November 28, 1999
First Sunday in Advent

Mark 13:24-37

In those days, right after that time of suffering,
     "The sun will become dark,
     and the moon will no longer shine.
     The stars will fall,
     and the powers in the sky will be shaken."

Then the Son of Man will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the earth.

Learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches sprout and start putting out leaves, you know summer is near. So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come. You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all this happens. The sky and the earth will not last forever, but my words will.

No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don't know, and the Son himself doesn't know. Only the Father knows. So watch out and be ready! You don't know when the time will come. It is like what happens when a man goes away for a while and places his servants in charge of everything. He tells each of them what to do, and he orders the guard to keep alert. So be alert! You don't know when the master of the house will come back. It could be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or in the morning. But if he comes suddenly, don't let him find you asleep. I tell everyone just what I have told you. Be alert! [CEV]


How humbling to learn something from a fig tree. Surely, with a little genetic manipulation we can get fig trees to bloom in the summer, fall, or winter as well as in the spring. It has probably already been done by someone. In such days as these when what we used to take for granted was "natural" is now "differently natural" it is difficult to know where to place one's center of gravity. How do you learn in these chaotic times?

2. Does it have something to do with Jesus' words outlasting sky and earth (the last of the naturals to be changed?). Surely this is not about a Bible made out of Sidemeat's trail biscuits, the hardest substance known to humankind -- how did Riders in the Sky sneak in here? What word is it that outlasts the natural rhythm of birth and death? If you can answer that for yourself you are part of the generation that is still alive. There are all sorts of candidates for the longest-lasting words -- grace, peace, love, reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, ....

3. The key word in this passage is the word "Alert!" How is that connected with whatever word(s) you came up with as being the longest-lasting, the one(s) worth hanging on to, no matter what anyone else says? Wrestling with this is Advent work. It is the work that goes on here between the not-yet-gone and the not-yet-here-in-fullness. May your Advent time be blessed with alertness to issues of life for you and for others.

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