Monday, December 1, 2008

Things Are Bad; The Sky Is Falling; Jesus Is Coming Again!

Things are bad. The little red hen would say the sky is falling. Mark is telling us to not panic. Jesus is coming again.
There is war in the Middle East. The economic conditions aren’t getting better fast enough. Companies are laying off employees. Some companies are almost bankrupt. People are starving. Murders are reported every day on the news, some not too far away in Omaha. Can the end be close at hand?
When the gospel according to Mark was written people of the Way had seen their brothers and sisters dragged before local authorities, sometimes by members of their own families. War was all around them and some of the things Mark is alluding to may have already taken place. In fact the temple in Jerusalem may have been destroyed already. As one commentator pointed out, “That was the bad news, stuff that the community didn’t need to be told.” Things looked like they couldn’t get much worse.
When bad things like this are going on you can’t just say, “Don’t worry. Be Happy.” That might not go over too well. Someone just might take a poke at you. Instead we need to acknowledge the terrible things that are taking place and share in the grief they are feeling before we say, “Don’t panic. God has everything under control.”
Is our world in any better condition today than it was when Mark wrote this gospel lesson? We may not have war in our country but we do have men and women from our country who are in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world. And there is the fear that terrorists may even strike here. If not here they may attack and kill Americans who are travelling in Europe or other parts of the world where there is unrest. As the news said this week they may be doing this to bring attention to the pain they are experiencing in their part of the world, or to bring attention to the unfair conditions and injustices in their countries.
It doesn’t make this message any easier to listen to. But the truth is God is in control. And he does care what’s happening here in our world today. After all He did send His Son to this world so that the world could experience first hand what He, God, was like. The kingdom of God came down to earth as a fragile little baby.
There weren’t many people anticipating the arrival of the Messiah and there weren’t any here who understood what it meant. The prophets predicted it and there were some religious of the day who were waiting for it to take place but they really didn’t understand what that meant. Oh they thought they did but they really had no idea what God’s plans were.
It’s not any different today. Friends, there is trouble everywhere, even right here in Walnut, Iowa. The school struggles to keep operating as an independent entity. The town struggles to survive in this new economy where people’s budgets get tighter and tighter. People are worried about their jobs, their retirement incomes, and the unrest in the world. And then we hear today’s Message that says, “It’s okay. These things are going to happen but it’s not the end of the world.” No one knows when Jesus is going to return. All we know is He promised that he was coming back.
And so we wait and work and hope. And we continue on doing the work we have been given to do to make disciples of all the nations. We continue doing God’s work while keeping an eye on the things going on around us, keeping an eye on the horizon watching for Christ’s second coming.
The prophet is crying to God to tear the heavens apart and come; the psalmist is calling on God to restore our fortunes; the community in Corinth is waiting for Christ to be revealed and Mark’s little apocalypse helps us understand the birth pangs of the world around us. Only God knows the schedule of events.
This is the beginning of Advent. Are we as excited about Jesus coming again as the children are to see Christmas arrive?
Some questions to ask ourselves are: “What are we waiting and hoping for-for each of us as individuals, for our church, for our community, for the world?” Isaiah was waiting and hoping that God would come and make his presence known in the world. He was hoping for one thing and God did something different. What are you waiting and hoping for?
This season is a time for reflection and penitence. A time to reflect on where we should be, on our knees, full of faith, changing the direction of our lives, waiting, watching, working, knowing that all will be well because God’s in control.
Are you waiting for God’s kingdom to come? It has already arrived. God’s kingdom comes when we hear the Word and believe it. When this happens then we will realize true peace in our lives.
Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son. Amen.

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