The Rev’d Robert Warren                                
Mark 13:24-37

“Therefore keep awake....”

At the end of a list of troubling predictions, Jesus commands his followers to “keep awake” or else they will miss out.  His predictions take the form of rich metaphors - a darkened sun and moon, stars falling from heaven and a powerful shaking of the “powers in the heavens”.    You’d think such things would prevent sleep or at least wake you up with a start.  It only takes a little thunder on the horizon and my wife’s dog is clawing at the door seeking a safe space under the covers - generally on my side of the bed.  

Jesus speaks in a apocalyptic mode which we recognize from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.  As is the case with these books, Jesus refers to particular political and social realities of his day - foreseeing, at a stretch, the armies of Titus and Vespasian camped on the hills around Jerusalem.  The generation which heard Jesus speak would well not have completely passed away before these things took place.  A national doom was on its way - something which the great and the good thought unlikely - to their peril.  Jesus does not provide a glossary and apocalyptic language of the sort he uses here does appear to be a bit of a code.   It might even seem a nuisance.  What does it all mean, after all?

We are more than capable of sleeping through the changes which happen around us in the world.  Nations have risen and fallen in our lifetime.   We may be only dimly be aware of some of the great tragedies which have affected nations not our own.  It took place somewhere else and action from us was not immediately required.  Our friends and cousins sleepwalk into divorces because they don’t pay attention to the warning signs.  They stand idly by while their children shipwreck in the midst of less-than-stellar life choices.  Parish churches which are not awake to the challenges of God in their particular neighbourhood or situation can sleepwalk their way into redundancy.  

It’s not that our bodies rebel against us and our heads drop to our chest in literal sleep.   We are simply not paying attention.  Our minds are elsewhere.  We fib to ourselves.  We don’t care any more.  Wakefulness requires a clear intention to be awake.  As we look out the window we need to be asking questions:  What do all these things mean - my work, my family, the politics of my nation?  In light of God’s son Jesus who is bringing God’s kingdom into the world - what does it all mean?

Wakefulness does not provide all the answers.  It does pose the questions rather well.

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