Cross of Grace

A community of grace sharing God's love with no strings attached.

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

"Season's Greetings" - Mark 13:24-37

Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will no longer give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.  Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you will know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  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 don’t know what else there really is still to say about Ferguson, Missouri, or young Michael Brown, or Officer Darren Wilson, or that grand jury that decided there would be no trial, or those riots that followed the grand jury’s big announcement, or the protests that followed the riots – all around the country last week. I mean, I don’t know what else to say because so much has already been said, or blogged, or tweeted, or editorialized from every side and every angle and every position on the issues and circumstances that surround all the things that have taken place there in these days. A lot of me feels ill-equipped or under-qualified or complicit, even, somehow in too much of it, that I’ve just been listening and watching and waiting and stewing about when some sense will be made of it all.

But, I think it’s too significant a thing, such an important moment – another in a long line of significant, important moments in our national, cultural history – that we can’t not say something about it… on Sunday morning… as people who follow Jesus. But again, I just don’t know what or what else there is left to say.

And I’m tired of this conversation, to be honest. I feel like we’ve been down this road before and through this mess already and we just keep slogging through the same old sinfulness – no matter who’s side we think we’re on. White people who just don’t get it. Black people who just don’t get it. White people who are blind to – or dead-set on denying – our privileged place in this country. Black and brown people who are left feeling like the only way to be heard is through riots and retaliation.

There is clearly so much more to be learned from each other. There is clearly so much progress to be made. There is obviously so much yet to be done – and undone – when it comes to making things right in this country where race relations and racial equality and racial justice are concerned, for each other and for our kids. But the conversation – and everything that goes along with it – makes me tired, because I feel like we’ve been having it – to no avail – for so damn long already.

Because you know as well as I do that Ferguson, Missouri, is just another in a long line of the same old, same old. Ferguson is just this generation’s Rodney King verdict. And the list is as long as our willingness and ability to pay attention to it, really.

Trayvon Martin was killed just two years ago.

Jordan Davis, the boy who got shot in an SUV full of his friends by a middle-aged computer programmer because their music was too loud, was just two years ago, too.

James Byrd (you may not remember the name, but you'll remember the story) was dragged for miles behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, until he was decapitated and died. That was in 1998.

The Central Park 5 – that group of teenagers who were wrongfully accused and convicted and sentenced to prison for a crime they didn’t commit – that all started in 1989.

Medgar Evers, the 37 year-old civil rights leader was assassinated in 1963.

And Emmett Till was the 14 year-old boy who was murdered and mutilated for supposedly flirting with a white woman, back in 1955.

And these are just the names who come to mind because they make the news and who get written about in the history books. There are so many more – too many more. And God knows it.

So, I’m tired – and I don’t have much to complain about, as a white man in New Palestine, Indiana, after all. And I’m at a loss for words that are equal to the challenge of addressing it all. But they say a picture is worth a thousand of words, right?

So, I suspect you saw pictures like these, as part of the television coverage of all that’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. And I hope it made you wonder. “Season’s Greetings,” indeed.

I heard someone call it ironic. Some might think it crude or irreverent or just another example of how ignorant or naive we can be about all of this – that such injustice or anger or arrogance or ugliness or whatever can take place, literally, under the banner that proclaims “Season’s Greetings” of Christmas.

But it makes me think about how we need, so much, for this Jesus to come. We need, so desperately, still…still…still, for this Jesus to show up among us. We need, in so many ways to let this Jesus into our midst so that we can stop talking and tweeting and taking sides; so that we can stop pointing fingers and running for cover; so that we can stop throwing stones and starting fires. So that we can turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks… (Isaiah 2:4) So that the wolf will live with the lamb, so the leopard will lie down with the kid, so that the cow and the bear will graze together, and so all of that other crazy, peaceful stuff the prophet, Isaiah, promised just might come to pass. (Isaiah 11:6ff)

We need this Jesus to be revealed, again, because – no matter on which side of this we find ourselves – this Jesus has a word of judgment, a word of challenge, a word of forgiveness, and a word of hope to speak into our heart of hearts about it all. And I wonder if most of us – red or yellow, black or white, right or wrong – aren’t really caught up somewhere in the middle. And I think Jesus has a word – I think Jesus is a Word – for us there, just the same.

So, this Gospel from Mark – with all of its cryptic language about the coming of the Son of Man and about how we’ll see the signs but that we shouldn’t pretend we’ll know the day or the hour of his appearance – just makes me want him to get here.

I want Jesus to get here and stand in the middle of all of this. I want Jesus to get here and make us see him in the other.

I want Jesus to get here – and the Good News that comes with him – to help those of us on one side recognize that Jesus, himself, probably looked a lot more like Michael Brown than like Darren Wilson, in more ways than just the color of his skin. I want Jesus to get here – and the Good News that comes with him – to help those of us on the other side see the poverty of wisdom, the sad lack of compassion, and the ignorance of fear that leads to this perceived injustice.

We need God among us so we can see – really see – the other. We need Jesus in our midst so we can listen – really listen – to the cries of the other side. We need God with us so that we can see humility lived; love practiced; forgiveness offered; justice realized. We need the Good News of Jesus to born anew so that grace and hope might be born again for us all.

And this is why we wait – still. This is why we light our candles and why we pray our prayers. It’s why we embrace the darkness of these days. It’s why we confess and repent and listen. And it’s why – I hope – we make room for something different in our lives and in this world, as we know it, going forward.

Because the only Word that’s up to the challenge of our sinfulness and struggle is the Word that comes to us in Jesus. God’s Word, not mine. God’s Word, not yours. God’s Word, that was in the beginning; God’s Word that brings life and light for all people; God’s Word that shines in the darkness and that will not be overcome; God’s Word, made flesh… alive among us… full of grace and truth.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

All Rights Reserved. Background image by Aaron Stamper. © Cross of Grace Lutheran Church.