It’s been quite the week. And sometimes in weeks like this one, I find it hard to respond with thanks to God. Even though the marketing machine has kicked into high gear, and we’re being sold one version of reality, this week’s struggles suggest a different, dare I suggest, more important story.
Pipelines. Excessive Consumption. Human Trafficking. War. Persecution. Misogyny. Poverty. Homelessness. Deportations. Hunger. Spiritual Abuse. Police Brutality. The list goes on.
And in a few short weeks, we’ll find ourselves subjected to a new movie of biblical proportion where the good guys look like Darren Wilson, and the bad guys like Michael Brown.
These are days that feel more like the garden of Gethsemane than a nativity scene. And that, I think, is what the gospel writer wants us to recognize. Earlier this week, Social Psychologist and Blogger Christena Cleveland put it this way:
Advent is an invitation to plunge into the deep, dark waters of our worst world, knowing that when we re-surface for air we will encounter the hopeful, hovering Spirit of God.
That same Spirit of God that was present in the beginning is the same hovering spirit that is with us in the midst of this volatile and uncertain time. And it’s in the midst of this world – not an ideal world, not a perfect world – in the midst of this broken, brutal and systemically unjust world – that Jesus calls us to wake up. Implicit in Jesus’ call is a call to action.
Our gospel song today, the song we just sang is comprised of Jesus’ first words in Mark’s Gospel:
The time is fulfilled
The kingdom of God has come near
Come let us repent
And believe in the gospel
– Music by Tom Wuest
There’s this undercurrent throughout Mark, this call to transformation. It’s a call that is extended to all people, and a call that is extended to our community today. It’s a call to action. It’s a call to reflection. And it’s a call to act again, as we follow Jesus, the one who is yet to be born, in his life, death and resurrection.
Reading and re-reading today’s gospel, I found myself stumbling all over its screwy apocalyptic imagery. This stuff is so foreign to us. And it has, in so many ways, been co-opted by an escapist, otherworldly theology that has everything to do with heaven and nothing to do with how we live in this world.
Today’s gospel implores us:
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
– Mark 13:33
But the sense of time in today’s gospel is not one of chronos – of chronological time. It’s time, in the sense of kairos. It’s about that indeterminate moment when everything comes together. It’s that thin space where heaven and earth meet.
Advent is about God’s past and God’s future bursting unexpectedly into the present moment and calling us to respond.
This advent, I don’t think we’re necessarily being called to wait until Jesus appears on December 25th. This advent, an advent that begins with these weird bits of Mark’s gospel doesn’t allow us that easy route. It’s not one of those buy now, pay later schemes. If anything, Mark’s gospel calls back into this world, the world of muck and filth. The world we live in. And it’s a world marked by injustice, betrayal, and death.
Ours is a world where Christ is regularly crucified. Gunned down in the street with no indictment for his executioner. And it’s in the midst of this messed up world that Jesus calls us to be awakened to the new way of being that’s being birthed.
It’s almost unbelievable. And yet, Jesus assures us, it’s right in front of our eyes.
The time is fulfilled.
It’s time to respond.