Corona Sabbath 37 First Sunday of Advent HOPE Reflection Text

Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath.  This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19.    We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

We listen to a scripture lesson from the gospel of Mark.  This is teaching is about the end times but it is also about every time and our time.  Traditionally Advent begins with an apocalyptic bang to jolt us into remembering that the humble birth of Jesus was unexpected and cataclysmic.  

Mark 13:24-37

But in those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see the Promised One coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then the angels will be sent to gather the chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Promised One is near, right at the door.  The truth is, before this generation has passed away, all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it – neither the angels of heaven, nor the Only Begotten – no one but Abba God.  Be constantly on the watch!  Stay awake!  You do not know when the appointed time will come.

“It is like people traveling abroad.  They leave their home and put the workers in charge, each with a certain task, and those who watch at the front gate are ordered to stay on the alert.  So stay alert!  You do not know when the owner or the house is coming, whether at dusk, at midnight, when the cock crows or at early dawn.  Do not let the owner come suddenly and catch you asleep.  What I say to you, I say to all:  stay alert!”

Reflection from Kim

I am captivated by the image of waiting at the front gate.  On alert.  Until further notice.

First of all, we hate to wait.  Absolutely hate it.  I mean people see a line at the store and put their item back and leave, planning to return to the store when there is no line.  People pay extra to avoid the lines at theme parks.  Maybe this hating to wait is an American thing.  We went to an art exhibition in Mexico City and the people were lined up out the door, down the block, and around the corner.  And they were talking and visiting and buying street food and enjoying the day, eagerly anticipating the exhibit.  It is hard to imagine that in America. 

Wait at the front gate.  For how long?  In this scripture, there is no sense about how long the waiting will go on.  How long would I be able to remain alert?  I don’t know that I would make 5 minutes, let alone hours, days, months, or years.  There is that spiritual, “God is Never Late, He is Always Right on Time.”  Well and good, but what time is that?  We don’t know.  A reminder that we are not in control.  It’s unsettling to think about waiting with no schedule.  Waiting for something that may occur in a moment or in a millennium. 

Watch at the front gate.  Alert.  I imagine most of us would be on our phones and who knows what could be passing by at the gate.  Many of us are not even attuned to the trees and their cycles which are happening right in front of us.  How alert would we be watching at the gate?For what?  We don’t exactly know.  

Poised at the gate.  This waiting that we are told of seems fraught with intensity, fear, and longing.  It seems exciting but also scary.  Kind of like a ride at a carnival.  I remember going on a ride at the State Fair when our first child was very young.  He looked petrified through the whole ride and we felt badly having taken him on the ride.  We thought it would be fun.   But as soon as we got off the ride, he begged excitedly, “Gen!  Gen!”  He wanted to go again!  In these verses preparing us for Advent there is anxiety as well as expectation and hope.  

Waiting at the gate.  Alert.  Are we waiting for a cataclysm?  Global warming, a pandemic, police killings.  Sounds pretty cataclysmic.  And in the midst of the cataclysm, a blessing.  The presence of God.  The redeeming power of love.  Breaking in.  Maybe our hopes and dreams are coming to fruition.  But are we paying attention?  Alert?  At the gate?  

Advent is a season of attentive waiting and watching.  No one was expecting a baby born in a stable to be a game changer.  Yet, here we are, getting ready to celebrate his birthday again over 2,000 years later.  

Watch at the front gate.  Alert.  Maybe this pandemic will force us to stand at the gate and watch.  Wait.  Attentively.  Leaving the phone inside on the table.  So that we don’t miss Divine Love, God, coming to bless the world through Jesus and through us.  Amen. 

(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)

Author: Rev. Wells

Pastor of Lakewood United Church of Christ since 1991. Graduate of Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary of New York.

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