Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

 

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.

 

Old Testament

Daniel 12:1-3

The Lord spoke to Daniel in a vision and said, “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

 

The Response

Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; *
I have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord,
my good above all other."

All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, *
upon those who are noble among the people.

But those who run after other gods *
shall have their troubles multiplied.

Their libations of blood I will not offer, *
nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

Lord, you are my portion and my cup; *
it is you who uphold my lot.

My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; *
my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the Lord always before me; *
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *
my body also shall rest in hope.

For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
nor let your holy one see the Pit.

You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

 

The Epistle

Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. [And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them 
after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts, 
and I will write them on their minds,”

he also adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

The Gospel

Mark 13:1-8

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

 

Commentary

There is, in passages here and there, a great rattling noise in Scripture, trembling and fear, foreboding predictions of the end of all things and the judgment of the world. Such a time is at hand. There is a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die. Do we consider the frailty of human life and human history as we ought? Do we contemplate our end? Are we waiting and watching? A religion that does not speak of death, that does not face it and name it, leads astray.

“There shall be a time of anguish,” says the prophet, “such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:1-2). Scripture encourages, it strengthens, and it teaches, but it also warns. “Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return” (1979 BCP, Burial I, p. 482).

Material life and material things, however precious, fail eventually. “As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’” (Mark 13:1-2). Jesus speaks of wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes in various places. The shaking of the foundations he calls “the beginning of the birth pangs.” This bracing announcement Scripture regards, though we may not initially, as Good News. It startles us to hear the most obvious thing, the mutability and frailty of life, a mortal end in dust and ashes. Indeed, we tell ourselves that we have forever, years and years, time to waste and squander. And so, as often happens, life is lived without attention, without awareness, and without purpose.

If the mortal end of human life is held in view, God’s eternity, immutability, everlasting essence, and attributes break through the fog of common human lethargy. Sometimes crisis gives clarity. “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Ps. 16:1-2). There is no good, no refuge, no hope apart from God, because he alone is from everlasting to everlasting. Almighty God is the source of all things, the continuing strength in all things, the guiding hand in all things, and the promise of everlasting life to everyone whose name is written in the book. You, O God, hold my lot (Ps. 16:5).

God has set boundary lines to human existence, limits in which we may live and move and have our being. And yet within the limits of human life, God has offered a goodly heritage, and good counsel; God instructs the heart and is ever near. God gives gladness and joy and secure rest to small human lives because he has deigned to enter our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. “I am with you always,” Jesus says, “even to the close of the age.”

Our mortal lives exhaust themselves. We can face this truth because God is our everlasting hope and peace and rest. Face your end by facing God.

 

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