The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark the 13th Chapter
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven,and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
(This sermon is preached with a guitar in hand, but never played. Each time the text says (Guitar) I pick it up like I am about to play but then put it down again.)
(Guitar) You know, I had this text for the first time as a pastor in 1999. You know what the world was worried about at the end of 1999. Yup, Y2K... remember Y2K? It was going to be the end of the world. Lots of folks over the years have been convinced that they knew when the end was near. Countless folks have made their calculations and have figured out when the end would happen. I learned recently that right over in Camden Hills State Park there are the Millerite Ledges, where followers of William Miller went to wait to be taken up into heaven in 1844. William Miller was wrong and that day, October 22nd, is now known in history as “The Great Disappointment.” Lots of people, it seems, want to predict the day Jesus will return. (Guitar)
But you know, this passage has something to say about that. It says no one can know! Even Jesus doesn’t know! You would think that if God was going to let someone in on the plan, God would probably tell Jesus before any of us, but the Scripture is pretty clear. No one is ever going to be able to figure out the day and time that Jesus is coming back. When it does happen, it seems that things are going to be a really huge, cosmic sized, sun and moon going dark, stars falling from the skies, sort of mess. (Guitar)
Those End of the World, Sky is Falling type folks do get a ton of media attention for sure, but you know, I think there’s probably WAY more people out there who don’t believe Jesus will EVER come, than people who think he will. For most people, I would guess, the end of the world isn’t even worth thinking about... at least in this lifetime. God, if they buy into God, is out there just letting the little ball called earth spin on it’s own. God just doesn’t feel close.
But you know, this lesson has something to say about that too... You know... about Jesus NEVER coming back. His promise that he will return and the world will become again what God created it to be seems really clear. He gives the example of the fig tree sprouting. Winter does indeed seem to last forever, but year after year, summer does EVENTUALLY happen, even in the darkest, coldest, snowiest days of winter, like we’re headed into RIGHT NOW... we know somewhere in here, summer will eventually happen. Jesus says his return is just like that. Even when feels deep down in our soul, that God will never be back again, even when we are in the darkest, coldest days of our lives ever, we have the promise... it WILL happen. And God DOES have excellent track record on keeping promises. (Guitar)
But, is that it? Just wait? Just sit around looking up into the clouds with our mouths hanging open, waiting for Jesus to come and make things right while the world goes by? We know that Jesus will return. We know that it will be after some kind of cosmic darkness, but frankly it seems pretty cosmically dark right now. Still, we just have to wait? Hunger just needs to wait? Injustice and racism just need to wait? Poverty, disease, depression and suffering just need to wait? I hate waiting. I’m not good at waiting. (Guitar)
You know, waiting is the worst. I just hate it. I’m not a patient person and I can’t think of any waiting that I do well. I don’t wait well at the doctor’s office, or the airport, or for dinner, or for summer, or for vacation, or for things to get better, or for people to learn to get along, or to feel better or for just about anything. And yet here we are in this... Advent... a whole season dedicated to waiting. (feint to Guitar)
You know it’s the tension, that’s what gets me. It’s believing something is going to happen... you can almost see it about to happen, almost taste it, almost feel it. You are hoping that it’s going to finally happen soon... You’re sitting there on the edge of your seat waiting for it to happen and just waiting there all tensed up... waiting and waiting and waiting. THAT’S the part that makes waiting so hard. (Guitar)
But you know. That’s just what we are called to do. We are called to wait. That’s what Advent is all about. Reminding us that we are called to wait... and I suppose waiting is really a form of faith, isn’t it? It’s still hard though. The little clues and hints that we get from God along the way seem to help. Things like the Baptism we had today where God claims us and names us and promises to love us forever no matter what. Communion is another little clue that what we’re waiting for is really coming. It’s a little taste of the feast to come... an appetizer for the time when God will make all things new. Those little glimpses of God’s Kingdom do help with the waiting... but it’s still hard. (Guitar)
What if staying awake meant not so much waiting for the music to start, but starting to play the song? Amen.