Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
Michael is going to go ahead and turn in the State of Society report. If you would like to read it, Hannah or Michael can email you a copy. We will also make sure to read it once we are meeting in person again.
As of right now, we are not sure when we will have in-person worship again. The coronavirus situation changes daily. We want to keep everyone safe, and do not want to rush back into having in-person worship before the virus peaks. Be sure to check the blog and Facebook for updates.
The world and our country. All those who are being affected by the coronavirus. People who have lost family members and friends and are not able to get out of the house to attend funerals. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our neighborhood and the entire city of Wilmington. Parents who are trying to keep their kids entertained at home, or who are still working and are struggling to find childcare. Young people who are missing their friends. All of us as we endure this time of quarantine and social distancing. That we can be together again in person soon.
Hymn- Trust and Obey
Meditative Moment (Followed by silent worship)
Faith and Practice Query #8: Do you make diligent effort to acquaint yourself and those under your care with the spiritual needs of the world? Do you support by prayer and systematic giving those who are laboring to extend Christ’s kingdom? Do you use your spiritual gifts in serving humanity as God grants you light to see such
Mark 13—and the passages that correspond to it in the other gospels—are Biblical texts that have long been misunderstood by folks to be a terrifying description of how we are all going to experience immense suffering when the apocalypse begins.
We can’t exactly blame folks for thinking this, though, because when you read the chapter—that’s pretty much what it sounds like. It all starts when Jesus and His disciples are leaving the Temple, and one of the disciples makes an off-handed comment about how large the stones that were used to build the Temple were. Jesus responds by saying that the Temple will not last, and that it will eventually be destroyed. From there, Jesus forays into a huge monologue where He states that wars, earthquakes, famines, false Messiahs, and persecution are all signs of the end. He also talks about how after all the suffering is over, the Son of Man will come in the clouds to save His people, and that it is necessary to keep watch for this to happen. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck—right? Well, not always. What Jesus is describing to His disciples here is not some future apocalyptic torture that awaits us. It’s not something that you and I should be warning everybody about. It’s actually something that has already happened—thousands of years before us, but 37 years after Jesus’s death.
The gospel of Mark was written in 70 CE—the same year that a disastrous Jewish war for independence came to an end. Back in 66 CE, the Jewish people had lost their patience with Roman occupation and decided to rebel. The Roman army was huge of course—whereas the Jewish freedom fighters were not—and over the course of four years, the Romans systematically picked them off. By 70 CE, the Romans had essentially won. But they wanted some insurance. The Romans wanted this to be permanently over. They didn’t want to have to come back out to Palestine a few months later to squash yet another rebellion. Fighting wars on multiple fronts is expensive. So, as a final blow, they laid siege on the city of Jerusalem.
Sieges work, because cities can only last for so long without access to the outside world. This was true then, and it’s true now. After a while, food ran out in Jerusalem, and sickness started running rampant due to unsanitary living conditions. In an attempt to keep people from starving to death, some tried to sneak out of the city walls to get food. Almost all of those people were captured by the Romans and crucified. So, the Jewish people were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Death seemed to be knocking on their door.
And eventually, death came in. After six months of horror, the Roman forces broke through Jerusalem’s walls. Anyone who had not already died was either brutally slaughtered or enslaved. The Romans set fire to the city. They plundered the Temple, then burned it down, too. Everything was lost. Much like their Israelite ancestors who had been deported to Babylon hundreds of years earlier, the Jewish people—including those who followed Jesus—had no home, no land, no money, no place to worship God, and no plan for how to pick up the pieces.
This is the historical context behind Mark 13. This passage wasn’t written to warn people living thousands of years later of the terrors of the impending doomsday. Heck, this passage wasn’t even written to people like you and me—it was written to Jewish people living in ancient Palestine. And even though Jesus says to be watchful and offers up various signs that signal that apocalypse is coming—I’m not even sure that the author of Mark meant it as a warning to the people reading and hearing his gospel that the end was nigh. You see, Mark’s original audience wasn’t anticipating the apocalypse. For them, the apocalypse had already happened. Everything that Jesus had warned about had already occurred. War, persecution, death, starvation, the tearing down of civilization—all of that had come to pass. So, from their perspective, these words were less about the horrors of the end and preparing for them than it was about the fact that they were still alive, and that God had not stopped speaking to them.
You see, for a group of people who had been to hell and back, and who had survived, the fact that God was still telling them to pay attention would have been a big deal. It was proof that God had not left them after all. In the commands to keep watch, you can almost hear the faint whisper to Mark’s audience that God still had work for them to do. “Pay attention—He’s calling your name!” In the commands for the people to not become complacent, there is a strong subtext there, reminding the people God has not forgotten His world. So, if anything, this chapter is more of a hopeful call to action than it is a frantic warning that we should be prepared for horrors of all sorts. What Mark 13 has to offer us is hope that the apocalypse is less of an end than it is an invitation to start over, and to take part in a new beginning.
A lot of people across the country and around the world right now are feeling like we are heading for the apocalypse. Even the people who don’t really think much about the end of the world and whatnot are experiencing those anxious feelings of dread. It’s kind of hard not to feel that way. Many of the news stations have tickers running across the bottom of the TV screen, keeping us informed of death tolls and numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases. And those statistics just keep rising, which isn’t exactly comforting. Based on what I’ve heard, New York City sounds like a warzone, and it probably won’t be the only city in the United States that experiences an influx of cases. A lot of us are stuck in our homes, all day, every day—feeling lonely, and disconnected from the people who we love most. Some have lost loved ones during this time and are finding themselves unable to express their grief as they need to, because they cannot be with others who are also mourning, or have a funeral. Others have been laid off, and are facing financial uncertainty. There is scarcity of food and essential supplies due to all of the panic buying. Working at a credit union, I hear people express fears almost daily that the economy is just going to tank and that we’ll have another Great Depression. In Italy, the hospitals are so full that people are not able to get the care that they need, and in China, they are still suffering—all these months later. The enormity of the anguish is scary, and its overwhelming. We are right to be cautious. And its okay to be afraid, or to feel helpless. I am a big believer that it’s important to feel and to process one’s feelings. But, this time of pandemic doesn’t have to just be a time where we are scared. It doesn’t have to just be a time where our anxiety is through the roof. It doesn’t have to just be a time where we grieve and feel uncertainty breathing down our necks. Like our first century Jewish friends who survived their apocalypse and picked up the pieces through hopeful action, so can we. If we take heart, dare to have some hope, and pay attention to God’s voice, I think we will see that something new and good will be revealed.
One thing that I think that God might be asking of me is to be a more caring neighbor. And to continue to be a more caring neighbor, once this is all over. I’m a huge introvert. I’ve lived in my house for almost six years, but have never said more than a few words to my neighbors. I don’t even know their names. But I baked bread for my neighbors two weekends ago—when all of the panic buying started—and they were so appreciative. In return, one of my neighbors has come by to check on me and my husband a few times since then, and another offered us some toilet paper. I still don’t like particularly striking up conversations with the neighbors, but it does feel good to be neighborly, and to know that I have people next door who I can depend on. I’m eager to see what these new friendships will look like in a few months.
But what about you? And what about Ada Chapel? What might God be saying to us? What might we need to make sure that we are paying attention to?
When the clouds roll back, and the sun comes out again, I think that there will be a new appreciation for being together, in-person. Community is such an essential part of the Christian faith, and life in general—but in a modern world, convenience often wins out the day. And convenience can sometimes really isolate us from others. In lots of ways, our communities were suffering from a lack of togetherness before this all happened, but now that don’t have any choice besides isolation, it’s starting to get to us. So, in a few months, we might see a big boom of people wanting to get out and be the body of Christ alongside others. People might want to do things that they hadn’t been doing before, like volunteering at homeless shelters, being a part of a community clean up, or simply sharing a meal with neighbors and friends. Might we be called to facilitate something like that—as individuals or as a meeting—or to participate in it?
Through this time of trying to figure out how to stay in touch at a distance, we might discover that we are being called to be the Church in other ways than just in-person worship on Sunday mornings. Maybe posting worship on the blog every week will become something that people who are homebound or who don’t usually attend Ada Chapel in person will look forward to. Perhaps having video chats or regular phone calls with one another will become an enriching part of our corporate spiritual lives, and a new way that we can conduct our business. Maybe our meeting will feel led to explore the waters of Quakr—a new online platform where Quakers of all kinds can create groups and communicate with one another.
During times of uncertainty and difficulty, people often seek out faith communities and opportunities for spiritual direction. Folks who you know might be looking for a place where they can belong, and where they can find comfort and support. And since lots of churches are not having services right now, they might be coming up short in their search. Quakers believe that we are all ministers, and that God calls us to all preach the Gospel in different ways. Might God be calling you to offer Gospel love and encouragement to someone who you know? And might that person like to come to meeting with you when all of this is over?
Here in the United States, we have been watching polarization and division pull us apart for several years now. Churches, families, and social groups alike have witnessed separations and conflict over differences of opinions. So many people have fallen into the trap of viewing “the other” side as the enemy. But now, the enemy is the coronavirus, and we are in all this fight together. We need the love and support of one another if we are going to survive. So, maybe God will encourage you to begin the work of bridging the gap. Perhaps you will feel led to reach out and to check in, or to apologize if necessary.
The possibilities are endless. And honestly, Friends, I’m excited to see what happens. I’m excited to see what God calls us and our meeting to do. I certainly have my days where I feel anxious and heart-broken and frustrated about all that’s going on—like anyone else—but I am feeling optimistic, too. What the word apocalypse actually means—in the literal Greek—is “uncovering”. And that’s all that this. A moment of uncovering—where we can take a leap of faith and buoyantly trust that God has more for us to do.
Take hope in that. Have faith that God is still speaking to us, urging us to pay attention. And frankly, a time of quarantine is the perfect time to pay closer attention to God and to really take the time to listen to His voice and to discern what you are hearing. Our schedules have been altered, and I’m sure that some us are running out of things to do. Personally, I’ve been watching Netflix, cleaning my house, and baking on repeat, which I’m sure will get old after a while. So why not set aside some time each day for really paying attention to God and listening to Him? Whatever that might look like for you—if its quiet time, prayer, meditation, reading your Bible, reading a devotional, journaling, or taking a walk in God’s creation—I encourage you to do it. I’m interesting to hear about how God speaks to you in this time, and what He says.
There will be wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet, Friends. We are not the first people on the planet to live through an apocalypse. The Jewish people in 70 CE lived through one. People in the United States lived through one during the Civil War. And we certainly won’t be the last people to live through an apocalypse. Life will go on, and God is with us—telling us to pay attention to Him—even when things are most bleak. God is still calling us to do beautiful and important things for the advancement of His Kingdom. May we stay awake and be open to what God is telling us, and may we be willing to answer His call.
Hymn- Amazing Grace
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night, and for the blessed morning light; for rest and food and loving care, and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say, to grow more loving everyday. Amen.