965) Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick (b)

Isaiah 11:6; 65:25

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     (…continued)  God’s intention was to do without the big stick.  The Bible makes it clear that God would much rather deal with us by love and mercy and soft words.  That is God’s preferred way of working with us, and that is probably the way all people of good will would like to work with other people.  But any parent, any teacher, any employer, or any one who has ever worked with any other person in any way, knows that the light touch and the soft words do not always work; and if you think about it, the soft touch probably hasn’t always worked on you.  There is a part of us all, that part called sin, that is out only for oneself, and will take advantage of even the love, forgiveness, and grace of God and everyone else, and use it for one’s own selfish purposes.  “Nice guys finish last,” said the old baseball manager Leo Durocher, excusing the dismal performance year after year of his Chicago Cubs.  But there is a greater truth in that statement that applies not only to baseball, but to the whole sinful world.  If a teacher or a police officer or a parent decides only to be nice, the wicked and the strong will take over and everyone else will suffer.  Martin Luther once quoted Isaiah (11:6) who prophesied that one day “the wolf and the lamb will live together.”  That, said Luther, will happen only in the world to come.  If you try that in this world, he said, the lamb will have to be replaced often.  This is how it is in the real world.

     God has the entire ‘real world’ to look after, so of course he is going to have to get the big stick out once in a while.  When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt who had enslaved the entire Hebrew nation and was working them all to death, God’s word for Pharaoh was not, “I accept you just the way you are.”  Instead, the message God sent to Pharaoh through Moses was, “Let my people go; or else!”  That’s the big stick.  Ten plagues later, with his nation in ruins and his first-born son dead, Pharaoh finally gave the slaves their freedom.   When Pharaoh later changed his mind and sent his army to bring them back, the Red Sea parted for the escaping Hebrews, but crashed in on the pursuing Egyptian warriors, drowning them all.  God was serious enough about freedom for his people that, when forced into it, he let loose his power and might.  And that story of freedom inspired, encouraged, and gave hope to ten generations of African-American slaves in this country.  When that American slavery finally came to an end after the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln looked back on that horrendous four years of bloodshed and destruction, saw in it the ‘big stick’ of God’s providence, and said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).  God’s judgment and wrath may be bad news for the oppressor, but it is God’s good news for the downtrodden.  And in my own little world, sometimes I am oppressed and sometimes I am the oppressor.

     In Luke 21 Jesus is speaking about the end of the world.  He said, “There will be signs on the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity” (verse 25).  That sounds like today’s news– and the news in the 1960’s with the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, and Vietnam; and the 1950’s with the Korean War; and the 1940’s with Hitler, Pearl Harbor, concentration camps, and a world at war; and the 1930’s, with an international economic crisis; and on and on we could go, all the way back to Jesus– ‘anguish and perplexity’ that does not end.  But someday it will end, Jesus said.  God will end it, “coming on the clouds with power and great glory,” Jesus said, and “people will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world” (vv. 26-7).

     The anguish and perplexity will end only when the whole world ends, Jesus said, and it will end by the power and with the judgment of God.  We might say that on that day, God will not be walking softly, but will be bringing out the big stick.  All the images of that time are unpleasant, and whether or not you or I will still be here for the end of that world, our whole world will end when we die, and we know that is coming.  God will one day put an end to you and to me and to this whole world.

     So keep that in mind, Jesus said.  Be ready for it.  “Be always on the watch,” Jesus said in the closing words of the chapter.  And how do you watch and get ready?  By looking to and believing in Jesus, says the rest of the New Testament.  Perhaps you don’t like this end of the world talk.  Then look to Jesus.  That is how these scary and unpleasant verses are supposed to work.  These texts about the end of the world when Christ will return in power and majesty and judgment are there to drive you to look to Jesus, your only hope.  This world will end.  You don’t need the Bible to tell you that.  Scientists will tell you the same thing.  But the Bible offers what science knows nothing about, and that is a hope and a promise of new life after the end of the world.  This season of Advent prepares us for that message, for Christmas, when we hear the story of when Jesus first came to earth.  (continued…)

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Luke 21:25-28  —  (Jesus said), “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.  On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21:36  —  (Jesus said), “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

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O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL

12th century Latin text, author unknown.

Listen at:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel…

962) Surprises; Pleasant and Unpleasant (b)

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Matthew 24:42-44  —  (Jesus said), ““Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

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     (…continued)  This idea of surprise is illustrated in a true story from the early days of the American colonies, a story that is, in fact, about the coming of a thief in the night.  It concerns a middle aged man named Mr. Dorsett who was respected by everyone in the small New England town where he lived.  He was admired for his strong faith, his honesty, and his kind and gentle spirit.  Late one night, Mr. Dorsett was awakened by a noise in the cellar.  He got out of bed and walked silently to the top of the cellar stairs.  There he was surprised to see light in the basement, and could hear for certain that someone was down there.  Mr. Dorsett quietly walked down to the bottom of the stairs, and there saw a man with a candle in one hand, taking pork out of a barrel with his other hand.  Mr. Dorsett stood still and watched the proceedings until the thief had taken the last piece of meat.  Mr. Dorsett then walked over, placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, and said in a perfectly kind and friendly voice, “Neighbor, you act unfairly, because you are not leaving a proper share for me.”

     Now, it was the thief’s turn to be surprised.  Even though the voice was friendly, the hand on the shoulder was a shock, and he was very ashamed to be discovered.  Being filled with guilt, he dropped to his knees begging for forgiveness from this good man that he had know since childhood.  Mr. Dorsett cheerfully forgave him, and promised not to report him to the authorities.  He did, however, seriously admonish the man for his crime, and firmly advised him to be in church the next Sunday to ask for and receive that forgiveness from the Lord.

     There was one more surprise to come.  Mr. Dorsett knew this thief was not a criminal, but was an otherwise good man.  Upon questioning, Mr. Dorsett learned that the intruder had come on hard times and was having difficulty feeding his family.  Then, in an incredible act of forgiveness and kindness and generosity, Mr. Dorsett divided the pork into two equal piles, and even helped the repentant robber carry half of the meat over to his own house.

     There are several surprises in the story.  First, Mr. Dorsett is unpleasantly surprised by an unwelcome guest at an inconvenient time.  That is the kind of illustration of surprise that Jesus used in one of his parables.  Then, it was Mr. Dorsett’s turn to do the surprising, and his surprise come first as unpleasant, and then as pleasant; first as judgment, and then as grace.  Certainly the thief was most unhappy to feel that hand on his shoulder, for it meant guilt and shame and punishment.  But then Mr. Dorsett turned out to be a gracious judge, as he was more than ready to receive the thief’s apology and forgive his sin.  Once forgiven, the thief received far more than he could have ever imagined.  Not only would he not receive the punishment he deserved for his crime, but he would receive what he wanted in the first place; now, not be by his dishonesty, but by Mr. Dorsett’s goodness.  The similarities to Christ’s offer of forgiveness cannot be missed.  Our sin is forgiven by God not by any of our own deserving, but by the goodness and sacrifice of God himself in Christ Jesus.  Not only are we then forgiven, but we continue to receive abundantly God’s blessings every day.  The thief did his part only by admitting his guilt, asking for forgiveness, and then with gratitude, receiving the undeserved blessing.

     This is a true story with a happy ending, but let’s imagine another possible ending.  What if upon being discovered, the thief would have responded not with shame and repentance, but with fear and anger and desperation?  Mr. Dorsett did not have a weapon and was not prepared to defend himself.  The younger, stronger thief could have easily pushed him aside and run away.  Or, he could have knocked him out, even killed him, and then completed his crime unhindered.  That was, you recall, the treatment Jesus himself received when he first came to earth.  He came offering forgiveness, eternal life, and every blessing, but there were parts of his message that offended and threatened some people.  When these people threatened Jesus, Jesus did not take back anything he said, but neither did he fight back.  He allowed the forces of evil to have their day, and then responded in his own incredible way by rising from the dead, and then, by repeating again, his gracious offer.  Jesus issued many warnings about the eternal danger of continuing to refuse him, but he never stopped making the invitation.

     Add one more twist to this imaginary ending as a further illustration of our standing before God.  Let us imagine that in his shock and surprise the thief did push Mr. Dorsett aside, and did run up the stairs and out of the house.  Then imagine Mr. Dorsett getting up and pursuing him, not to apprehend him and bring him to the police, but to make that kind offer of half of the pork in the barrel.  Picture them running across the yard, Mr. Dorsett yelling as loud as he could, “Stop, sir, I only want to help you; I know you are hungry, and I want to give you half of the meat, and then you will have it honestly. I will give it to you freely.  Come back, come back, I mean you no harm.”  But the thief, though he hears the words, is suspicious of the true intentions of his pursuer, so he runs all the faster, and finally escapes.

     In that hypothetical ending there is only one barrier to the thief receiving what he needed most of all– he did not believe in what was being offered to him.  He felt he could not trust in the word of Mr. Dorsett.  Even though from long experience he knew Mr. Dorsett to be a kind and good man, the thief could not believe that Mr. Dorsett could be offering him grace and good will, instead of judgment and punishment.  The offer was too good.  There was not even a demand to work and earn what was being offered.  It would be completely free, all by grace.  All he needed to do was believe and turn back.  All he needed was to have faith, and he would have received the food that he and his family needed.

     The Bible has much to say about what God has already given us, and it has much to say about how we have done God wrong.  The key for making our whole relationship with God right again, and the key to all his future blessings is simply to believe in him, simply to believe that God is there and wants to help us.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” the New Testament says again and again.  But just like the thief in the story, there is much unbelief in the world, much running away from God, much neglecting of God and what he wants to say to us, much disregard for his word and promise.  

     The offer of God’s grace really is quite surprising.  That is why so many of Jesus’ parables contain the two themes of surprise and unbelief.  We are quite used to hearing about such grace, so we think nothing of it anymore.  But to receive such an invitation from God is even more surprising than to hear about a man like Mr. Dorsett offering to give half of his pork to a thief who had broken into his house.

     This story of forgiveness and kindness shown to a repentant thief is not from the Bible, but it was inspired by the Biblical message.  Mr. Dorsett was a good Christian man and was acting upon what he learned from Jesus about forgiveness and generosity.  Actually, what Mr. Dorsett did for that thief was not too different from what Jesus did when he was one time confronted by a thief.  While dying on the cross, Jesus said some of his last words to a repentant thief– “Truly, truly I say unto you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”  There too, undeserved grace was shown to one who simply believed in what Jesus offered.  That thief on the cross had expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into you kingdom.”  That’s a pretty good prayer for a thief.  Actually, it is a prayer we could all pray each day.  For even as we pray, “Jesus, remember me,” we are remembering Jesus, and that is what we are supposed to be doing every day until he comes again.

     If we do remember Jesus, and do believe in Him as our Lord and Savior, we will indeed be prepared for his second coming, and it will be for us a pleasant and not an unpleasant surprise.

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Jesus, remember me.

961) Surprises; Pleasant and Unpleasant (a)

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     The season of Advent anticipates the celebration of the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to earth, born among the cattle and the straw in that Bethlehem stable.  The first Sunday in Advent usually speaks of Christ’s second coming, which will be at the end of time as we know it.  In Mark 13:24-25 Jesus says of that time, “In those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”  The world has changed a great deal since Jesus first spoke those words, but a few things have not changed at all.  The same sun has been burning brightly all those years, the moon has with great regularity gone through its monthly cycle from new moon to full moon and back again to a new moon, and Jesus and the disciples looked out on the same stars in the night-time sky on which we look out.  But, says Jesus, make no mistake about it, even all of that will change when he comes again.  “At that time,” Jesus says in verse 26, ” men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”  Then, there will be no ‘silent night, holy night,’ with the wise men having to look all over for the baby Jesus.  And there will be no bewildered King Herod killing a whole village of infants to get at the new king who he knew was born somewhere in the area, but could not be located.  The next time Jesus comes to earth in person the whole world will know he is here.  You’ll know it, says Jesus, by the sun which will be darkened.  That is a clue that no one will be able to miss.  “Heaven and earth will pass away,” said Jesus, which is to say, everything will change.  Only one thing will not be changed then, said Jesus, and that is “my words which will never pass away” (verse 31).  For those who had been listening, his words promised a new creation, and a place in that new creation for all who would believe in him. 

     So Jesus says in the closing words Mark 13 to “watch, be on guard, and be alert,” because no one knows when that time is coming.  Jesus says this every time he talks about the end times.  He says, ‘Watch,’ because it will happen suddenly.  Like the boss in Mark 13 who comes back unexpectedly and finds the work not done and everyone sloughing off.  In other parables, the coming of Jesus will be like a thief in the night which no one ever expects, or like the bridegroom at a wedding feast who is late in arriving and finds half of the wedding party still not yet ready.  In all these parables, Jesus comes as a surprise into the normal routine of normal people as a surprise.

     This idea of surprise is a big theme in the teachings of Jesus, so we might well ask what kind of surprise it will be.  There are, as you know, pleasant surprises, and there are unpleasant surprises.  What kind of surprise would it be for you if the sun’s light went out this afternoon, and Jesus returned to put an end to everything you are familiar with?  Would you be ready to trust him for whatever comes next?  If so, then it would come as a most pleasant surprise; just as it is for some of the folks in the parables of Jesus.  But for others in those parables, that sudden arrival is not at all pleasant.  They are the ones who are not ready.   (continued…)

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Mark 13:24-26  —  (Jesus said), “In those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’  At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

Mark 13:33…35a  —  (Jesus said), “Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come...  Therefore keep watch.”

I Thessalonians 5:2b  The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

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O God, our Father, help us so to live that, whenever your call comes for us, at morning, at midday, or at evening, it may find us ready, our work completed, and our hearts at peace with you, so that we may enter at last with joy into your nearer presence and into life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–William Barclay, Scottish pastor, professor, author  (1907-1978)

954) Guaranteed to Last (b)

     (…continued)  But that wasn’t all Jesus had to say about the end of the world.  His most important word on the subject was to come right at the end of Luke’s telling of this story in chapter twenty-one.  After describing all the bad things that will happen, Jesus told the people to stand firm, because, “By standing firm, you will gain life.”  Life?  That is not what you would expect in a conversation like this.  Here Jesus is talking about wars and earthquakes and famines, with death and destruction everywhere, about huge impressive structures that will come crumbling down, about death and destruction everywhere–  Jesus is describing the end of the whole world.  And then Jesus wraps it all up by saying, we can gain life.  The rest of the passage sounds more like talk of death.  When the Twin Towers went down three thousand lives were lost in the rubble, many being annihilated without a trace.  A human life, it would seem, is far more fragile, far less enduring than a huge building.

     A few years ago I shingled my house.  “These shingles are guaranteed to last 30 years,” said the man at the lumberyard.  Imagine that, I thought, an asphalt shingle has a better guarantee than I’ve got on myself.  According to the statistics, my average life expectancy doesn’t give me another 30 years.  Not only that, but none of us are guaranteed even another week, or even a day.

     We are frail and fragile and we come with no guarantee, but in this passage about wars and earthquakes and famines and the end of the whole world, Jesus is talking about how we can gain life.  You probably know enough about the Bible to know Jesus is referring to our resurrection from the dead and eternal life.  But just because we know that, doesn’t mean we should ever lose the wonder of it.  Think about it.  You will last longer than the pyramids, longer than the Grand Canyon, longer than the sun and the moon and the stars.  The stars have been up there a long time, but one day each one of those lights will go out, and we will still live, we who “by standing firm, will gain life,” Jesus said.

     C. S. Lewis once gave a lecture entitled The Weight of Glory in which he made the startling claim that every person you meet is more important than an entire civilization.  The Persian empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman empire have all come and gone, just as the greatness of the United States of America will someday be simply an item in the history books.  Civilizations, empires, and nations all come and go, but people, with their fragile and temporary bodies, are the greatest miracles and the most enduring entities in all creation.  That is what Jesus is saying to the disciples in this verse.  That is the perspective he was always teaching them.  That is the perspective you go to church each week to sing about and pray for and be reminded of.  It is not something you hear about or see evidence of anywhere else.  “Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life,” we sing as the Scripture lessons are read.  Good question.  Where else shall we go to hear of such a hope?  There is no where else to go.  Only from Jesus who said, “Stand firm in this hope, and you will gain life.”

     Sometimes parents will say to their teenagers, “You better get with it, because it won’t be long and you will be out there in the real world.”  The real world.  No more free rent, free food, free laundry service, and no car unless you buy your own, put your own insurance on it, and buy your own gas.  In the real world, you have to make it on your own.  Those parents have a point.

     Others might describe this contrast saying, “You can talk about love and mercy and heaven and all that in church on Sunday morning, but on Monday morning, it’s back out into the real world.”  The real world, the solid, sordid world, the world of facts, the world of making it on your own, the world you can see and feel and touch and manage, where you might take charge or might get beat up.  That’s the real world, some say, not the world of prayer to someone you can’t see, Jesus who you can’t touch, or heaven which may or may not be there.  Sunday morning church, some will tell you, is not the real world.

      But Jesus has one big fact, one big reality for everyone:  that is the fact that this world, this ‘real’ world, and everything in it, is passing away.  It is perishing.  Even though some scientists disagree with some Christians on how this world began, everyone agrees on the fact that it will end.  Scientists say that in a few billion years the sun will burn out and the earth will freeze over and life will end.  The Bible says that the earth will wear out like an old garment and the people will die like flies.  There is no disagreement on that.  That’s the real world for you– it’s real all right, until it perishes — and you and I with it.

      But Jesus, who with the Father, created the reality of this world, offers another reality, another life, another world.  In everything Jesus says and does, he is offering this new reality to all who would believe in him.  It is his free gift. It is out of our hands, but comes to us by God’s grace.  Stand firm in that hope, Jesus says, and you will gain life.

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Isaiah 51:6  —  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies.  But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

Mark 13:31  —  (Jesus said), “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Mark 13:33  —  (Jesus said), “Be on guard! Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.”

Luke 21:19  —  (Jesus said), “Stand firm and you will gain life.”

II Corinthians 5:4-5  —  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

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AMAZING GRACE (verses 5-7):

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

600) The End is Near

     Alma was a sweet old lady I knew in a congregation where I was a pastor years ago.  She had not always lived in in the Minnesota.  She had grown up in Pennsylvania where her parents belonged to a small religious sect.  What she described of the group sounded like something we might call a cult today.  But to her as a young girl it was just ‘church,’ and it was the only church she knew.

     One of the beliefs of that small sect was that the world was going to end very soon.  It was 1917 and the United States had just entered World War I.  The world had never seen such a war before, a war that involved dozens of nations from around the globe.  This earth shaking crisis, plus a creative reading of several verses from the book of Revelation, convinced the leader of that sect that the world was indeed going to end any day.  In fact, after a little more Bible study, he told his followers that he had even figured out exactly what day it would be that the world would end.  And once he knew the day, the exact time was easy to figure out.  Everyone knew that Jesus would come at dawn with the rising of the sun.

     “Forget your jobs, forget your homes, forget everything but your eternal soul” he said; “Forsake your earthly life and prepare yourself, so that you may be ready for the day of the Lord’s return.”  This was a convincing preacher, and this was serious business, so yes indeed, everyone thought, “Why worry about jobs and homes?  We will let everything go, spend our remaining time in prayer, and we will be ready.”  And so they did.  They quit their jobs, spent hours together in prayer, and desperately begged relatives and friends to join them in being ready for the end.  

     On the last night before the day that the world was to end, the small group gathered at the top of the highest hill in the area, a hill bare of trees, a place where they would have the earliest and best look at the rising of the sun.  They wanted to be there, because that next morning it would not be the sun rising in the east to bring the light of another day, but it would be the radiance of the Son of God, bringing his eternal light.  This old world would be passing away, and they would be the first to see it.

     Well, guess what?  It was the same old sun that came up over the dark horizon, and the world did not end that day.  The minister had apparently misinterpreted a few verses, and his calculations had fallen on the wrong date.  However, he did some more Bible study, recalculated, and then kept on preaching that the end was near, now, announcing a new date that he was sure Christ would return.  But Alma’s father had enough.  Going back into town to the jeers of his friends and neighbors, not to mention the lack of a job anymore, made him decide to go west.  He wanted to get to a place far enough away so that no one knew of his embarrassing mistake of dropping everything for the end of the world.  He got as far as Minnesota, found work, and joined the Lutherans, the only church in town.  I don’t know if he ever told anyone about the end of the world that failed to come.  But after 65 years his daughter Alma, then an old lady, was well past the embarrassment of it all, and could tell the story.

     The old minister was wrong, but only in the minor details.  He had the wrong day, of course.  And I have heard of the old tradition that says Jesus will return in the eastern sky; though it would be hard to prove from the Bible.  But the rest of his message was classic Christianity, believed by all Christians at all times.  Jesus is coming again, the Bible says, and Jesus often told his hearers to, “Be careful, watch, and pray that you may be ready.”  

     That is the message of the Gospel reading for the first Sunday in Advent from Mark 13:24-37.  After he gave some signs of the coming end of the world, Jesus told everyone to, “Beware, keep alert, and stay awake.”  Alma’s old pastor was certainly a radical, but according to Jesus words here, we might say he wasn’t radical enough.  That minister had only one specific night picked out in which he wanted to make sure everyone was ready for the Lord’s return.  Jesus, however, taught that we should all, always be ready, every day and every night.  We should always be as serious about his return as were the people in that small group of believers on that bare hillside in 1917.  Alma knew that her childhood minister had the wrong date, but she never stopped believing that Jesus would be coming back.  

     This world will indeed end for you and me, either when Christ returns, or, if we are not around for that, it will still end for each of us, one at at time, when we die.

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Mark 13:33  —  (Jesus said), “Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.”

Mark 13:26  —  (Jesus said),  “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

Mark 13:36-37  —  (Jesus said), “ If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

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The Bible’s closing prayer, Revelation 22:20-21:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.