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Breath of the Spirit

Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.

Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.

His goal was to instill the faith of Daniel in them, a faith which constantly looked forward to God breaking into the lives of the faithful and delivering them from all their problems.  



Daniel 12:1-3
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Mark 13:24-32

For almost a century and a half, scholars have debated whether the historical Jesus actually preached God’s kingdom among us right here and now, or whether he preached about its future arrival. Both opinions can be defended from Scripture.

But from those same Scriptures, we can be fairly certain what some of Jesus’ first century disciples believed on the topic.

All experts agree that one of the most difficult (and unexpected) things with which Jesus’ earliest followers had to deal was his “delayed Parousia.” We know from the earliest Christian writing we possess – I Thessalonians – that Paul was convinced Jesus’ Second Coming was just around the corner. He still was hoping for his imminent arrival when, ten years later in the late 50s, he wrote his first letter to the Christian community in Corinth. In it, he advised its unmarried members not to get married because the time between then and Jesus’ arrival was very “short.” They certainly wouldn’t get their hall deposit back if he appeared before the day of their actual ceremony.

Today’s gospel pericope from Mark most probably came from the last years of this “It’s just around the corner” belief. Though Jesus was still delaying, the “fig tree was about ready to bloom.” Mark might not be around to experience it, but he was convinced some of his readers would still be alive when it happened. His goal was to instill the faith of Daniel in them, a faith which constantly looked forward to God breaking into the lives of the faithful and delivering them from all their problems.  

This hope for an imminent Parousia began to fade by the mid-eighties when Luke composed his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. The third evangelist seems to be the first Christian author to presume that he and the community for which he wrote would all live their natural lives and die before Jesus’ return. That major change in faith automatically forced many Christians to switch their focus from the future to the here and now. More and more they began to zero in on the risen Jesus’ presence in everyone they met and every situation they encountered.

Within ten years, John’s gospel eventually appeared, featuring the novel theology of “realized eschatology.” Events which followers of Jesus had once presumed would happen at the end of their salvation history were already taking place as that history was still unfolding. (One need only listen to the chapter 11 exchange between Martha and Jesus on the occasion of her brother Lazarus’ death to surface an example of this new way of thinking. Note how John’s Jesus assures her that what she thought was going to happen in the future is already taking place as they speak.)

The author of Hebrews might not have totally bought into John’s realized eschatology, but he’s obviously concerned with making certain his community reflects on how Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed how we live our lives right here and now. No matter whether Jesus returns or not, we – unlike our Jewish ancestors - no longer have to worry about “sin offerings.” Our sins have already been forgiven.

But, getting back to the historical Jesus, can we know with complete certitude what he actually believed and preached? Probably not.

In spite of that, experts agree he certainly mixed both the future and the present in his preaching. Though he might have thought a special future event would drastically change the universe, he also was convinced that such a change would begin in the way we lived our daily lives right now.

Perhaps some of us have yet to acquire that kind of faith.


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