the one about watching out...
December 4, 2017, 8:44 AM

Sermon from December 3, 2017

Text: Mark 13: 24-37

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ! Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, if you’ve been paying attention these past few weeks to the gospel readings, you’ve probably noticed that they have a lot to do about ‘the future!’ Particularly our response to the signs that can be seen. These sorts of texts always come around at this ending/beginning time in the church year.

We hear watch out, be prepared, keep awake, as we end the church year – seeing signs of judgment and God’s presence around us. As we begin the church year, we again hear watch out, be prepared, stay awake. Yet, I noticed that this reading in particular has a somewhat different shift in its tone.

Before when we heard ‘watch out’ it was coupled with something negative or terrible. And, when we think about those words today – we always seem to have them associated with danger as well.

WATCH OUT! Objects in mirror are closer than they appear!

CAUTION! This item gets extremely hot as it holds hot liquids!

BE PREPARED! Just because your child says they feel fine does not mean that their recently digested food isn’t going to pay you a return visit soon!

Even today in our world, whenever we hear words of caution from those we love, they never seem to be followed by good stuff. With the news of the day regarding inappropriate touching and actions the unspoken and quiet ‘be prepared’ talks of before have come to light and are shared out in the open – which is good mind you.

It isn’t very often that we hear, “Watch out – the person likes to shower an abundance of goodness upon those they meet!” “Keep awake – if you doze off you’ll miss this wonderful moment for you!” “Caution – gifts of praise and welcome are headed your way!”

In fact, I’d venture to guess we rarely if ever hear those types of warnings.

Yet, this morning we hear a shift from Jesus’ words about ‘the watchfulness and preparedness’ for those around him. Jesus tells them a short little quip about a fig tree.

Just as you see the fig tree branches get loose and grow leaves and know that summer is coming, so too take notice of the sights and sounds you see around you now!

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t particularly invoke in me a sign and sense of dread. I happen to like figs – in fact I have a fig tree (or a few) right at the side of my house. As summer approaches, I enjoy walking by that side as I’m working in the yard or playing with the kids and taking notice of the leaves as they green and the fruit that slowly begins to grow. It’s pretty neat. I also know that soon will come a time that I can pick that fruit and eat it for myself and share it with those I love!

When I see those branches become tender and the leaves putting forth – good things – are about to come.

Leading up to this Sunday, all our ‘watchfulness’ was clouded in dread, destruction, and fear of what could come. Yet, this morning, we hear from Jesus a slight shift in how we are to look and be ever watchful – to keep awake.

As we ‘keep awake’ we remain in hope of what is to come. During this season of advent, we wait. We wait for the celebration of the good thing that God has already done in the world – creation, coming to literally ‘sit-with’ us, and redeeming the world through the victory on the cross over sin and death. During Advent we wait in celebration of that.

But, we also wait in expectant hope for God’s continued work in the world and our Lord’s return to bring us into completeness and wholeness in God. We wait in expectant hope with one another and we wait in hope at work in the world. Continuing to see the signs, to point towards God’s work in the world, seeing the Spirit’s action and prodding among us, and being moved through that action and our prayers to bring God’s continued and life-giving justice to the world.

And, like I’ve said before – it isn’t easy doing any of the stuff. Especially during this time of year. It is odd that Advent is probably the MOST counter cultural season of the church year. Everyone has been rushing to get to Christmas since probably before Halloween, yet we enter into this season with the intention of waiting. Holding off the urge to jump to the celebration – especially because the world has seemed so dark and cloudy within our cultural climate. We wait – we wait in expectant hope – but, we wait.

So, I have an idea. I have this ‘challenge’ I’d like to pass out to y’all. Seeing God at work in our lives isn’t always the easiest endeavor to take. Mostly because we are bad at being intentional about it – not because God isn’t at work. So, here’s a ‘photo-of-the-day’ challenge for each of you. Each day (and you notice two have already come and gone – and that’s OK too), there is a word. Find something that day that reflects that word. Take a picture of it. Post it to our Facebook page, print them out and bring them here, leave them on your phone or your camera as a reminder of God’s presence. If you don’t want to take a picture – tell a story of something that happened to you – something that you’ve witnessed that day which reflects that word. Have fun with it y’all.

We wait – we wait in expectant hope. It isn’t easy to wait – we don’t like it. But, it doesn’t mean we wait alone nor does it mean while we wait, we do nothing. We wait and ‘sit-with’ together. Sharing our stories, our thoughts, our prayers. We work in service and faith together to show and live into God’s love and mercy in the world.

As I end this time with you this morning, I’d like to share a poem I read this week. I think it speaks perfectly about what we are called to live into during this season of Advent. It’s called “The Gates of Hope” and it is written by Reverend Victoria Safford:

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope –
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.

Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
which creak on shrill and angry hinges.

(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)

Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna’ be all right.”

But, a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul of all and its condition.

The place of resistance and defiance,
The peace of ground from which you see the world.

Both as it is and as it could be

As it will be;

The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
but the joy of the struggle

And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing

Asking people what they see.


What do you see as we sit this Sunday at the gates of hope as we begin this season of Advent? Waiting in expectation of what God has done, is doing, and will do in the life of the world.

We wait. We hope. We keep awake for what God is doing. Amen.

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