Christ Comes Every Day

Mark 13:24-37

     I like the way Leonard Sweet began a sermon on this Advent text. “Salmon do it. HummingbirdHummingbirds do it. Butterflies do it. Turtles do it. All these creatures, and many more: they all . . . go home again. Salmon find their way from the ocean back to whatever tiny tributary in which they were hatched. Hummingbirds fly over six thousand miles to find their nesting sites. Butterflies gather in the same trees, generation after generation. In the summer of 2011, turtles closed down whole runways at JFK Airport as they migrated back to home ground. The instinct to “go home” is widespread in creation and often times, it’s unstoppable.”[1]

     We see this urge to go home every September when school starts. I’m reminded of the teary kindergartner on the first day of school. The teacher asked, “You aren’t homesick already, are you?” He said, “No, I’m HERE sick.”

     Something about Christmas and the holidays has a way of making people get a bit homesick – even when we are “home.” We get homesick for our childhood homes and the memories of times when all we had to worry about was if there would be enough friends to play kickball tomorrow. We get homesick for dining rooms filled with family members, both here and departed. We get homesick for images of the way we think homes should be like during the holidays. We get homesick for those moments of peace and contentment that made us feel safe, and needed, and honored, and loved.

     I wonder if this instinctive urge to go home is what makes people interpret everything the Bible says with an eye for the end times, the Last Day, heaven-when-we-die? We want to go home, to the place of peace from which we came.

     But you and I don’t have to wait for Jesus to come at the last day in order to be home. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is here today. We simply have to be attentive to where Christ shows up in our lives.

     Even Martin Luther interpreted the tribulation texts with a view to the present day. I peeked at the prayer I wrote in Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther for the complimentary text in Luke 21:25-36. In his sermon, Luther explained the imagery as a metaphor rather than a literal description of Judgment Day. JD wasn’t even a first century Jewish theory.

     Luther said when religious leaders focus on everything except Christ, then Christ is covered like a cloud. The church becomes like a darkened moon when it stops reflecting the Son because it’s caught up in worshiping obedience to rules and mandatory morality. And Christian leaders whose self-importance and outward displays of piety surpass their passion for Christ. They are like stars falling in the darkness of night.

     Jesus assured his disciples that after the hard times will come a holiday, a time the Son of Man will return in “great power and glory” to usher in the kingdom of God. (The Greek word for “power” can also be translated as “actions.”)

     Let me repeat what Jesus said to open his ministry – the kingdom of heaven/God is within your grasp. You and I must work together to assemble it, like a thousand piece jig-saw puzzle we got for Christmas.

     What will it look like when we get the kingdom together? It will be a place filled with unity, harmony, peace, love, hope, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control — all the heavenly treasures.

     When we get the kingdom right in our hearts, our homes, our churches, our communities…we’ll be home for sure. There won’t be any disharmony like in Ferguson, MO. We will love one another, making sure each person is valued and has equal opportunities to develop into the image of God.

   But the answer to change rests with each one of us. We have to be the change. We must become the image of the Christ that dwells within us before we can expect the world around us to change.

      There’s a story about a famous Bishop in Greece (Carthage) named Cyprian who wrote these words to a friend (Donatus). This was two hundred years after Jesus died and rose again: This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden under the shadow of these vines. But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out over the wide lands — you know very well what I would see. [Outlaws] on the high roads, pirates on the seas, in the amphitheaters, men murdered to please applauding crowds, under all roofs misery and selfishness. It is really a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world …Yet in the midst of it I have found a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians – and I am one of them.

    How can Christians have such joy and strength in the midst of a really bad world? Because they are Christ to each other. They bring peace, joy, and love to each other in the midst of military wars, economic wars, religious wars, health wars.

     Christ comes to us every day. We miss him when we are not attentive to Him in every person we meet.

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[1] Leonard Sweet, Mark 13 the sermon titled “The Four Sacred Chords of Home”. (Sermons.com)

 

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