We would have called it the boonies or the sticks or perhaps BFE. Mark refers to it simply as the wilderness. Whatever the name, it was a place you didn’t so much go to as you went through.
Explore and sign up for our series of weekly emailed reflections, which follow the Revised Common Lectionary liturgical calendar of readings from the Old and New Testaments. These reflections have been drawn from, and lend themselves to, sermons for preachers as well as private devotionals. All are rooted in perspectives “from below” that embrace abundance and peacemaking.
It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
I hate to wake up. Yes, it beats the alternative, but it is so painful. The mattress, pillow, sheets and comforter offer such warm friendship while the cold, hard, dusty floor promises only pain. Like a bully smacking his fist, the cold air waits knowing I have to pass by on my way home from school (or in this case to the bathroom). With all respect to Neil Sedaka, it is waking up, more than breaking up, that is hard to do.
Jesus must have known this. Why else would he say it not once, or twice, but three times, sounding like the parent of a slumbering teenager on a school morning. What event is important enough to warrant three exclamation points? The answer: “You do not know when the master of the house will come…”
So, we are to stay awake so the master won’t find us asleep when he returns? This sounds reasonable. Even if the boss doesn’t come back until tomorrow, it seems fair to ask us workers to stay awake. But what if the next day passes? And then the next and the next? Are we supposed to remain awake? After two weeks? After two months? After two years are we supposed to remain awake? And what, I ask, are we to do if the master delays his return for 2,000 years? Is it fair to expect us to remain alert, aware and awake? This is a bold request, especially in light of what happens in the next chapter.
I imagine the disciples were full of amens and assurances no matter how long Jesus delayed—just like pew mates on Sunday morning. Their zeal carried through the Passover meal, the hymn, and out onto the Mount of Olives where Jesus only asked of them two things: be present and stay awake. Simple enough until the wine…the lamb…and the non gluten free bread worked their magic, causing every disciple to fail Jesus’ second request. They fell asleep not once, or twice, but three times. The master hadn’t even gotten out of the driveway before the servants were snoring. If such was true of Jesus’ first disciples, how can we be expected to remain alert after 2,000 years? Having failed in Jesus’ second request, the disciples quickly failed at his first. When the soldiers arrived, “then” Mark writes, “everyone deserted him and fled.”
Be present and stay awake. Perhaps there is another kind of invitation in Jesus’ words. Had Jesus been speaking today, he may have said something like, “Stay woke, cause you don’t know when I’ll show up.”
Jesus showed up at our food and clothing bank a few weeks ago. She was pushing a shopping cart and arrived late, of course. I knew her to be a notoriously tardy shopper near impossible to get to leave, so I told her to come back next week. Her face, already hanging low, fell even further, “I just need some clothes.”
“We’ll fix you a bag of food.”
“Yes, but I still need a change of clothes,” she said a little louder.
“I’m sorry but we’re closing.”
Flakes of mascara became dark rivers as she cried even louder, “I’ve been wearing these clothes for four days and I can’t take it any longer.”
Like I said, it is hard for me to wake up. Sometimes it takes three alarms. “Of course, yes, what was I thinking. Come down and let’s get you some clothes.”
I used to question the sanity of the lectionary elves. In what world does it make sense to start the Christmas season with a passage about eclipses, falling stars and thunderous heavens? How could Santa find us in such extreme weather conditions? As time has passed, I’ve awakened to their genius. Advent is an opportunity to practice arrivals, not just of reindeer ornaments, Bing Crosby and tinseled presents, but of the God who shows up in unexpected ways, and unexpected places, through the features of human faces. Wake us up, O Lord, wake us up.
Senior Fellow | Street Psalms
Pastor | Manitou Park Presbyterian Church
God comes to us in what Mother Theresa called “the distressing disguise of the other,” in the face of the despised and rejected. That, in a nutshell, is the Gospel. It’s Word made flesh!
When people preach on this parable, they often focus on the concept of stewardship: how we use our time, treasure, and talents while we wait for God to return. And at first glance, it’s easy to see how one might see it that way.
Awake and celebrate! Is there a more elemental invitation of the Gospel of Jesus? In this week’s text Jesus tells the story of ten bridesmaids and a wedding party. Five of the bridesmaids remain awake and join the celebration.
This week marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther famously nailing his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. The action brought attention to the rampant abuse inherent in the ecclesiastical structures of his day.
“Love God. Love People. Nothing Else Matters.” So reads a phrase on the many battered T-shirts stacked up in the back of my closet. I just don’t have the heart to discard them…
In this week’s text the religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus with a question about whether Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. But this isn’t really a question about taxes. It’s more sinister.
Stephen Curry, basketball star of the Golden State Warriors, said he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to visit the White House. He was hesitant due to the President’s statements concerning NFL football players and their protests during the national anthem…
I’m told there is no utility in my delusions but yet I choose to imagine, envisioning a world of fellowship and joy. In this, my alternate global reality, wooden ships are ushered through placid seaways as steady breezes push against their ample sails, all adorned with the sacred symbol of the cross.
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