(Mark 13: 24-37)
Back when Teresa was keeping the grandkids in Edmonds I generally knew what ferry she was taking and about what time she would be home. She was usually pretty good about calling me from the ferry or while she was in line. This was good to know because I could calculate her estimated time of arrival and make sure the bed was made, the pile of clothes on the floor put in the dirty clothes hamper and the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. If I wanted to score some extra points I might even throw a load of wash in the machine and even turn on the dishwasher. Sounds like a pretty fool-proof plan doesn’t it. It only works if someone calls the fool to let them know they are on the way home. One afternoon, I was at the intersection of Irondale Road and Rhody Drive preparing to turn right when I spotted a gray Chevrolet Trailblazer coming out of the turn. It was around 4:30 p.m., a good two and a half hours before she usually got home. My son-in-law got home early so she was able to catch a much, much earlier ferry. I guess she thought she’d surprise me. Imagine my terror as she passed by and saw me at the intersection. A plan. I needed a plan. Maybe I could pass her by the airport cutoff and maybe she’ll get caught at the light by the U-Haul place. That might buy me enough time to kick the clothes under the bed, make the bed quickly and hopefully get to the dishes. No such luck. Busted.
If you were going to rewrite the Bible to include more contemporary stories this would be a good one. Imagine Jesus talking to his disciples and saying that there once was a lazy husband named Scott whose wife went away for a few days. She left him in charge of the house telling him that she wasn’t sure when she would be home but to be alert and don’t get caught short. You don’t want to be that guy. You don’t want to be Scott.
In our scripture reading for today that is basically what Jesus is telling his disciples. He is telling them that he will be going away but will return at an unknown and unannounced time, so they will want to be prepared and ready. They will want to have done as much as they could with all they had at their disposal.
He starts out by giving a description of what will happen marking his return. After the suffering of the time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. They will then see the Human One coming in the clouds with great power and splendor. He will then send the angels and gather together his chosen people from the four corners of the earth. He then gives a parable about the fig tree pointing out that after the branches become tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know summer is near. This is a sign that lets you know the seasons are changing and summer is coming. You know it. He tells them that the day will come when he will return but unlike the sprouting fig tree nobody knows when that day or hour will come. Nobody knows, not the angels in heaven or the Son. Only the father knows. He tells them to watch out and stay alert as they don’t know when the time is coming. He then goes on to give a description that they can understand. He says it’s like when someone takes a trip leaving the household in the care of the servants. He puts the servants in charge giving them jobs to do and things to take care of and tells the doorkeeper to stay alert. He tells them to stay alert because you don’t know when the head of the household will come back. It could be in the evening or at midnight, or early in the morning. Jesus issues a strong admonishment to not let him show up when you weren’t expecting and get caught sleeping. Jesus further stresses his point by bluntly saying, “What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!” He couldn’t be any plainer or more direct.
In our tumultuous times of thermonuclear war and widespread terrorism the truth that heaven and earth will disappear is all that much more believable. Many of us remember the air raid drills we did in elementary school during the Cuban missile crisis. Jesus tells us that no matter what, the truth of his words will never be changed or abolished. God and his word provide the only stability in an unstable world. As God’s chosen people, it is up to us to be his representatives of stability and the voice of calm and reason. It will happen when God feels the time is right and what Jesus is telling us is that preparation, not calculation, is what is needed. The way to prepare is to study God’s word and live by its instructions each and every day. Only then will you be ready.
In Mark’s gospel he tells us how to live while we wait for Christ’s return. He tells us not to be misled by confusing claims or speculative interpretations of what will happen. It will be beyond our comprehension. In the meantime, we should not be afraid to tell people about Christ, despite what they might say or do to us. While doing this, we must stand firm by faith and not be surprised by persecution. The truth is extremely hard for some people to accept. And, as we lead our lives, we must be morally alert, obedient to the commands for living that are found in God’s word.
It’s going to happen regardless, and we shouldn’t put off to tomorrow what we can do today. Are you prepared for Jesus’ return? Have you done all you can to prepare? Have you done all you can to prepare others? What else can you do, or should you be doing in preparation for his return? Don’t waste your time trying to estimate the time of his arrival. Use your time wisely preparing for his return.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious and loving God, how we long for the day of your Son’s return. We pray that we use the time and resources that we have here on earth to do your work and your will as we prepare for that joyous day. Guide us through the Holy Spirit to bring others to you and to help them prepare for that great day. Keep us mindful, as your chosen people, of our obligation to prepare the world for the coming of your Son even in the face of great resistance and opposition. Help us to live the kind of lives that serve as living examples of what it means to live in anticipation of an eternal life with you. In the name of all that is great and good, in your Son’s name, we pray, amen.