Summary: Jesus invites us to "Watch, stay awake". As we watch, we are invited to see through the eyes of Jesus. Watching helps us to see the hope in the midst of terror.
1 Advent B Mark 13:24-37 1 December 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
Elie Wiesel is a Jewish writer whose novels prod the depths of the Holocaust, asking difficult questions of humanity and of God. In Night, a child hangs from a S.S. gallows and the question goes up, “Where is God?” Wiesel writes: “And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is he? Here he is. . . he is hanging on this gallows.’” (Night, Bantam Books, 1982, pp. 61-61).
Today we begin Advent, a season of waiting, anticipating, hoping for the coming of the Christ who will save us from all that seeks to destroy us. Advent, a time when we desperately look for hope, or at least a respite from the terror that seeks to drown us. We might echo the words of Isaiah, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” We might simply be lost and confused with little hope breaking into our world.
Today we read Mark’s description of the difficulties of the age and we know some of the fear and we look to the hope. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” And we hope that it is true, that it will happen soon.
Marks’ gospel is one of action and few words. Mark records only two sermons of Jesus, one in Chapter 4 and this one in Chapter 13. In Chapter 4 the key word is “Listen”. He says, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen.” He is surrounded by people unwilling to listen, people unwilling to listen to Jesus and hear what he is really saying. They refuse to hear in his words the voice of God speaking of a new way of living, a purpose for creation that is not based upon power and violence. To truly listen is to listen with the filter of Jesus Christ, to hear the cries of those in need and hear that true power comes in service of others.
In Chapter 13 the key idea is “Watch”. “Keep alert, keep awake!” See the world as God sees the world. Use the filter of Jesus Christ to see the world as it really is. See the events of the world as Jesus sees them. In the midst of terror, recognize that God is there. Recognize evil for what it is, an empty promise of meaning which is meaningless. Do not look elsewhere to find meaning, meaning and purpose to life is found only in the one who created the world, who promises to save all those who look to him in times of terror.
Today’s text begins with foreboding and terror,
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.
Frightening events, but events that can seem insignificant in light of the terror that faces us today. We only need to mention September 11 and images flash through our minds, we know terror that has crept onto our safe continent. We live daily with the prospect of war in Iraq and a world leader determined to have war at any cost. Every week we hear of another suicide bomber, a young person willing to die for a cause killing everyone around. We hear of another discovery at a pig farm in Coquitlam and all those with daughters know a fear deep within. We know the terror of our own streets where we dare not walk after dark. We know the terror of disease that strikes in spite of amazing advances in medicine, in spite of the best efforts to keep healthy. We know terror faced with a culture that is proving so toxic to our children. No, we don’t need images of darkened skies and falling stars to know terror.
To this terror, Jesus tells us to “keep alert, keep awake, watch! Do not be held hostage to seeing things as the forces of evil would have you see.” “Watch!” See things as God would have us see them. See God in the midst of terror promising hope. Recognize that God gives life meaning, life is not defined by the fear or the promises of that which seeks to control us. Recognize evil for what it is, and recognize God at work even in the midst of evil. See in a new way, keep awake to God’s way of seeing.
David Miller, the editor of the ELCA magazine The Lutheran, speaking for the United States, but also appropriate to Canada writes:
Faithfulness to Jesus challenges our pinhole vision of the world.
It is time to broaden our vision. It’s time to move beyond our national fixation with evil ones who would harm us and see the broken ones who need us. . . . The church is one of the few institutions in society that, if it is faithful, regularly challenges our peephole vision of reality. It assist us to rise above ourselves to see the need and pain in God’s world. (November 2002)