Mark 13:5

Mark 13:5
Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you.

The first non-apocalyptic response is a warning that going down the line of being warned about a final line that, if crossed, will, at long last, trip me up, do me in, is a losing question.

Simply approaching such a line from decades away is no different than if we were already strides past a point of no-return.

Our predilection is to play out every pyramid scheme we have ever met. Putting more and more resources into a dwindling base is never a viable solution.

It is almost that we like being fooled. Scary movies or the latest political huckster both play off our thrill of living on the edge of disaster.

To hear a warning not to be deceived is to build a barrier against anything other than deception. E.E. Cummings put it well in his play, Santa Claus: A Morality:

Who can tell truth from falsehood any more?
I say it, and you feel it in your hearts:
no man or woman on this big small earth.
How should our sages miss the mark of life,
and our most skillful players lose the game?
your hearts will tell you, as my heart has told me:
because all know, and no one understands.

The disciples want to know about some mythologic tomorrow without understanding that tomorrow is very much an outgrowth of today. At stake is not avoiding suffering and death but having a resurrection in the present through changed hearts that trust good news to be truer than the most attractive and believable lie.

= = = = = = =

there will be many opportunities
to become deceived
this sign or that
will be touted
as a last coffin nail
for one argument or

the difficult work
is to not limit
where deception is attempted
your task is to learn
a gentle

deception flows
from self-deception
unto a world view
in univalent signs
creative ambiguity 

Mark 13:4

Mark 13:4
“Tell us, when will these things happen?
What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”

When will things fall apart?

This question has haunted people forever. Each generation complains about the next.

In some ways, this question about destruction is also a question about when new life will break through. Will what we are doing now bear good fruit seven generations down the line?

When Temple walls will fall apart, ask about when a Temple not made with hands will appear. It is quite problematic to ask about a Temple of any sort, for inherent in a Temple is an understanding that there are things or people who are not Temple worthy, regardless of whether the Temple is tangible or not.

There is a sense in which we can see the result of the “progress trap” we have set for ourselves—how we push past all limits until that which sustains is used up. This is an original sin through sociological and anthropological lenses. In the long run, we don’t seem to be able to help ourselves. A small book is helpful here, A Short History of Progress, by Ronald Wright.

Asking for a sign is an apocalyptic question. Many apocalyptic responses have come and gone over the generations. Every interpretation has come up short. The basic question seems to be about what life will be like after we’ve eaten our seed corn or so wrenched communal life from the common so only the rich have resources that have sucked another day’s existence out of the poor. Always the drama is writ large, the consequences worse than dire—terroristic and cannibalistic.

An apocalypse is an easy way to scare ourselves into responsible living, and each time the easy way fails to change our heart.

= = = = = = =

oh so curious are we
looking for every edge
a millisecond per trade
a reliable foretelling
to keep from being caught

unready for an earthquake
a lightning strike
volcanic eruption
another’s anger
a next addiction
a false equivalency

it is in our best interest
to get an insider word
giving advantage
over our competitors
lest we be one step late
crushed beyond recognizability

Mark 13:3

I am back to working on a book that takes a verse-by-verse look at the Gospel of Mark. Each verse has a comment and a stanza. Chapter 13 is seen by some as an apocalyptic section of Mark. That is too easy a reading. Here is the first of three verses that may still have an application for today. These next 3 posts were written in June 2018.

= = = = = = =

Mark 13:3
Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

Having been in the Temple and dealt with tests from all the major religious groupings, it is time to back off and reflect on what has been experienced.

Mark shifts his use of εἰς from indicating motion to now indicating a having come to rest. It is time to take stock. They may be at the top of the Mount in a place now named Dominus Flevit (meaning “The Lord Wept” as in Luke 19:41–44). They may be at the bottom of the Mount scouting for a later visit to The Garden of Gethsemane. Wherever they are, this is probably a place Jesus went to for wilderness outside the gates of Jerusalem. Here it was always time to pause and reflect.

It is worth doing our own pausing and reflecting about Andrew’s presence with the inner circle of Peter, James, and John.

If we use the shorthand of metonymy, Andrew stands for all the rest of the disciples. In current discipleship language, this is the priesthood of all believers where each is a marker for all. This partnership of leadership asks each to bear responsibility for the others. It is a loving of one another (John 15:12). This is a larger group alone with Jesus than just four. It is also a group that includes the Readers of Mark.

We are gathered around to hear what we expect to continue moving toward an end game where we cause a coup. It will be easy to slip into the gruesome imagery of the apocalyptic, but important to keep bringing ourselves back to the more realistic picture of simple eschatology that sits ready just beyond our current reach.

= = = = = = =

sitting across from
collection boxes
temple walls
market stalls
kitchen tables
legislative halls

shifts private to public
Peter loses his keys
James and John
lose locks on prestige
Andrew’s and other’s
sugarplums dissolve

such implacability
stares them down
walls thicker than thick
higher than high
trained horses ridden
sharp spears waved

what have we been thinking
fantasies become just that
talk of brave suffering
just talk
it’s finally sinking in
we’re sinking


the ancient story

patriots protect
evolving practices
focused on uniting

patriots resist
evolved results
restrictive on them

some patriots
work on continuity
others smash norms

no other word today
resists translation
across cultural divides

patriots insist patriarchy
for white males
an enduring value

patriots deny patriarchy
an enduring truth
requiring violence

= = = = = = =

[those interested in more can reference usage at Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia, which leads to Fourteen Words still furtively bedeviling societal health.]

Mercy Bound

As I listened to my regular Saturday night music – The Midnight Special on WMFT – I heard “Mercy Bound” as sung by Joan Baez. They were honoring her 80th birthday by playing a number of her recordings (including interesting snippets from interviews with Studs Terkel).

I was not familiar with Mercy Bound. In a first listening, I struck by a line, “In my mind I see myself”. I didn’t have a clear picture of the scene as I mostly heard the tone, solemn.

As is the case with radio programs, the music is here, and then it is gone. So I went searching for the lyrics. Links to a video of Joan singing Mercy Bound, its lyrics, and interviews are all listed below.

I had missed the opening line about “waking up in a dream” and now saw the context of a cultural scream of bypassed people in cold doorways. Last Wednesday, on the Feast of Three Magi, another scream was heard from people who did not have a dream of Mercy being anywhere near, much less ahead of them. There was only grievance and loss and an attempt to deal with that by causing grief and loss to the supposed winners of economic and political power. They have no expectation of a morning light streaming mercy into their lives.

The line that had caught me was a reflection on a woman in her first trimester of pregnancy (a condition of great hope and fear). The singer is surprised to recognize themself still with hope, as well as familiar fear.

It is in the singer’s imagination that a connection is made, and a “prayer” expressed that our common dreaming will lead us all to recognize we all are mercy bound. I expect it will take many more of these epiphanies before enough dreams can lead us through the current thrashing nightmare. May you keep your imagination fresh for the new social contract that needs making. May you forever know you are mercy bound, and a good way to ground that is by extending mercy, even to the unmerciful. (This does not mean avoiding accountability, but the context of such judgments is wider than strict justice.)

There are miles and kilometers to go before we sleep in peace and dream of mercy.

= = = = = = =

A video of the song is available at –

The lyrics by Mark D. Addison can be found at –

Interviews with Studs Turkel –

Pink Pen Offer

Having picked up a 4-pack of disposable fountain pens by Zebra, I decided to journal at least one page in each ink color. Where I usually find some encouragement with my usual archival quality inks (black and dark red), I find myself distracted by this pink. The pen fits well-enough in my hand and flows nicely enough. I find myself disconcerted by the color.

I expect there is something to the seasonality of color tones that go well with or clash with one’s skin or aura. It may be that same, usually unconscious, effect with word color on a particular page. At the same time, I am loathe to seek out a variety of papers on which to experiment with this ink.

I’m going to cut this comment short with the only positive I can come up with. Perhaps, among the readers here, there is someone who does appreciate words in pink. The first to indicate their desire for the pen and send their address will receive this pen and ink.

To assist in the decision-making, this post is being transmitted via an image rather than a font. Of course, you have to put up with my scrawl, but, hopefully, that will be a small penalty to pay for an ink pleasing to your eye. [Note: the picture did not translate well into my WordPress website and so this transcription.]

Citation Needed

Somewhere along the way, I encoded an image of a Holy Spirit as an eagle that swoops down to embed its talons or claws into the back of my head and drag me where I would not otherwise go.

I have thought it was in Nikos Kazantzakis’ manifesto, The Saviors of God. Not finding it there, I think the next possibility is his, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Since I would like to reference the image, I wonder if any readers here have also come across the image and know its source. There is also a touch of possibility it is in Kazantzakis’ Odyssey: A Modern Sequel or the work of Carlos Castaneda.

As I think about the image, it is a helpful corollary to a passive sign of safety brought by a dove returning to Noah with an olive branch in its beak. It also adds another dimension to a dove streaming down from a third-story heaven with an announcement of risk-inducing belovedness.

The claws of an eagle directing traffic are closely akin to a “Word” set loose in a creation setting, calling into being—earthling from earth. This is an intentional G*D at work in the world to discover any mechanism of further creation, such as partners.

The eagle is not a partnership image. It is directional in intent, even self-referential. G*D holds a non-verbal conversation with us to reinforce the need to save all those who have gone before and can no longer struggle to redeem their broken context. There are also overtones of necessity rather than fuzzy belovedness. The unborn need preparations made for them to flourish, and that, too, is our work.

Hints appreciated about the source of the image.


a scary truth
scars are bone-deep
an outer sign
of an inner shrivel

twisting contorting
avoiding reprisal
fails in its task
constant safety

anything built
can be brought down
babbling terror
denying its past

to honor a new tomorrow
requires equally honoring
each checkered yesterday

such depths require plumbing
for a desiccated seed
in need of watering

tomorrow demands
its ancestor
be found honored

follow proud flesh
to its marrow
to find our ’morrow


it’s true
I’m scared
of being scarred

so much so
its mere suggestion
stymies choice

only a next door
will avail
wherever it leads

no larger plan
is available
only present escape

looking back
a lack of scars
is the largest

so many gifts
aborted in fleeing
a flaying

so many gifts
still available
even now

lost is not forsaken
a hand to the plow
tills until

speculated scars
no longer scare
trust away


scars too many
one or many
leave us scarred
to the point of scared
of any more
reducing choices
resigned to passivity
ordered to murder
risk in its cradle
sheltered as best we can
beneath false narratives
inevitable scars
aft fore midship
scar scared
might be sacred
rising after
an unknown
into a shelter
become a retreat
deeper in wilderness
leading out
another way
past sad triumph
steady enough
to change scared of
to cared for
walking steady-eyed
ahead anyway