalm 80. 1-7, 1 Corinthians 1. 3-9, Mark 13. 24-37 by the Rev. Dr. Sarah Rogers
I bought a new printer recently, it has WiFi, so I can print to it from anywhere in the house, it also came Google Cloud Print ready. Well ok, WiFi I understand, but what on earth is Cloud? Well apparently it connects directly to the web and doesn’t require a PC to setup. I decided to find out a little bit more about cloud. Wikipedia defines Cloud computing as the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet). I’m not sure I’m any the wiser, except that it means I don’t really need to know what I’m doing, Cloud takes care of it all – all I had to do was switch the printer on, once it was linked to my internet account it told my computer it was there and I could print. I’m afraid a lot of computer terminology is beyond me, I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Then of course there is the new language – text speak, which seems to be creeping into everyday use. B4 instead of before, 2DY instead of today and of course lol meaning laugh out loud. People now say lol instead of actually laughing..! Language is organic, new words come into being and we use language in different ways.
Jesus chooses the language and terminology he uses carefully. Jesus is responding to a question about the destruction of the temple from his disciples. He has already spoken about the signs that it is imminent, of wars, earthquakes, famine and betrayal within families and he tells his disciples to ‘be alert’. Now suddenly, he seems to be talking about something other than the destruction of the temple. He hasn’t actually answered the disciples question, and in this passage he seems to be moving on to talk about the time when he will return, his second coming at the end of time. Or is he? Has he just chosen his words carefully?
‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’
The cosmic language he chooses from Isaiah were used to speak about the fall of the pagan powers, Babylon and Edom. With his knowledge of scripture it would be quite likely that he would speak of the destruction of the temple in those terms. Isaiah uses poetic language that conjures up vivid pictures, not of the destruction of the world, but of the old order being replaced by a new order. Jesus uses that same language to talk about the destruction of Jerusalem, the sacred city for the people of Israel, God’s chosen people.
A new regime will emerge out of the destruction and it will be ruled over by the Son of man. Jesus again uses language from the Old Testament, this time the book of Daniel, his vision of ‘one like the son of man’ who comes in clouds to the throne of God and is given dominion over all nations for ever.
The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple will mean that it will no longer be central to God’s purpose. The new Jerusalem will see the son of man reigning over all nations, not just the people of Israel.
It would have been important for the early Christians in the days surrounding the destruction of the temple to have known that Jesus had predicted it. The early church faced persecution even before the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus predicts that this will happen with in the life-time of some of the disciples. The destruction of the temple in 70AD marks the beginning of a new life for Christianity, until then it was simply a sect of Judaism, now it forms an identity of its own, Judaism also has to change and reinvent itself now that the central focus, the Temple is destroyed. The sack of Jerusalem was the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecies surrounding the fate of the city.
What does all this mean for us here today? At the beginning of this season of Advent when we prepare not only for our celebration of the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, but also for his second coming? Jesus may well have been predicting the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and a switch in regime as Jerusalem ceases to be the central focus of God’s purpose as his purpose widens out to the whole of the world.
Cloud Computing means that technology is available to all – you just need the internet..! The son of Man coming on a cloud means that God is there for everyone, you don’t even need the internet. Even when the Jews were going through difficult times they still trusted in God, we hear that hope in the passage from Isaiah..’return, for the sake of your servants..’ They trust that God will return, God is always faithful. Paul reminds us that the gifts of the Spirit will support us as we await the second coming, his words are as relevant to us today as they were to the church in Corinth.
The message for us, this Advent is that through the Holy Spirit we have been given all the gifts we need, to await the second coming. We may not know how they got there or indeed what they are. Just as we may not understand Cloud Computing, or Text Speak. No matter how difficult times may be we must trust implicitly and wait for God in patient hope. Mary trusted in God’s plan and said yes to bearing his son Jesus, she waited patiently for the birth of her Lord and waited patiently for God’s plan to come to fruition in the death and resurrection of her Son. We too must wait patiently for the fulfilment of God’s plan, when the Son of Man will come again and reign over his glorious kingdom.