Text: Mark 13:1-7; 24-37
I took a course on the Book of Revelation in seminary. The course started about talking about how Revelation is read as sort of a prediction of the end times, and our professor pointed us to a website called “End of the World Predictions.” It’s website address is www.endoftheword2012.net. They had a countdown to the end of the world leading up to December 21st, 2012, and then 2012 came….and passed. Now that it’s 2016, I went back to look at the website and the message says, “December 21, 2012 was NOT the end of the world. That’s what we said all along, but if you click on this red button on the page, then you’ll find out there’s something much worse coming to the world very soon!”
In the text today, Jesus makes a series of predictions about the temple, and you have the disciples, sitting on the bank on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, looking with wonder across to the other bank at the temple asking Jesus, “When’s all this stuff going to happen?” Even back in Jesus’ day, people were fascinated with the end of the world, signs of the apocalypse.
But what happens when those signs of the apocalypse take over our lives? What happens when it seems like our worlds are ending, that everything’s crumbling and falling apart? Temples destroyed, trials, tribulation, conflict between friends and strangers alike, death and loss…..it seems like our worlds are always being turned upside down; signs of the apocalypse are all over the place, and the end is indeed coming. Jesus gives us a bit of gospel in the text today: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” In other words, signs of the apocalypse will come and go, but in the end, God’s promises in Christ are true and enduring.
But how do we live into that? How do we live in such a way that tunes us into God when so much chaos surrounds us and the trials seem to be unending?
We’re nearing spring time…..in fact, this past week felt a lot like spring is already here. And today begins daylight savings time, the clocks spring an hour ahead we get a virtual “extra hour” of daylight, which for farmers, allows you extra daylight to get fields ready and crops planted in time. My dad often called it “daylight’s SLAVING time” because of that fact – it was time meant for work. Part of spring time fieldwork for us was picking rocks. Tractor pulling the rock wagon, we would walk alongside the wagon, picking up rocks that would likely damage our equipment and throwing them in the wagon. Picking rock is hard work, lifting heavy rocks, digging some of them out of the ground….and spring is often windy and cold in Minnesota, so that makes it even worse. Yet, out in those Minnesota fields there were agates, small precious stones formed thousands of years ago by the glaciers that covered the land. They were quite beautiful….and my dad loved collecting them. When he found one he’s rush up to the tractor with joy and satisfaction and place it in the tractor’s toolbox and proclaim, “This is a good one.” But because agates were so small compared to all the other rocks out in the field, you really had to focus to identify them out of all the other rocks out in the filed; you had to be alert, on the lookout for them.
Jesus says, “Keep awake!” “Do not be led astray!” We’re to look for the Kingdom of God at hand in the world, for the presence of Jesus and trusting the good news that God’s word will never pass away. But as so often in Mark’s gospel, we learn the Kingdom of God is often unnoticeable among the rest of life’s happenings – old widows, blind men crying out along side the road, lame men brought on mats, mustard seeds, in the least, in the last, and in the servants of all. Yet the Kingdom of God and God’s promises are there, like a precious agate, but if we don’t keep awake, if we stray and focus instead on signs of the apocalypse, we’ll miss it.
Signs of the Kingdom are here in you among the signs of the apocalypse: the desire to feed others expecting nothing in return; a group of people made up of 3 churches worshipping together on Wednesday evenings; those who deliver meals on wheels every week; those who choose to bear the burden of leadership in our congregation for the sake of the whole; newcomers who come into our midst, looking for signs of the Kingdom themselves; and people choosing to bear life’s burdens with and for one another.
They may be hard to see, but they these signs of the Kingdom are here. Therefore, in the days to come, through life’s struggles, in light of the challenges we all face, in light of signs of the apocalypse….let us keep awake. God’s promises endure in God’s Son Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord is indeed among YOU. Let that be our focus….and above all, our joy. Amen.