Sometimes we get lost in the details. We cannot see the forest for the trees, the saying goes. Sometimes we get tied up in the minutia of Christian morals and ethics, forgetting why we are concerned in the first place. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the big picture, the really big picture.
we see it today in Mark. All use visionary language and imagery to tell their story on a
"In those days" and "at that time" Daniel, makes time, a specific moment in time, the focus of our attention. He then starts to give this time a shape. "It shall be like" Daniel try's to describe the un-describable. At that time it shall be like an earthly, as well as, a cosmic transformation. This happening will disrupt the flow of human history. It will fulfill, and so end, creation itself.
What was and is, will never be the same.
This sublime transformation will not come without warning. Here Daniel describes it as beginning with unsurpassed distress, days of human trial and tribulation along with nature's own storm and stress.
There will be resistance as the powers of this world fight to keep their place.
And there will be struggle and suffering in this epic confrontation.
In the midst of darkness where some will be in everlasting horror and disgrace, the wise shall shine bright like the firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like stars shinning forever.
Daniel is clear enough - however it plays out, whatever shape it takes - out of darkness light shall come. Out of suffering good shall come. Out of death, life shall come.
Mark, responding to the signs of his own time takes up Daniel's grand and sublime vision.
In those days after that tribulation. Again, a marking of a specific moment in history that changes existence, the sun will darkened, the moon will not shine, the stars will fall from the sky, even the powers of heaven shall be shaken. This is cosmic, cataclysmic, stuff.
But, like Daniel, Mark is not all doom and gloom.
In the very midst of the darkest hour a glorious thing will happen, the Son of Man will come, in the clouds with great power and glory. Think of the towering thunder heads over Mt Miguel.
The Son of Man, is the term taken from Daniel and always used by Mark to describe Jesus' divinity. When the Son of Man (Jesus Christ, as Lord) comes there be a gathering of his people, (the People of God) from out of injustice and oppression, out of suffering and division.
The faithful, who have lived the faith, stayed the course amidst temptation and trial, will be gathered together as one from the ends of the earth, no one of good will, will be forgotten.
And when will this happen? This has been the big question. The earliest church thought it would be soon, perhaps in their own generation. As it became clear the end was not so near,countless predictions began to appear and these have haunted people from that time.
When will that time come and what are the signs of its coming?
All we know is what Jesus told us - It is like the fig tree, whose new shoots and leaves announce the coming summer.
This cosmic transformation (like the fig tree announcing the proper season) comes,
in its own proper season. When it is meant to happen. In God's time. Because, this is God's business.
Though Jesus cannot give disciples the answer they want, he comforts them.
In the face of this mystery of coming, this is a promise worth holding onto.
Now, what are we to make of the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel and Mark?
Space and time itself, though we mark it by coordinates on a map and hours in a day, and with concepts such as; now & then, going & arriving, here & there, all of this bends to God's will, extending beyond human existence. And this vast eternal reality boogies the brain.
But, this is a good thing. The reign of God, is necessarily bigger than us, grander than us, beyond us. The reign of God is relentlessly coming or growing or unfolding or being revealed or even being discovered and you and I can do nothing to bring it about faster or slower. We can only wait in joyful expectation, persevering faith and confident hope for its coming. But, this waiting is not passive. Because, there is another part of this story.
We know that Jesus inaugurated the reign of God through his own teaching, healing and miracles. His life, death and resurrection, always pointed to his father's kingdom, both here and coming.
But, the kingdom is work in progress, the kingdom which is here and now is incomplete and imperfect, because we are incomplete and imperfect. The Church herself is incomplete and imperfect. There is much work to be done, individually and collectively.
And so, we are left with Mark’s vision, the vision of the early church, a vision that saw the coming of God's kingdom as a hard birth of sorts, involving a time of testing for the people of God and creation itself. It would be a cosmic disruption that would usher in the final and definitive revelation that the risen Jesus is Lord, and he comes on the clouds to establish the reign of God, where the righteous, who have suffered, will be vindicated.
But when, who knows? The hour and day of fulfillment is unknown; to man, to angels, not even the son himself. Only God knows and only God can accomplish it.
And so you and I live out the little picture, details in a still life, the string of hours and days,living our faith in Jesus and his Gospel message. Meeting all that comes our way, whether it be peace and joy or storm and stress with Christian virtues and Christian hope that God does what he promised he will do -
I will bring light out of darkness, I will make straight the crooked, I will make all things new.