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1 Advent - Mark 13:24-37

Happy new year!

The first Sunday in Advent is the beginning of a new church year, meaning

among other things that we change the primary gospel being read during worship.

After a year of Matthew, we turn into the gospel according to Mark.

I encourage you to take some time—you know, if you happen to be home with nowhere to go for a few months—and read the gospel of Mark in one sitting, like a short novel for book club.

There is a flow to the story that gets easily lost when you only hear snippets on Sundays.

Before you crack it open, however, prepare yourself.

Fill a bottle of water and wear comfortable clothes, and bring a towel to wipe your sweat. While Luke is a miniseries and Matthew is an audit, Mark is a workout.

Jesus maintains a breakneck pace, immediately going and healing and causing trouble

and escalating conflict and going somewhere else and teaching so fast you don't hear what he said because immediately he heads off somewhere else.

There are screaming demons and scolded disciples and dust and confusion everywhere.

We'll explore some of this together early next year; watch the website and other

communications you get from us about a virtual introduction to Mark which I will lead the first three Sundays in January.

For now, buckle up, because Mark flies quickly...until chapter thirteen.

Today's gospel comes from the chapter where Mark slams on the brakes and burns the clutch.

The whiplash gospel now slows to a crawl, as if to startle its passengers awake just in time to hear Jesus say keep alert...keep awake...keep awake!

The chapter begins with the disciples sightseeing at the temple.

Jesus points through the crowd to a widow dropping a penny into the plate.

Someone responds with, Look Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!

The disciples spend a lot of Mark's gospel missing the point.

Then Jesus asked, "Do you see these great buildings?

Not one stone will be left here upon another' all will be thrown down.

Now he has their attention.

Who cares about the demise of some child of God, but architecture matters.

The disciples, who disregard the offering plate but give to the capital campaign because widows come and go but we have to take care of the building, are suddenly all ears: Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the [signal]...?

This launches the longest section of Jesus' words in the gospel.

It reads like a Dave Barry summary of 2020.

There will be wars and rumors of wars...earthquakes...famines...this is but the beginning

of the birth pangs.

You will be beaten in synagogues...stand before governors and kings...hated by all.

Brother will betray brother...when you see the desolating sacrilege...woe to those

who are pregnant in those days...pray that it might not be in winter.

For in those days there will be much suffering, such as has not been from the beginning

of the creation that God created until now...

You get the drift.

All of this doom or gloom, or as we now call it, evening news, leads up to this

morning's reading, when the sky goes dark and heaven and earth die and ... did

you notice the fig tree?

Wait, what?

As creation collapses, the man who ignored the temple to watch a widow points

out a fig tree in spring bloom.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its