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Mark 13: 24-37                “On the Lookout”             12/3/2017

BUMC                    Rev. Jerry W. Krueger              1st Sunday of Advent


Today on this first Sunday of Advent, we have already begun to prepare our hearts, minds, spirit for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, into our family, into our lives, once again at Christmas.

Mark’s gospel speaks of a foundational disturbance in the cosmos, in the heavens themselves, which attends to the appearance of the Son of Man.

We who live two millennia after the birth of Christ, may assume that the word about watchfulness, “keeping awake,” has no significance for us.

We already know the story. Jesus comes into the world. He lives, teaches, is tried, crucified, laid in the tomb, resurrected, ascends to heaven. So why this task for us is to be on the lookout for the coming of Christ, in this season of Advent?

Why? Because as Christians, we claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and as such, our lives are lived from THAT Center. The center, which is Jesus Christ. So we take time in this Advent season prior to Christmas, to carefully examine our lives, our conscience, to say, “Come Lord Jesus into my heart. I again prepare a way for you to remove distractions of self and of world, and move fully again, into my heart with the joy of celebrating your birth.”

Jesus says in vs. 37, “Keep awake.” Other translations say, “Be on the lookout,” or “Watch!” In life we encounter those who are on the lookout. Scouts looking, watching, for the next star quarterback, pitcher, long ball hitter, or tennis phenomenon.

We see it in TV shows like America’s Got Talent. Who will be the next big star?   Same with commercial marketing. People looking for the next big thing, the next fad.

 At Advent, our challenge is to avoid fads, and build our lives on something more solid than a pet rock or fidget spinners. Fidget spinners are one of the hottest toys of 2017.  A fidget spinner looks like this.  Some schools have banned them as a distraction. But over time, this fad will fade, and fidget spinners will gather dust next to other fads like Beanie babies, hula hoops, Razor Scooters, Livestrong wristbands, WWJD bracelets, Heelys, flash mobs, "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts, "Angry Birds,"  planking, Tebowing,  Furby, oxygen bars, and the "Macarena."  All have faded away.

Which brings us to fads connected to the Bible, especially to passages describing the return of Christ. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus says, "the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory" (vv. 25-26).

Pay attention says the Christ, "When you see these things taking place, you know that he is near" (v. 29). People have predicted with great frequency that the world will end at a specific date. They read this passage and believe it will happen, right now. They lose focus on what is important. Living for Christ. Not predicting the end of the world as we know it.

This reading is not an invitation to a doomsday scenario.  This is not about predicting the end of the world or Christ’s second coming, and plastering the date on billboards worldwide. That happened a few years ago, and May 21, 2011 came and went and we are still here.

So at Advent we read the book of Mark and see that signs abound, says Jesus. Fig trees bloom and indicate summers approach. The sky turns dark, the wind picks up, and we can expect a storm.

 Jesus assures us, like the coming of the bridegroom to the 10 bridesmaids in Matthew, “be alert.” Like the servants who were entrusted with the Masters home and resources and had no idea at his return. Jesus says, “Be on the lookout, keep awake.” Jesus tell us that only the Father in heaven, not the Holy Spirit, not Jesus Christ, knows the time of Christ’s return.

Therefore people of God, “keep awake, “watch,” “be on the lookout.”  In verse 31, Jesus himself said absolutely everything will pass away, including "heaven and earth”, but not his words. Christ’s words are words of hope, peace, love and joy.

What, then, will not fade and disappear? Everything will come and go. Except -- wait for it -- the word of God. Jesus says, "My words will not pass away" (v. 31). The word of the Lord is our solid foundation in an ever-changing world, so every day we need to "keep awake -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come" (v. 35). 

As we begin the season of Advent, we focus on building our lives on the rock of our salvation, not on a pet rock.
In the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7, Jesus gives us rock solid foundational lessons and ways for Godly living. Matthew 5: 39-44, we are called to love other people as God loves them, seeing the image of God in people who may look very ungodly to us.

As we read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, we discover Jesus drifting into sarcasm when he asks, "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Anyone can do that -- even the corrupt tax collectors of the Roman Empire. (v. 46). In other words, if you only love your friends and family members, what have you accomplished? It’s easy to love the one who loves you. But loving the one who despises you, lies about you, vilifies you? That dear friends, takes effort that only accomplished only with Christ’s help.

"Give your cloak," says Jesus. "Go also the second mile" (Matt.vv. Ch. 5: 40-41   Like Jesus’ challenge to look an oppressive Roman soldier in the eye and see the image of God in him. Carry his gear farther than the law allows, so that he will be forced to see you as a person, not a pack animal. Make him so uncomfortable with your love and kindness that their very beliefs are internally challenged when they see you acting in such a loving manner.  The words of Jesus, our foundation, can be both difficult, and challenging.

Signs abound around us that point to Christ. Who are the lonely among us that you know? Shut ins, home bound? The sign is there. Who are the hopeless around us, the lost, and the one with little hope? The signs are around us. 

What Jesus says is foundational for Christian living. In this season of Advent, our challenge is to not get too caught up in being focused on shopping for gifts, shipping our gifts, and receiving gifts.  Perhaps this year, we will be on the lookout for opportunities, to hear Christ words again as if for the first time, “My words will not pass away. Therefore, keep awake, and what I say to you all is, “Keep Awake.”

In this Advent season, Christ is calling you by name and challenging you to serve him, by serving others. You can do that by ringing a Salvation Army bell, giving blood at our blood drive, by making a contribution to our church Good Samaritan fund, by visiting the Blackburn Home House next Saturday. By catching up on your 2017 pledge, by taking an envelope with a home bound person’s name from the tree and acting upon that. By taking the name of a child from PFS and shopping for them.

Signs abound, and Christ calls us to be on the lookout, to keep watch, to serve him, by serving others.

Keep awake people of God, Christ is coming and He is bringing  words of life, words of truth, words of hope,  grace and mercy, to all who will believe in Him. Christ is coming again as if for the first time to your hearts. Be on the lookout, remain awake!                       In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.