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Sunday, November 17, 2019


The Gospel reading for Sunday, 11/17/19, is Luke 21:5-19, Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Many scholars believe that this passage was actually written after the temple destruction, that the memories of the disciples were “refreshed” after it happened and that they then remembered Jesus saying something about it, so they “remembered” more words than Jesus actually spoke. That’s probably true.

Even though this passage might not be exactly “accurate,” word by word what Jesus said, it’s surely “true,” because it’s certainly in keeping with what he taught at other times.

There is one phrase, in particular, that echoes Jesus’ thought from several occasions: “Beware that you are not led astray, for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he,’ or ‘The end is near.’ Do not go after them.”

Jesus warned many times about those who try to predict the end. I think he did it because getting fixated on the end allows us to ignore what Jesus wants us to do right now.

It’s simply amazing how many people who claim to be Christians just laugh in the face of Jesus when it comes to end-times predictions. There is a whole cottage industry, maybe a factory industry, of people who make money and reputation by ignoring Jesus and claiming that they are the one who knows when the end will come.

It reminds me of the time when my friend, Walt Wagener, was campus minister at the U of WI-Whitewater. It was in the highly racist civil right struggles of the 1960s. There was one young black man at Whitewater. He was regularly hassled and arrested by the town police, just for being black. He was a poet, and Walt invited him to read some of his poetry in a church service.

One member of the church was particularly enraged by this. He called up the Dean of the U, who was president of the board of directors of The Wesley Foundation, Walt’s employer, to complain. Of course, he couldn’t voice his main complaint, that the student was black.

“That guy’s a criminal. Arrested all the time. Maybe I’ll just go over to Milwaukee and get some whore prostitute off the streets and bring her over to read her poetry in church,” he said. “That’ll be the same thing.”

Dean Graham allowed as how that would probably be okay since Jesus had said about the woman of ill repute that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone at her.

There was a silence, and then the man said, “I never did agree with Jesus on that one.”

At least he was honest. Not many are. So many who claim the name of Jesus then willingly and perversely ignore his clear teaching and intentions, if it is more convenient and profitable, financially or emotionally, to do otherwise.

I don’t know what to do about that. I am not without sin, and so I am reluctant to throw stones. But I am thinking about some name other than “Christian” by which I can identify myself.  Maybe I’ll revert to the days of the hippies and call myself a “Jesus freak.”

A music critic once said about Johnny Cash: “He does make an honest attempt to hit every note.” I think if you call yourself a Christian, you won’t be perfect, but you do have to make an honest attempt to follow every teaching of Jesus. You can’t just disagree when you want to.

John Robert McFarland

“The Bible, like any book, is something of a mirror. If an ass peers in, you can’t expect an apostle to peer out.” Wm. Sloane Coffin

 This isn’t writing, just an experiment, using the Sunday scriptures, that I used to study so I could preach on them, just for my own spiritual reflection. If it’s any help with your reflections on the scriptures, that’s okay.

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