Let’s be honest. These are strange, uncertain, and, for some, scary times. It may seem like it is the end of the world. Where is God in this? Is this a punishment? Is God on vacation? Why is this happening?
These are good, important, and natural questions to ask.
Our text for this week, from the Narrative Lectionary, is very timely (Mark 13:1-37). Jesus predicts the “End of the Age.” Everything in his disciples’ lives was about to change.
We can learn some things from this passage for this moment in our own story.
Now Jesus leaves the temple and his disciples echo the nationalistic sentiment of the day. “Look how beautiful and amazing our Temple is!”
The Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E.
Did the author of Mark know the Temple had been destroyed (meaning the Gospel was written after 70), or is Jesus predicting the destruction?
This is a cautionary tale for every generation. It is the human tendency to create something beautiful and then think that the created object is what matters most.
Yes, we are called to create beautiful things. Our creativity is a reflection of the creator of all things and is our part in co-creating a good, just, and beautiful world.
However, the creation is not the end goal.
One of Leonardo DaVinci’s Seven Principles is sfumato. It is an Italian word that means “up in smoke.” At the surface level it was simply a painting technique. At the philosophical level it was a life principle.
DaVinci believed that we should do everything we do like it was the most important thing we could be doing at that moment. Then, at the same time, hold everything we do with open hands, knowing that it will eventually go POOF! up in smoke.
Life is full of ambiguity and uncertainty, and that’s OK.
Could this be what Jesus is trying to communicate to us?
Yes, the temple is beautiful. But, eventually POOF! it will go up in smoke.
All that matters is the Kingdom of God, which is the way of love, justice, and mercy in the world.
In a moment when the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down your life as usual, how do you feel? What seems like it is crumbling and going POOF! What new opportunities are opening up that you have never noticed?
May you know that God is with you, even in our suffering. God walks in it and through it with us.
This post was an excerpt from A Cartoonist’s Guide to Mark 13.
A Cartoonist's Guide to Mark
Join the journey from January – April 2020 as we follow the Narrative Lectionary through the Gospel of Mark. Each week a new page of this graphic novel style visual commentary will unfold.