The context of this week’s gospel text is thought to be something like this: Mark’s community has experienced some set-backs, and those challenges were bringing into question their future. The central question for them was: “How does this journey we’re on end up?” In short, “When all is said and done, are we going to be o.k.?”
Mark’s community is living with uncertainty — between the angst of the present circumstances and an idealized future of “everything will turn out rosy.” In that context, Mark is attempting to keep the faithful from being falsely pessimistic without making them falsely optimistic. He wants to build into them a realistic hope without giving into fear, yet not being lulled into apostasy by fantasy redeemers and substitute messiahs. He does this by giving them a strong dose of encouragement in Christ.
At Bethesda, we are living in between what was and what is to come. An interim period can be an outstanding opportunity to ask important questions of ourselves and to seek and promote exciting, sustaining, substantive, and satisfying goals for new ministry. We’re not just waiting for the calling of a new rector, we are also trusting in a generous and loving God to give us new imperatives of mission and ministry, as we cast ourselves into a hopeful future. This requires of us a reliance on a wonderful legacy at Bethesda, a regular discipline of prayer, and a strong dose of encouragement for the years to come.