Worship with Us This Sunday - 10:15 a.m.
After studying the four passages of scripture that will be discussed this week, the first week of Advent, I thought of two words. DON’T PANIC. There are lots of worry and panic, probably similar to present times.
Isaiah 64:1-9 is what we call a lament. The function of a lament is to provide a structure for grief, hurt, and despair. The author of these passages spoke the prayer of the people. How long before the people returned to glory? How long before God's presence shone before the nations? Note the prayer for divine intervention was mixed with self-examination. The loss of stature was not necessarily God's fault [64:5b-7]. Yet, also note the sense of hope. The petitioner called upon God as Father and asked for his return [63:16-17].
Psalms 80 is also a lament. It is a corporate cry to God, apparently after or in the midst of some national calamity. Psalm 80 was a prayer of desperation, but not despair. The tone of the psalm revealed a weak Judea ravaged by its neighbors. This was the situation during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC). The Assyrians had swept away the northern kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judea had been whittled away to the city-state of Jerusalem. The priest cried out to YHWH so he would restore the former glory of the kingdom.
Mark 13:24–37 needs to be understood in the context of the whole chapter. Chapter 13 is about disasters and calamities. It tells of the destruction of the great temple in Jerusalem, built so solid that it seemed it would last forever (v. 2). It tells of wars and rumors of wars (v. 7) and that Jesus’ followers would be persecuted (v. 9), family members would betray one another (vv.12–13), and Jerusalem would fall and there would be great suffering (vv. 14–20). Finally, it tells of false Christs and false prophets who would lead many astray (vv. 21–23).
Then we have 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. This passage seems to be a very encouraging passage of scripture. Paul is saying that the Lord will strengthen us. He says the Lord will make sure we are not lacking any spiritual gift as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So what does this have to do with us:
Yes, there is serious pain in the world, in our own community. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are gloomy looks of future financial struggles for us all. There's strife within families, and even within the family of faith, those called to be one in Christ. And God's name is profaned, used as a political prop to assert power over the powerless — an abomination to those for whom God's name is the name of one who feeds the hungry, lifts up the lowly, frees the prisoner. The first readers of the Gospel According to Mark knew that as well or better than we do. So when you see these things happening, don't think it's a sign that the kingdom of God Jesus promised is late in coming or has been derailed.
‘Heaven and earth will pass away before Jesus' words will pass away.’ We don't know the day or hour, but we know that God is faithful, and Jesus' resurrection from the dead is a sign to us as it was to Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, the communities of the New Testament, and our own wounded communities: Jesus is coming, and God's kingdom, inaugurated with Jesus' ministry, is being revealed, finding fulfillment.
Yes, I know that there are people who want to say that the Day of the Lord should inspire terror, but we know something that they don't seem to realize: the person we call Lord is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, who taught and healed, who welcomed the outcast and broke bread with anyone willing to eat with him. It's Jesus, whose way of life and manner of death underscored what his words taught: love your enemies. When we know Jesus, the Jesus of the gospels, we know that God is love, and love drives out fear.
So don't panic. Panic, like sleep, keeps a person from watching and listening, from the ability to respond to another person, and with that, the ability to love. Don't panic when someone tells you about suffering in the present or suffering to come: keep watch, and respond with love. There will be earthquakes and wars and famines, as well as more personal catastrophes of betrayal, but there is nothing that can derail this train, so people, get ready:
And remember, we as the people of God, are called to be the ones to show this HOPE to the world.
Jesus is here, and Jesus is coming.
Thanks be to God!