November 30, 2014
Mark 13:24-37
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Ready, Set...
Advent 1

Fall installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

Leah Lonsbury

Are you awake, or are you drowsing off? This week Jesus tells us to make sure we have that fresh pot of coffee brewed (metaphorically speaking), because we want to be alert and prepared for when the Master returns. Of course, being awake and ready is an overarching theme of the Advent season. We often associate Advent waiting with hopeful anticipation (fueled by the general bonhomie of the Christmas season both sacred and secular), but in the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Leah Lonsbury points out that much of the waiting we experience is far more apprehensive and uneasy. When our thoughts about the future are defined more by fear than by joy, we’re tempted to avoid engaging with the world and instead seek safety and security for ourselves and our loved ones. Yet Leah tells us that this week’s lectionary texts counsel exactly the opposite -- the readiness Jesus expects of us is based on being true to our Father’s calling and being about his work in the world... even in the face of mortal danger (as was true of ISIS beheading victim Peter Kassig, who lived out a calling of service to people in Syria and Lebanon). As Paul strikingly puts it in our epistle text, we have no excuse for living otherwise: “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That's in keeping with the implied message of how the master will behave on his return -- it will depend on what we have accomplished with our lives while he was gone (as in the parable of the talents); so whether our anticipation is joyful or fearful depends on us. Here’s a preview:

Ready, Set...
by Leah Lonsbury
Mark 13:24-37; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

In this week’s gospel text, Jesus issues a sternly worded warning about being ready. We have to be ready at all times, he says, for we never know when or how the master of the house (the Messiah) will return. Throughout Advent, most of our lectionary texts hold a heightened sense of anticipation akin to this one, and that expectation is only ratcheted up by our more secular surroundings. The Walgreens around the corner from my house has been steadily building its Christmas stock since what had been the Halloween aisle became a Christmas extravaganza on November 1st. There were reindeer band-aids on the first aid aisle yesterday, and it’s becoming nearly impossible to escape this Walgreens’ brand of scurry and scramble even though it doesn’t quite match up with the hopeful anticipation and preparation we typically associate with the season of Advent. Perhaps that’s because much of the waiting and anticipation in our modern-day human experience is anxiety-ridden and -driven -- not so much waiting for the birth of Love in a humble stable as for the other shoe to drop. This isn’t surprising in a world where struggle, disappointment, and tragedy are woven into the human condition, and where the 24-hour news cycle constantly reminds us of that with reports on the latest horrors and all their grisly details (such as the gruesome attack on a synagogue in Israel or the most recent ISIS beheading). As a result, much of our anticipation is based in fear. This can be clearly seen in Ferguson, Missouri -- where gun sales are soaring and police are stocking up on tactical gear while the public nervously awaits the findings of a grand jury investigating the case of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager killed by police officer Darren Wilson. 

In this kind of atmosphere, it’s easy to shut down and give up hope, but that is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is calling us to in our gospel text from Mark. This week we’ll take a look at the type of readiness and anticipatory living Jesus is describing, and see if we’re up for that kind of risky engagement in a world swirling with anxiety and fear. It’s clear in our passage from Corinthians that Paul believes we are -- because, as he writes, we already have and know and are exactly what the troubled world is aching for, despite our qualms and potentially incapacitating doubt.

>> Fall installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating