Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birth Pangs

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:1-13

We have been traveling and are now in the lovely Adelynrood Conference and Retreat Center in Byfield, Massachusetts, just west of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a beautiful, reflective spot and it seems ancient, gentle and settling, as if this place has always been here. It was established a long time ago, and yet I am reminded, that we before these lovely cottages existed, people walked the soft and rocky paths of these scrub woods for thousands of years before European settlers came. They may have disappeared from this place but they are all around us reminding us of God's good care and blessing, God's constancy despite all the change and decay around us.

The disciples admire the temple, but Jesus can only see the coming troubles and the radical changes ahead. So much good to come but there is also agony and death, hard wrenching, heart breaking changes, pain and anxiety, real fear and distrust. For the birth of a new way of God's love being in the world, the pain was great, the anxiety high. And he knew how fragile and human his disciples were, and how they would grieve the changes and live in fear for a time. He promised to see them through, and prayed mightily for their safety during the worst times.

Today, I ask God to help me to trust and pray during these changing times. I ask God to help me lean completely on God's love, trusting the birth pangs and changes to be worth all that is to come. May we all remember the temporary nature of our lives and the constancy and care of our loving Creator.

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