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At the end of Mark 13, after revealing key elements of the future, Jesus tells his disciples: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (13:37). What does this mean for us? What happens when we watch? And how might this be relevant to our daily lives, including our work?
Mark 13 is sometimes called “The Olivet Discourse” because Jesus delivered it on the Mount of Olives (13:3). Others call this chapter Jesus’s “Apocalyptic Discourse” or “Little Apocalypse” because it reveals what will happen in the end times. (The word “apocalyptic” comes from a Greek word that means, “uncovered” or “revealed.”)
Several years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem. Of course I visited the Temple Mount, where once stood the stunning temple of the God of Israel. Today, the Temple is no longer. The Romans destroyed it in the first century A.D. The giant stones, from which the ancient Temple and its Western Wall were built, were thrown down from the top of the mount. It was sobering to visit this site and to see some of those stones, still lying randomly on the ground alongside part of the ancient wall.
Yes, I have drunk deeply at the fount of American self-reliance. Like so many of my fellow citizens, I admire people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and forge ahead with determination. I want to be one of those people. And I’m not alone. Most of us want to control our lives and our destinies. When we get in trouble, we expect to help ourselves out of it.
I remember as a young boy hearing this story of Jesus called “The Widow’s Mite.” That title perplexed me. I knew that a mite was a very, very small bug, something like a tick, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus, I didn’t understand why adults called the story of a woman putting a couple of coins in the collection box “The Widow’s Mite.” Only later in life did I figure out that “mite” also means “a little bit.” The widow didn’t throw a tiny bug in the offering plate. She gave a little bit, a mite, if you will.
I’ll never forget reading the first lines of The Purpose-Driven Life: “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
I’m sure Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many workplaces, in one-way or another. This can be quite fun, I’m sure, though I expect it could get messy, too. But, I don’t think giving cards, flowers, and candy quite gets what it means for us to love our neighbors as ourselves at work. If we are going to express our love of God by loving the neighbors in our workplaces, we need to do more than is traditional on Valentine’s Day.
When Jesus was asked by a Jewish theologian which was the greatest commandment of all, he began by quoting a crucial passage from the Jewish law: “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
But then Jesus added something unexpected, something extra, but not really extra at all.
In the last couple of days, we’ve been focusing on how we can love God with all of our strength in and through our daily work. Today, we continue to reflect on the notion of strength, but from a different and, I would suggest, absolutely essential perspective.
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