31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 13, 2016
Mark 13:1-8, 32-37
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
As far as the eye can see it is pitch-black, totally dark, except for those moments when a star streaks across the sky and then explodes upon colliding with the earth. In the distance, there are the rumbles of war, with nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. The earth will quake, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
No, it’s not a trailer for the next summer blockbuster, to rival Batman v Superman, Dawn of Justice, it’s Jesus teaching his disciples.
Over these past few Sundays, we have been hearing how after Jesus’ triumphantly entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he daily went to the temple to teach. Jesus called attention to the ways that this holy place and the worship of God were being corrupted, the ways people were using the holy for their own personal gain. In his teaching, Jesus has been trying to refocus his disciples and the people on what is important- loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbor.
So it must have been with great disappointment that Jesus heard his disciples marvel at the grandeur of the Temple complex. Jesus must have wondered if they were hearing anything he said.
Instead of being overly frustrated with them, Jesus uses this as another teachable moment and shares with them that this building, this great, magnificent building, this complex of buildings are just buildings, and will someday be destroyed. No stone left upon another; all thrown down – which is exactly what happens in the year 70 when the Israelites try to rise up against the Romans. The Romans destroy the Temple and take its treasures back to Rome as spoils of war.
This majestic, amazing Temple complex will some day be just a pile of rubble, Jesus tells them. And instead of asking why, instead of realizing that the Temple is already just a pile of rocks if it is not used in keeping with God’s commandments, the disciples foolishly jump on the when.
When will this be? What are the signs? Tell us so we will know when to expect it.
You’ll notice Jesus doesn’t immediately answer that question. Instead, Jesus answers “Beware.” In the Revised Standard version of the Bible, Jesus says “Take heed.” Take Heed. Pay careful attention – not to the signs but to your own behavior. Make sure that no one leads you astray, distracts you from your ministry, diverts you from God’s purpose.
It’s easy to get distracted by the apocalyptic language in this chapter. It’s easy to focus on the signs. They are quite dramatic! There is talk of wars and nations against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, the sun being darkened, and the stars falling from the sky.
We can pay attention to that talk and try our best to tabulate out the end of the world, the apocalypse, and the rapture, as some like to do, or we can listen to Jesus. We can beware, be aware, take heed, and keep doing what God calls us to do.
“It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake [watch!]- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mark 13:34-37)
Take heed. Don’t buy into hysterias like Y2K or the end of the Mayan calendar. Don’t see signs in global unrest and natural disasters. Take heed and pay attention to your own behavior, how you are living out your life as a Christian.
It is almost like Jesus is telling us to ‘keep our eyes on our own papers’ instead of looking around the room, but Jesus doesn’t want us to be like a draft horse, with our blinders on; our eyes focused on the ground; and our footsteps plodding one after another.
Neither are we to be monkey-minded, as the yogis say, letting our brains swing from one thought to another, one idea to another, never settling in one place, unable to be grounded in the present or focused enough to carry out what we are called to do.
A life hack, an efficiency trick, I learned about in the Huffington Post said that to be focused and efficient, we should write down every task before us and then circle three things we felt it was most important to do that day.
Our church community is focusing on three ministries this year: the safety and accessibility renovation we will be breaking ground on in 3 months; Family Promise – a new ministry we are embarking on with other faith communities to house homeless families; and Christian relationship building.
Three things. We are focusing on three things this year, and they are major undertakings. Each will take the investment of a lot of resources, resources of money, people, time, and faith. Even just one of these ministries would take a lot of effort to accomplish so we will need to be aware, pay careful attention, take heed, if we are going to accomplish all three this year.
And yet, even when we are clear about our ministry direction, it is so very easy to get distracted, to be monkey-minded. Saying “oh, oh, oh, let’s do this brand new thing. Let’s take this path. To swing back and forth between new ideas and never really settle down to accomplish any.”
Do you feel that temptation in your own life? Is there some big house project that you have been meaning to do for years? Is there some big life project, like getting healthy or going back to school, that you have been meaning to do for years?
Or are you the opposite of the monkey swinging in the trees, never settling down to focus? Are you the draft horse, plodding along, never looking up or listening to God’s call?
Take heed. Be aware. Pay attention to your calling and spiritual journey. The master, our Lord God, has put you, YOU, with your own special gifts in charge of a particular ministry. You are the only person who can do it. God has called and charged you with the task.
What is it? Can you put aside all of the distractions? Can you quiet your mind and focus your heart to follow through on it?
How are you being called to live as Christ’s disciple? How are you being called to love the Lord, our God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind? How are you being called to love your neighbor? How are you focusing your energy and time to accomplish your ministry?
As we walk these Lenten days, we are called to reflect upon our relationship with God, to reflect upon our callings as Christ’s disciples. Take heed. Be aware. Focus. We don’t know how much time any of us has on this earth. We don’t know when the Messiah is coming, but we know that we have each been entrusted with a sacred calling, a special ministry, each our own, to make this world a better place, transforming it always with Christ’s love.