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Hope & Courage - March 2012

by Kathleen Kastilahn

"There’s a sense of fear. People are losing hope..."

-Landon Anderson, 28, part-time UPS worker, Tampa, Fla., Chicago Tribune, Oct. 6, 2011

That observation pretty well sums up the attitudes of the American public whose list of woes and worries might start with keeping a paycheck coming in, then jump ahead to wondering if Medicare will be funded when they retire, then swing to fearing the continuation of the war in Afghanistan, and finally land—momentarily— on returning a phone message from the doctor about lab-test results.

Tomorrow’s list will be different, but no shorter. And with the 2012 election campaign ramping up, count on more negative aspects of our common life to be emphasized...and exaggerated.

We read this month’s Bible study on Mark 13:1–37 (p. 28) and can be tempted to identify our times with those Jesus foretold to Peter, James, John, and Andrew when they were sitting together on the Mount of Olives just days before the crucifixion: “For nation will rise against nation...; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines” (Mark 13:8).

Think, rather, what this sounded like to the first hearers of this gospel in about the year 70. They were Gentile Christians living in Palestine, probably close enough to Jerusalem to have been affected by the war Rome began there four years earlier, points out biblical scholar Mark Allen Powell of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, in his book The Gospels. The destruction of the Temple would have just happened or would have happened soon. It was truly a fearsome time. Possibly the beginning of the end. If not the end of the world, at least the end of life as they knew it. (And isn’t that another way to name our anxiety?)

Kathleen Kastilahn lives in Evanston, Ill., where she is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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