Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

Climate & other crises

16 November 2021

We've remembered 9/11. We've remembered the casualties of two world wars and the many wars since those dark days. We've just seen the explosion outside Liverpool Women's Hospital and the raising of the national threat level. And we are hearing the usual bluster following the COP26 conference, with little that might give us reason to hope for the survival of the 1.5°C limit to the growing climate crisis.

Maybe it's the effect of this over-long covid pandemic that has disrupted so much of our daily living that has heightened the sense of unease that has gripped us. It is hard to grasp the actual reality that humankind itself faces an uncertain future. Everything - perhaps really everything - that has been so normal, so placid, so predictable in the past is now riddled with uncertainty.

So the lectionary reading for last Sunday - Mark 13: 1-8 - seems very appropriate for our current dilemma. But the heading of the passage in most Bibles nowadays is "The Destruction of the Temple is foretold" or words to that effect, and that rather misses the point of the passage.

It's important to remember that this gospel was written some forty years after Jesus died, probably just after the Romans besieged and sacked Jerusalem in 70CE. The Temple was destroyed and the population largely scattered into Gentile territory. The long period of Israel's tenure of their land had come to an end, as also had their Temple worship and the priesthood. This was a catastrophe that the Jews thought could never happen. After all, the Temple and the land were the gift to them from Yahweh - how could they possibly be taken from them?

Mark puts into the words of Jesus this sense of nervous expectation that things were about to change for ever. Jesus commonly argued with Jewish leaders about the way in which they controlled the Jewish people and exacted taxes and loyalty from them. The widow's mite is a story of injustice against the poor, rather than a story about generosity. The widow had no choice if she wished to remain a citizen.

We hear so much these days of tax havens, of politicians with lucrative side-lines, about seven-figure bonuses paid to top executives while the lower-paid have to rely on social benefit as top-up, about parents having to choose between heating and eating. It is this sort of injustice that Jesus was confronting. The hold that the Jewish leaders had over the people was doomed. The Jewish hierarchy could not rely any longer on their privileged position. With the coming of the reign of Yahweh, which Jesus believed would be soon, such injustices would cease. Harmony and equality would prevail. If only!

We're still waiting. And the same injustices still pervade our lives. It is not only the climate that is in crisis. And it's worth remembering that 'krisis' is the Greek word for judgement!

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