Mark 13:8

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This will be but the beginning of the birth-pangs.

the beginning of suffering
is not off
in some far distance
or just around the corner

the beginning of suffering
is already on
from a first change
to a previous breath

the beginning of suffering
ebbs flows
felt more deeply
subsumed under joy

the beginning of suffering
a lack of proof of anything
background radiation

Mark began with a reference to Creation, “the beginning”. His is a beginning of “Good News”—a report from the battle-front that the fighting is over.

This “beginning” goes back before various Words went out and day-by-day order was established where there was only roiling waters as “this” fought against every other “that”.

Reading multiple religious traditions finds evidence of beginnings and endings separating and merging. A sign can shift from a beginning to an ending and back again as we try to sort out what it is that means something and what is covering over what it means to live straightway.

All through what has become designated as a 13thchapter, we are hearing one attempt at continued awareness after another. The question of a sign has been raised by the disciples and Jesus is asking for a proactive awareness (Wisdom’s perennial work) over knee-jerk reactions that pull and push us into confusion (the Satan’s perennial work).

The anticipation of suffering, arrest, and death can be seen as the outcome of every proclamation of Good News. Likewise the anticipation of rising attends every sign of the end. Wisdom’s work is the sifting and sorting to see where we are on this rhythm of yin and yang.

The beginning of Good News is also a story of the beginning of Birth Pangs. These are the signs of a coin being flipped, of a reversal of a reversal. The idolatry of certainty is revealed as our attempts at consistency stumble, once again, against the life force of seeds growing even as we sleep. These signs of an end are, surprise!, the beginnings of a beginning we didn’t even know we were up to facing yet one more time.

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