XXIV Pentecost, Year B
1 Sm 1:4-20 or * Dn 12:1-3
1 Sm 2:1-10 * Ps 16
(1 Samuel 1:4-20)
On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: "O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head." As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, "How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine." But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time." Then Eli answered, "Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him." And she said, "Let your servant find favor in your sight." Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I have asked him of the LORD."
(1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. "There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed."
(1 Samuel 2:1-10)
1 Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the LORD;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
2 "There is no Holy One like the LORD,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.
10 The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed."
* (Daniel 12:1-3)
"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.
And 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.
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." 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.
“What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Those of us embedded in, reliant upon "religion" and its false controls of the mimetic crisis we fear do not look forward to the "end." It doesn’t seem that it will be very pretty. It is the collapse of the sacred. It is the demise of the victimage mechanism. This is the end. As Rene Girard has pointed out it is ‘the war of all against all.’ It is the complete inability of the mechanism of violence to deal with the problem of mimetic rivalry and violence. It is the out of control escalation of mimetic crises that no longer find resolution. There is no longer any ritual outlet. This is the end that Jesus expects.
Take a good hard look at this text. Nowhere in Mark 13 is God behind the violence of the apocalypse. It all stems from human origins. The collapse of the sacred reveals the purely human origin of retribution. Retributive religion is the faith of the worshippers of the mimetic gods. And the structures they erect both in the physical and in the spiritual world will come crashing down around them.
The desacralization of churches, mosques and synagogues can be seen in the world wide damage that has been done to them all in wars, disputes, bombings and racist activities. No one any longer fears the wrath of the god of the other. No god appears to be on one side or the other. Every side claims God on their side but the evidence suggests otherwise. It would appear that God does not discriminate between his/her children. He makes rain to fall on the evil and the good and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. God forgives his enemies. Not exactly the God that has been taught globally for the last two thousand years.
That God, the vanishing global God is the god of violence. And the god of violence is showing his tremendous power at the turn of the twenty first century since Jesus was here. We are finding that we despise violence in all its forms. Child abuse and spouse abuse top our lists, as do rape, robbery, assault and murder. But we are also beginning to see that war, colonization, industrialization, urbanization and bias are also forms of violence. So also is religion. So don’t be surprised that one stone shall not be left upon another. We may weep for those who have no hope beyond their gods of violence, but we do not fear for ourselves.
On the other hand, Jesus’ use of apocalyptic is quite different from that of his known contemporaries. He does not give detailed or extensive descriptions of heaven or hell. Unlike the apocalyptists, there is no theme of Jewish nationalism in Jesus. Neither is there a holy war.
Mimetic theory helps to see what Jesus is doing with apocalyptic: he is subverting its populist categories. But he does the same thing in regard to halakic debates, ‘messianic’ titles and with parables. Jesus is out to overthrow the Powers, including the powers of our linguistic mythmaking (which is what apocalyptic is) because it invariably contains a scapegoat. We might put it this way: Jewish apocalyptic has a theologically centered perspective while Jesus has an anthropologically centered apocalyptic viewpoint.
One of our major problems with the ‘quest of the historical Jesus’ has been that Jesus does not appear to be either a consistent or profound thinker. We believe he was. We hope we have been able to demonstrate that premise, this Year B, as we applied mimetic theory to the gospels and then asked what historical-critical questions it has cleared up for us.
Yes, we are moving to a religionless time, a time after the end, a time when Jesus shall indeed take his place over all space, time and history and in turn surrender himself one last time to the his abba, bringing us with him. If, in the meantime, we should desire to live now as we will live then, then we have seen that even though it is the end of our time in the gospel of Mark, it is not quite the end of the story of Jesus. He must still make his way to the Cross which awaits him. And we likewise are called to ‘carry a cross.’
The cross is the singular place where the principalities and powers have their shot at Jesus and at us. They failed with regard to Jesus. He forgave his persecutors. Since there was no curse on him, since he had done nothing to deserve such a fate, he was vindicated on the third day when He was raised from the grave, and he brings us with him. But know this: The principalities and powers do not want us to believe it is all over for them. They want us to live for them, not for God. They deceive and delude and seduce us. (Maybe the interesting premise behind the movie The Matrix captures this image well.) We become possessed (living to obtain possessions and defending our possessions [both material and non-material]).
What does Christianity without religion look like? For starters, it is a faith that is grounded in the benevolence of the Creator. It rejects the importation of negative mimesis into its theology. It respects the life affirming character of God. As we have tried to show here on preachingpeace.org, this has important consequences for the way we structure our ‘systematic theology.’ Christians will indeed tremble as their traditions are exposed as little more than Christic versions of scapegoating, many will perceive themselves in an mimetic battle of epic proportions and though they will parade themselves on the side of truth, justice and the Christian way, in fact they will be scapegoating others at an alarming rate. Thus they will prove themselves worthy disciples of the mimetic gods.
The confluence of Evangelicalism and certain sectors of the American social and political establishment is currently the most significant symptom of the disease of mimesis as it affects Christianity. A Christian culture or perhaps we should say, one that professes to be such (as some assert) would never countenance the kinds of war and retribution and retaliation that we seen from both politicians and heard from preachers in recent years. If indeed America is a ‘Christian’ culture, it should be noted that Jesus does not found cultures, he deconstructs them. This so-called ‘great Christian country’ is about to find out it is not so Christian after all because it is not like Jesus. The agent that will help precipitate this crisis is you.
The announcement that that God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ rejects retribution and retaliation is the one thing the generative mimetic scapegoating mechanism does not want you to preach. The announcement that the God of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness is revealed in Jesus is poison to the principalities and powers. You are the ones who can bear witness to this and thus begin the demystification of the powers as they infect the lives of those you shepherd. Your choice to hear the clear witness of the goodness of the gospel of Jesus and to follow Jesus as you are constantly led by his Spirit is the real hope of the church. In times in which it feels as though everything that had been rock solid is now ground quaking under our feet, those of you compelled to preach the gospel of Jesus can rise up and boldly announce the good news of the God of both Jews and non-Jews, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
We hope that our reading of both Mark and John this Year B has proven fruitful to you. We encourage you, if you are not already doing so, to read Rene Girard’s books. We invite you to take a look at the Colloquium on Violence and Religion and its journal Contagion. (JEFF: INSERT WEB LINK) One of our fellow members of the COV&R also hosts a lectionary based Girardian website. Paul’s insights are invaluable, his illustrations are clear and his pastoral vision is acute. (Click here to go to Paul’s site, Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary) Finally, remember to write to us so we can get to know you and your concerns.
It might appear that we have spent a lot of time reflecting on the negative aspects of things eschatological. That is only because there is so little christological eschatology being done out there. As a closing comment we would like to say this. Jon Anderson and Yes in the song ‘Holy Lamb’ summarize our eschatological views best: “And all we need to know is that the future is a friend of yours and mine.”