Mark 13:1-14 (or 1-8)

After the reading, two people come forward.

A: I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what he can make of that gospel now, but it is a bit thin and obscure, isn’t it?    I don’t go for that violent stuff.    Give me a nice parable anyday.

B: It is important, though.    A lot of it applies now, and quite a few people have been mislead and got it all wrong, you know.

A: I’m not sure I did know.    What do you mean.

B: Well, the story starts with the disciples pointing out to Jesus the temple building

A: Which had great blocks of stone in a building which Herod began and took about 40 years to build.    Yes, I remember that from Sunday school.    It must have been quite a sight!

B: I’m sure it was, but Jesus startles them by saying that it will all be pulled down.

A: Yes, I remember that bit from Sunday school too, it happened during the Jewish rebellion against Rome in about AD70, didn’t it?

B: It did, must have been a good Sunday School you went to!    But for the disciples that was still in the future, and they were quite disturbed by it.    It may be that Jesus thought of it as part of the failure of the Jewish religion.

A: (surprised) Failure of the Jewish religion?    I though Jesus was a Jew himself!

B: So he was, but the Old Testament – the Jewish religion – was meant to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Suffering Servant and the Son of God.    Sadly, when he arrived, they were too busy running a religion to recognise the person it was all about.

A: So the destruction of the Temple was really getting rid of something which had served its purpose and had no further use.    Right, but I thought you said that a lot of this applied to us today.    I don’t see that.

B: Well, look at it like this.    Jesus found that the people who should have known God and been ready to understand and explain the next stage in his plan were too busy running a religion, and actually ended up getting Jesus crucified.

A: Right

B: So what are we doing today?

A: Were in church – oh, wait a minute.    I think I see what you’re getting at.    Being in church can be pretty busy.    We need people to get things ready, do the jobs, keep the accounts, all that sort of organisation and administrative stuff.    And while we’re doing all that we can forget God.

B: Yes, its always a danger.    We need to read this passage to remind ourselves what its all about, and to check that we are still in touch with what God is doing, and expecting us to do.

A: So “bad religion can endanger your health”.    And I suppose that what Jesus goes on to say follows on.    He talks about religious people deceiving disciples, and battles and earthquakes.

B: and of course we’ve had them all since his time.    But I think what he wants us to hear is that we have to be wary of false and misleading teachers – not just the televangelist scandals, but the mislead and misleading.    Being sincere is not enough, we have to check what we are taught and what we believe.

A: You’re thinking of the Bible, I suppose, and because the Bible has to be interpreted, we need to think hard, and check our thinking with what other people have said, now and in the past.

B: That’s right.    Christians who read their Bibles, and use reason and tradition, are not likely to be lead up the garden path by a religious con man.    That’s why the church tries to help people to read the Bible at home

A: like those booklets we had a few weeks ago, which people will now have looked at (holds up board saying “HINT”)    and be ordering,

B: and like the housegroup programme, or Alpha, or all sorts of things

A: So we’ve dug up quite a lot about the danger of losing sight of God, and the need to check any teaching against the Bible; do you think the Vicar will talk about that?

B: No idea, but there’s more here, you know.

A: And you’re going to tell me that’s important to us today as well

B; And it’s – hang on, how did you know I was going to say that?

A: Just a hunch.    Anyhow, carry on.

B: What do you know about witness?

A: You’re not talking about giving evidence in court, are you?

B: No, I mean telling people about Jesus.    As he is talking to the disciples, he warns them that they will have some pretty rough times, being arrested, even beaten, things like that.    They are not to think that means the end of the world has come.    But then he says v10 (pauses)

A: You want me to look it up, don’t you?

B: Well, you do need to check that I’m telling you the right things, especially after what we’ve been saying this morning.

A: (picks up Bible)    OK, Mark, that’s New Testament, chapter 13 – what verse?

B: 10

A: “before the end comes, the gospel must be preached to all peoples”.    Hmm    That’s an amazing thing for him to say.    Just imagine them sitting in Jerusalem and thinking about the story of Jesus going round the world

B: and there being disciples of Jesus in every country!    But that’s not all!    Jesus also talks about the Holy Spirit guiding Christians to speak in front of their persecutors.    He was quite determined that people should know the gospel.

A: So we look back at the way the Christians did spread, and how they spoke up for Jesus.

B: and then we have to do the same!    Wales today is far less Christian than many parts of Africa or South America.    Even quite well educated people have no idea why Jesus is important or what he did, and they won’t know unless we tell them.

A: And with misleading teaching common, and all the troubles of the world as distractions the job is just getting more and more important.

B: Didn’t you say this gospel was a bit thin and obscure?

A: Me?    Well, perhaps I meant the Vicar would find it difficult.

B: But we’ll never know, because we’ve preached it for him.