Dear Friends, Neighbors and Members of Siloa,
The first Sunday in December, the first Sunday of Advent, begins with this Gospel reading from Mark’s 13th Chapter:
24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27 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.
32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
When Mark's Gospel was first beginning to be read in Christian congregations, the world was a scary place in ancient Judea. In 70 A.D., some 40 to 50 years after Jesus was executed on a Roman cross, rebels had been fighting against the Roman occupation. But Roman troops besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and crushed the rebels. The Jews and the Christians mourned the loss of their holy temple, and the dashing of their hope for freedom. Those were dark, hopeless days. The Babylonians had destroyed the temple for the first time in Jeremiah's day, and now it happened again, after so much effort to rebuild the nation. It happened all over again. A double-tragedy. Unbelievable.
We might, from time to time, feel that our days are threatening and difficult, but our nation is safe and secure. There are dangers and threats, but none of them could come close to destroying our country. Syria today knows about true destruction. The great ancient cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria know about true despair. In defeating ISIS, the allied forces nearly destroyed each of those cities. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians wonder if they will ever be able to go home, or if the joys of the past will ever return.
However, we do know what it feels like to worry about our own lives and our own families and our own country. Terrorism, political anger and polarization, debt, and addiction, the lack of adequate housing, jobs and income are a source of real chaos for too many. We worry, also, about the future of our churches and our congregations.
To a traumatized people Jesus says, "Watch, look, stay awake!" What he means is that, even in the midst of great confusion and threat, God is present, working, moving to keep God's promises to God's people. God is doing new things to bring new life even out of our sin and pain and loss. "Take heart!", says Jesus to the Christians of Mark's day and to us as well. God will come. God's patience and strength is eternal. Jesus proclaims, "Be a people of Hope even in the darkness! And, celebrate and give thanks for the Light!"
As we prepare for Christmas, hear the call of Advent. "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. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
There is a lot that we do not know. But, God knows. Peace, Interim Pastor Daniel Olson