Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mark 13:1-8

It seems to me that entropy law has profound religious implications, which I have neither the intelligence nor the time to fully explore. As I become more faith-ful or faith-like these themes are creeping into my novel. In these “faith” entries I will do my best to treat these themes thoughtfully.

Today in church, St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church in Jersey City, which I attend with my boyfriend, pastor’s sermon was about Mark 13:1-8.

1As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"

2"Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?"

5Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

The first comment I have is that it is extremely humbling to know that all of our superstructures must and will fall one day. These structures are imbued with the aura of power, permanence, the inevitability of the whims and dictates that come out of them. We never built pyramids or mounds to burry the dead. We do not build skyscrapers for the office space. We build them to announce that our offices are superior, that the work that happens in those offices is important and necessary and majestic. This is also what makes these buildings targets.

But to entropy everything is a target. Eventually the superstructure—be it a building or a dam or a space station—will become too unstable to sustain our massive energy inputs meant to sustain it, or it will lose its usefulness for us to the point that we withhold those energy inputs, forcing it to fall.

My second comment is that sacred places where we go to ‘meet God’, be they manmade or of the natural world, are not impervious to entropic decay. As pastor pointed out, Jesus’ favorite place in Jerusalem, amid the ‘magnificent buildings’, was the temple. The Romans destroyed this temple forty years after Jesus’ death. All the mountain tops will eventually crumble away. So, pastor told us, what is necessary is to meet God not (merely) in the physical, sacred spot of your choice, but to carry that spot with you everywhere in the symbol of the cross. Meet God everywhere you are. The cross is incorruptible. It does not corrode. Entropy cannot touch it.

Faith in the infinite is the antithesis of entropy. Because entropy has always preoccupied mankind, and has been acted out in front of our faces on a daily basis, faith may have been conceived of as an answer or antidote to the knowledge that the physical world and the universe will die. Entropists call this ‘heat death.’ Jesus says that this death “is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” What could he have meant? Maybe he was telling his disciples that once the physical world is truly at an end, there is something… more.