The Rev. Manny Borg, Episcopal priest and city boy, muses on Advent, the Gospel, and stopping to pat wild turkeys.
1st Sunday of Advent B Cycle. St. Nicholas. Nov. 27, 2011
HERE HE COMES AGAIN…BUT JUST WHEN?
But, we can not focus solely on the end time… let’s face it, none of us wants to think about our final days while there is so much yet for us to do, to experience and celebrate. I’m waiting for the Lions to play in a Super Bowl game… Cub fans are waiting for a World Series appearance… and yes, these are minor things to some, and so they are in the grand scheme of things.
Boy scouts are told, as their motto states to, “be prepared.” Apparently, history has given us individuals who, in the spirit of the scouts, have taken this motto to spiritual heart, as we’ve had countless prophets who have been rather public and particularly vocal about their preparedness for Jesus’ second coming. Problem has been that the times and dates of these soothsayers have provided have all been off…we’re still here, aren’t we? Simple fact is they were flat out wrong with their predictions of the end of time as we human beings recognize and appreciate. However, their bigger offense, the graver sin was that these doomsday officials tired to do some thing that even Jesus Himself could not nor would not do! How can any mere mortal assume to know when this existence as we know it will come to a screeching halt, to a total and complete conclusion? How dare they condescend to play God…yet that is what they tried and they failed miserably. Again, we’re still here and Jesus is still, “in the wings,” awaiting His return to this, His “earthly performance,” upon this, His “earthly stage.”
This passage from St. Mark, the first of the four gospels in the New Testament, though only one of the many gospels relating the life and lessons of Christ, is a rather dark and prophetic passage. Jesus clothes His message of His second coming in stories that His Jewish audience would certainly understand. Before He returns, He says there will be wars and earthly violence. The people listening to Jesus would remember the words from the prophets. For example, the prophet Ezra wrote, “Quakening of places, tumult of peoples, scheming of nations, confusion of leaders, disquietude of princes.” Jesus also said that there will be the darkening of the sun and moon and “the outgoing of the stars shall change.” This eerie prophecy was also spoken of by the prophets Amos and Joel, “then shall the sun suddenly shine forth by night and the moon by day,” Just imagine what the people listening to Jesus were thinking, hearing such things. Lastly, Jesus makes mention of a time when all Jews were to be gathered back into Palestine, from the world wide. Quoting ancient scripture again, He says, “Stand on the heights, Jerusalem and behold thy children, from east and the west, gathered together by the Lord.”
I suppose if today’s doomsday prophets were to be reading these and the many other Old Testament passage that Jesus used, it would be almost understandable why they’d be so adamant about the end time being so near…I may well have to cut them some slack after all. What with all that goes on in our world today…wars and violence dot our planet’s surface; the heavens display celestial signs that could well be interpreted as more than mere lunar or solar eclipses and the Jewish people from the world over continue their return to Jerusalem…Palestine…to rebuild their Kingdom…it’s kind of easy to sympathize. Still, they were out of bounds and off base to be god-like and predict such a thing as when God will return.
This season of Advent is about preparation, namely, a preparation of Jesus’ coming into the world. However, the reality is, this is a season for our re-preparation…getting ourselves prepared for Jesus’ second coming. We don’t always associate death and Advent. Yet, Mark’s Gospel used in Advent is primarily a preparation for Jesus’ second coming at the end of the world. Certainly, not quite the theme to get us into a joyful and jolly holiday mood is it? Doesn’t make me want to sing carols and decorate my home with festive colors and holiday splendor. Yet, my sisters and brothers, we are encouraged and we are warned, repeatedly, that we are to be ready when the “master of the house” returns. Jesus uses that imagery, this theme…the slaves are put in charge of the house while the master is away and are told to be alert and on watch, for they know not when the master will return. Keep awake! Keep alert!! Jesus tells us be ready and be prepared.
Just what is it we are preparing for? Jesus’ return will usher in a new creation, a new world. Just as Jesus’ first entrance into our world changed the course of human history, so will His second coming, in an even far greater fashion…the end of what we know and the creation of God’s Kingdom come to full fruition and glory.
But, we can not focus solely on the end time… let’s face it, none of us wants to think about our final days while there is so much yet for us to do, to experience and celebrate. I’m waiting for the Lions to play in a Super Bowl game… Cub fans are waiting for a World Series appearance… and yes, these are minor things to some, and so they are, in the grand scheme of things. WE ARE TO BE PREPARED FOR LIFE AS WELL AS OUR EARTHLY DEMISE!!! We are to be prepared to live when we wake up in the morning. We are to be alert to all the possibilities of life, really excited about them. We are to begin our morning and our day with the feeling of, “I wonder what the Spirit of God will pop up today in my life?” Am I missing any of the manifestations of God in those things which seem so ordinary to me? Am I open to the fact that God may be tapping me on the shoulder right now, pointing to a special mission for me?
A couple weeks ago, I was on a road I had never traveled before…it was an old, winding road, with lots of little ‘one block towns’ here and there. I wondered if whether or not I had ventured into Wisconsin or Iowa…the area was so wide open and rural and so beautiful. In between these little villages and hamlets, large open fields, filled with the autumn harvest ready to be brought into the barn. I stopped along the road and walked out into one of these fields. It was raining, kind of hard, too, but I didn’t care. It was magical… I saw a large rafter of turkeys, (that’s the fancy title for a gang of turkeys),walking and eating their way through the fields. I was so close I could almost reach out and pat one on the head. It was amazing… God’s handiwork, right there for me to take in.
Admittedly, I am a city boy, yet these scenes are truly Divine Reflections…God is so very, very present, alive and real. I could have walked all day, in the rain, in those fields, with the wind whirling all about. God was tapping me on the shoulder and saying to me…Enjoy my creation…slow down and savor my bounty!
God’s reflection is everywhere; in people, events, material things. Sometimes, we all have “eyes that may not see, the ears that hear not” The spirit of Advent encourages us to look wide-open at all creation, at all human activities so that we do not miss the Divine Reflection present and alive all around us!
Be alert, stay awake; be ready for the end. But be equally alert and ready for those little Divine beginnings that are all around us every day. Look around our church and see how God’s Divine Reflection can be seen and recognized in God’s blessed children…there is a beauty, a blessed joy and true love that shines in us all. But, we must see to those situations that are strained and injured and make every effort to repair that which is broken. We must fix and strengthen that which is broken. We must resolve those differences we have with family members, friends, workmates and make sure we right what is wrong. Let’s keep one another alert and awake…none of us wants to be unprepared and after all…that’s what family does for one another, we look after our loved ones, right?
Sources: “The Gospel of Mark,” William Barclay, 1975
“Sunday Morning Insights,” Eugene F. Lauer, 1984