Jesus said, “All that you see here– the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
In the weeks leading up to Advent the western Lectionary gets apocalyptic. Today it comes out in full swing! The collection of readings emphasises the Christian apocalyptic dynamic in which we always live: already here/not yet.
Jesus is prophesying about the destruction of the temple – which has nothing, really, to do with the end of the world. The Apostles (quite logically) imagine such a threat as only possible in an end-of-the-world context. So Jesus points out all the other things that will happen before the End of the World. But, first, everything’s going to get torn down: in a matter of 40 years or so, really. But, even without all that stuff happening, Jesus’ warnings were needed: don’t let people tell you “There he is” or “Look it’s happening now!”
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
II Thessalonians 3:10-11
One day in 2010 Cam Miller, then Rector of Trinity ECUSA in Buffalo, NY, teaching an adult ed class on the Gospels, asked us to list “classes of people” in the Gospel stories and, as we were confused, he started a list on the board with 1, 2 and 3. Then we figured out the pattern and got the rest of it:
- The Apostles
- The Women
- Jesus family
- Tax Collectors
- The Scribes
- The Army
We came up with a few more as well. Then Cam asked us “Who are we?” The Apostles was a logical choice. But Cam pointed out that’s who we would want to be, but, as far as the story goes… “Sinners!” Yes, that’s true, but I mean, in terms of current parallels none of these categories fit. Who are we, in terms of history as we sit here in Buffalo, NY, in the middle of winter?
All of these people, in the Gospel story, live in Judea (he used the Anachronism of “Palestine” but set that aside for this post). Judea is an outlier provence in the Roman World where taxes are collected and olives are harvested. It is not, however, a place where olives are eaten – they are sent away. It is a place where bad politicians get sent by the Emperor for “special assignments”. It is a place where “Keeping the Peace” is a imperial command that is impossible to keep and one’s own death sentence.
Do we live in 1st Century Judea? (NO!)
Ok, then where are we?
Americans, in terms of the Gospels, are none of the people in Judea. We’re not in the story at all except as an “unseen hand”. We are most closely paralleled to Rome, to which all taxes go, all goods are sent, and from whom no secrets are hid. We are the gobblers and thieves who send out armies to “keep the peace” only so much as it benefits us (where “us” is defined as the bankers and companies that keep Americans shopping). We are Rome. What little good others get from our benignity is because we get a greater good from it. We do not send Charity so much as we send blood money. We speak of the Law of Supply and Demand as if we had not imposed it on the world with our guns.
In the end, Christian morals and ideas about purity, morality, equality, justice, and the Kingdom of God undercut the Roman Empire so much she had to start killing the followers of this new cult.
Please, God, it were so now.