“Keep Awake! Be Alert!”

Mark 13:24-37

December 3, 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 13:24-37

 

“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.”

 

Prayer.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

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We thought we were privileged,

Living in the greatest nation on earth,

Enjoying prosperity and abundance and wealth.

After all, the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and fixings

Are still probably lurking in the back of our refrigerators.

Am I right?

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

 

We thought we were privileged,

Yet we are traumatized by the oppression of racism.

The most segregated hour in America is from 11:00 am to 12:00 noon on Sunday mornings.

We are traumatized by gender inequality.

Gentlemen, it takes a man to recognize the fact

That women face far greater barriers to promotion and compensation that men do.

When a woman walks through the doors of a clinic or a hospital

She is treated far differently than a man.

Oh, yeah, we don’t have to give birth, either.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

 

We thought we were privileged,

Above it all.

We are traumatized by sexual abuse in America.

Numbed, actually.

Accusers and the accused abound:

Charlie Rose, Matt Laurer, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Bill O’Reilly,

And our own POTUS, Donald Trump.

The list goes on and on and on and on.

Sexual abuse is so pervasive on university campuses, medical centers, halls of banking and business, and the factory floor,

Our own local institutions of pride

Have become tarnished and the curtain has been pulled back

For all the world to see.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

 

We thought we were privileged,

The elect, the chosen, the dominate.

Christianity was the establishment 40 years ago in America.

Now, we can be counted among the remnants;

Our once powerful, culturally ensconced church is being dis-established.

Our post 9/11 security state causes us to ping pong

From crisis to crisis.

Public violence, terrorism, and rogue dictators

Dominate the news cycles, inflamed by cable news and social media.

Partisan politics and rising populism around the globe

Cause us to opine for “the good old days,”

Before the train wrecks that are piling up in many world capitals.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

Just what. Do. You. Do?

 

Over the past three months

We dined on the conclusion of Christ’s ministry

In the Gospel of Matthew.

It was a cataclysmic clash in the Temple

Initiated by Jesus,

Slamming oppressive Judaism and its leaders,

Which would become the immediate catalyst for his

Arrest, trial, and death.

Watch and wait, Jesus taught his followers.

Watch and wait, for I will return.

Indeed, every serious student of the Gospel

Must take our Lord at his word.

 

Christ will come again.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

We watch and we wait for Christ to come again,

Bringing judgment to all,

Punishment to some,

Eternal life to the rest,

To the faithful and righteous.

 

Today we are launched into the Gospel of Mark,

Set afloat in a new liturgical year,

Starting with the season of Advent;

A time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus.

Of course, the baby Jesus comes every year.

Those of us with any vestige of memory or experience in the faith,

Can attest to the fact that

When all the candles are lit

and Silent Night is sung at the conclusion of Christmas Eve services,

The annual return of the baby Jesus

Will be celebrated by pealing church bells across the land.  

Christmas is approaching

And we will celebrate the birth of Christ!

 

Christ has come.

Christ will come again.

 

Take note on this first Sunday of Advent,

(really, it’s kind of hard to miss it)

That our season of waiting begins with talk about the apocalypse,

Mark’s reference to the end of the world.

Remember, eschatology is the study of the end.

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Apocalypse is the end.

Apocalypse from the ancient Greek: apo-kalypsis,

Literally means “an uncovering” or a “disclosure of knowledge,” or “revelation”.

Mark is reporting Jesus’ revelation,

His uncovering,

Of how the world will come to an end.

 

Mark 13 is referred to the “mini-apocalypse” by New Testament scholars;

The center, balancing point in the Gospel,

Where Jesus reveals to his disciples,

Peter, James, John, and Andrew,

While overlooking the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives,

That the Temple will be destroyed.

This Temple right in front of us will be destroyed.

 

There will be conflicts among nations, earthquakes, and famines,

Jesus promises.

The faithful will be persecuted by trials, betrayed by brothers,

And children will rise against parents, putting them to death.

Jesus paints on the apocalyptic canvas

That the faithful will be scattered around the world,

The elect will be chosen and the rest will have their days cut short.

Fake messiahs and false prophets will appear and attempt to lead the faithful astray.

This is how the world will end, Jesus promises.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Nothing says let’s enter the season of Advent

To prepare to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus

Quite like our Lord’s violent, disturbing apocalyptic vision.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

 

While it may feel today like the world is coming to an apocalyptic climax,

Remember, the Temple was destroyed 40 years after our Lord’s prophecy.

That was 1,900 years ago.

We’ve been waiting for his return

While experiencing personal, mini-apocalypses ever since.

 

Quite frankly,

I have yet to be convinced the world today is falling apart any worse

Than any other time in Christian history.

Have we forgotten inquisitions, world wars, and genocide?

Just because they were before our time doesn’t mean they weren’t just as horrific.

 

Yesterday is as is today,

And it will be as tomorrow.

 

Historical context and perspective is helpful

To calm our anxiety and anchor us in a solid foundation of faith,

Built upon Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

Past. Present. Future.

 

Jesus was born, in the past.

Christ is with us in the present, by and through his Holy Spirit.

Christ will come again in the future.

 

Jesus was born

To be the light of the world,

To redeem the world, and

To bring salvation to the world.

 

Christ will come again,

In this we hope and place our faith.

The end will come.

Judgment will take place.

One way or another,

Christ plans a prominent role in our future.

 

By starting out Advent in the Gospel of Mark

With Christ’s apocalyptical discourse

We are given directions about how to wait

And what to watch for

During this in-between time.

 

What do you do when the whole world is falling apart?

 

We survive.

Even better, we thrive

In the trauma and crisis of a sin filled, violent world.

We survive and thrive

But relying on the Christ who is with us;

Present with us,

Guiding us in the choices we make,

Assisting us whenever our faith begins to falter or fail.

Yes, we look forward to Christ’s second coming,

Yet, Christ’s vision of the end

Is one of ultimate victory of good over evil.

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Our Lord’s apocalypse forces us to rely upon the God we presently have.

It begins at the foot of his cross

Not beyond in some futuristic landscape.

 

The cross is where we meet

The Christ who is come,

Who is present with us here today.

 

Just as we could never imagine God sending us His Son,

Being born a child, to redeem and save the world,

We can only imagine other places God intends to be made present and known.

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During this season of Advent,

Christ invites us to look for God,

Anticipate and expect God to be found

Where you and I could not even dream.

 

As this world is falling apart,

Can you imagine God present and at work

To heal plagues of racism, sexism, and misogyny?

Can you and I imagine Jesus Christ

Present and at work

To end abuse in the work place and

To end violence on the streets,

Healing both the abused and the abuser?

During this season of Advent,

Can you and I imagine Jesus

Healing nations,

Bringing justice to the oppressed, and

Ushering in peace to all people?

 

Jesus is named the Prince of Peace for a reason.

 

Let us live our lives today,

Watching,

Waiting,

For God to be breaking into our lives in the here and now;

Not only in some future time, but into our life today.

 

Let us gather at the foot of the cross.

Expect God to be where God would be unexpected and uninvited.

 

Watch for the signs;

The cosmic order being disturbed,

The sending out of angels,

The gathering of the elect.

 

Keep awake.

Watch.

Prepare.

Lean on the God who is with us,

Depend upon him,

Even as we anticipate the Christ that is promised to come.

 

Christ has come.

Christ is come.

Christ will come again.

Just watch it happen.

Amen.