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MK 13:24-37
The First Sunday in Advent...November 27th, 2005

Today's passage may seem like an invitation to rant & rave from the pulpit. Yet we don't see or hear Jesus acting like that. The context suggests a more earthed sadness, desperation, even, than cosmic triumphalism. Jesus draws on the Scriptural heritage of his people & tribulations they've already experienced & weathered to face the disciples with the everyday realities & consequences of the politics of their day, too. (Many, of course, see it as MK extending encouragement & hope from what Jesus is remembered as saying.) The young church will walk a hard path! What encouragement & hope can we draw for ourselves as today's Community of Believers walking a path also hard, if different?

Before we take refuge in apocalyptic, remember there are always more signs on the ground than in the heavens! Today's may be different, like terrorism or other 'crimes against humanity'; globalism & its companion in crime, corporate greed; domestic violence & child abuse; little people all over consigned to the gutters of society.....How is God's Rule making itself felt here & here & here, let alone on a cosmic scale? What are the signs of that Rule today? Something better than pie in the sky in the sweet by & by, surely?

Triumphalism has always been bad news for those triumphed over. Bad news for those who never seem to get to triumph over anybody! On another level, the spirit (small 's'!) of triumphalism all too easily becomes an escape from the realities of cattlesheds with their manure, rejection with its hurt, crosses with their hammer & nails.

How to stay focussed on God (not our projections of God) as the Centre of all being in the hard slog of the here & now? Where there is more 'glory' as God sees it (having experienced it) than harps & heavenly choirs. How to let kairos hold us fast in the midst of the chronos of daily life out there? Perhaps sun moon & stars can help us keep ourselves in perspective. Stay humble. How small we are, as distinct from how powerful we might like to be! But, remember the mustard seed! Heavenly powers, in any good sense, don't seem to cut much mustard today, do they?

Is the 'fig tree' reference as complicated as some commentators would have us believe? Jesus doesn't normally talk in terms too hard for us to understand. Is MK, or the commentators, complicating things? Like we do, often? Isn't the fig tree's season, like the parable-style reference to 'slaves' that follows, simply another illustration of that first principle of God's Rule: being ready Now - in God's time (always Now!) not ours? And, is Jesus ever on about anything much other than God's Rule? I find Rule more dynamic than Kingdom, or even reign. Besides, monarchs, monarchies, & monarchists don't cut much mustard these days either. Lest God's cause suffer by our imagery, maybe it's time to change emphasis. Do I ever see a King in daily life? No, but I know there's a Rule going on, or wanting to, in here in my heart & out there in our margins!