During the height of the COVID pandemic, quarantining led to something new: Quaran-teaming. Quaran-teaming was a practice where people formed social pods or teams to help them get through the isolation.
For example, if your family formed a quaran-team with your neighbor's family, you promised one another you would observe safe practices in all your social interactions so your children could play together without masks.
I found this process interesting. Separation led to closeness. In the presence of suffering, people developed intentional relationships built on mutual trust. Although our world was breaking apart and daily interactions were limited and the sick and the infirm were isolated, individuals came together. Closely. Intentionally. For care and support. Like a child reaching for her mother's hand in the face of danger, trouble brought trust to light.
Trust in the midst of trouble. That is what our Lord calls us to experience today.
In our gospel reading, Jesus is speaking to a few of His disciples about the end of the world. The vision He offers is frightening. Nature breaks apart. The sun and the moon no longer give light. The stars no longer hang in the sky. They fall from the heavens. Everything is falling apart. But trouble brings trust to light.
As Jesus unfolds this frightening vision, He offers His disciples a comforting promise. The Son of Man will come. He will gather His people from the ends of the earth. And He will reveal what has always been true - that He rules over all things (verse 26) and His word is to be trusted (verse 31). Amid these frightening changes, one thing remains the same, Jesus, who promises to be there for you.
Amid these frightening changes, one thing remains the same, Jesus, who promises to be there for you.
Jesus will come with the clouds of Heaven. He will no longer be someone you can spit on and torture and nail to a cross. He will no longer be someone you can worship if you have the time or if you do not have anything else going on that weekend. No, He will reveal Himself as Lord of all. All things are under His control. When He comes with power and glory, angels go forth at His bidding. From the ends of the earth and the ends of the heavens, He gathers His people. And His promise of salvation, of eternal life in His Kingdom, will fully and finally come true.
So, “watch,” Jesus says. His words to you are life and His promises will never pass away. In the end, you will see He has conquered sin, conquered death, conquered Satan, for you. Our risen Lord Jesus is the reigning Lord Jesus. Even now when He is so hard to see.
I do not know about you, but it seems as if life in our world has changed so quickly. I am not talking about COVID, now. I am talking about our social interactions. Our nation's public codes of behavior and topics of conversation have changed, and, for Christians, that can be bewildering. We wonder how to respond.
Today, Jesus comes among us to remind us of what we already know. The kingdom He brings is not of this world. If the world does not look like the Church, that is because it is not. His Kingdom is not a political kingdom, established by votes and enforced by power. His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. And He works by grace.
If the world does not look like the Church, that is because it is not.
By grace, today, Jesus gives us His promise:
“I am your Lord and Savior. One day, you will see Me on the clouds of Heaven, revealing who I am. The Lord of all nations. Until that day, however, I come in hidden ways. In a word spoken from a pulpit. In a splash of water on a child's head. In the bread and wine shared at your communion table. I am there, in body and blood, in power and love, for you.
From now until the day of My return, the world will change, and people will wander from their God. Such changes are disorienting, frightening. As my disciples, I know you will feel isolated, alone. But look and listen.
Like a tree, putting forth its leaves, about to bear fruit, these changes and challenges are just the signs of My coming. When the world gives you trouble, I give you a relationship of trust. Trust in the One who overcame the world and who will finally come for you.
Until that day, gather together. Support one another. Watch for my coming. For one day, I will return. I am the master of the Household, and, when I come, I will open my Kingdom and welcome you home.”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Mark 13:24-37.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Mark 13:24-37.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Charles Gieschen of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Mark 13:24-37.