Scriptures: Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8
Now, it just may be me, but it appears lately that I’ve been seeing a lot of “preparedness” information available. Do you know what I mean? I think it was at the Celebrate La Grande festival at Max square that it first jumped out at me. When we left there, I had gathered handouts and pamphlets from at least three different tables about having food and water stockpiled, what to have in your car in case you have to make a quick getaway from town, how to shut off the gas to your house, and planning fire escape routes with your kids. It was National Preparedness Month, so you might expect someone to be talking about preparedness, especially the Red Cross. But it was also International Square Dance Month, and I didn’t see anyone swinging their partners through the square.
When I brought this up to Laura, I asked her if she thought people were getting nervous about the Mayan calendar ending thing that is supposed to happen December 22nd. Well, no. She had a much more logical response: Just look at all the natural and man-made disasters that have happened in this country and the world in just the past few years and even the last few weeks. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, nuclear power plant meltdowns, wars. It’s no wonder that people are afraid, planning escape routes, and gathering a few days worth of food.
And then I even found a TV show on National Geographic TV call “Doomsday Preppers.” Are you prepared for the end of the world? Meet some people who are. Per their website, “Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties. And with our expert’s assessment, they will find out their chances of survival if their worst fears become a reality.”
Well, I thought. It is time to get prepared! I’m missing out on something here. So, I took it upon myself to begin putting a kit together. I was cruising the web and found this Apocalypse Kit from Jesus.com. And it was free! Free! So I had to order it. When it arrived in the mail, I decided to wait and open it with all of you today during worship. Now, I did think it would be bigger. Let’s read the invoice:
Thank you for your recent order. Enclosed, you will find everything you need to prepare yourself for my upcoming return. Enjoy and God Bless! Jesus Christ
Alright, let’s open it up…A WWJD water bottle. You know, what would Jesus drink? Huh, looks like there are just a couple things in here. A couple of envelopes. Let’s see. The first envelope says, “Do not be alarmed.” Do not be alarmed? But what about all the wars, famines and earthquakes? How can one not be alarmed?!? Looks like there is a letter in here. Let’s read it:
Right, don’t be alarmed. I’m serious when I say that. Many will use my name to draw your attention to and focus all your energy on the end of the age. You’ve seen their websites and publications. There are even people out there with ‘end-time’ clocks. Every war or earthquake marks a second closer to the end. Do not be afraid and focused on those things. Do not become so focused on figuring out when I’m going to return that you forget or neglect why I came in the first place and why I sent you to share the good news. Tell someone about how I transformed your life today. Welcome the stranger. Feed the hungry. Cloth the naked. Love your neighbor. Because, Keith, the good news is I am coming back, but I am also here with you now by the Holy Spirit. I want to be in a relationship with you now! Your focus must not be on the signs themselves, but rather on me. I love you, everyone who is with you today and the world. Everyday is a day closer to my return. But if that becomes your main concern and not the love I want to share with you, fear will rule the day. Keep your focus on me and…
That’s kind of an interesting way to end a letter. Well, let’s look at the second one. It says, “Provoke one another.” I don’t really want to provoke anyone. Sounds like Jesus wants me to start a fight or something. Better read his letter.
Got your attention, didn’t I. This one is really tied to my first letter. I don’t want you to forget about the community in which you are a part of. Sadly, when so many people start thinking about my return, they hunker down and start worrying about their own salvation. Don’t forget I came to set you free from that worry. You are saved by my free gift of grace through faith. Now move on! What I want you to do is provoke one another to love and good deeds while you wait. The gift of salvation you found in me is not one that you keep to yourself, it is meant for building up the whole body of believers and to be shared with the world. Do you see someone who has gifts to work with youth? Tell them! Is there someone sitting out there that has an empathetic heart and would serve me as a good deacon in the church? Ask them! Keep coming together to glorify God and encourage one another. You need a community to stir you up, to provoke you, even splash the baptismal waters in your face from time to time. You need to do it to them now and again, too. You are my people and you are not to let each other become complacent in your journeys of discipleship. Through me, you are capable of doing so much. They are capable of doing incredible, wonderful things in my name. You are to wrestle with this entire community as you discern together how I am leading you outside the walls of this church to be my people.
Keith, just know this, hold fast to this: I love you and that quirky little community of my followers that you pastor in La Grande, Oregon. I have given you everything you need as you prepare for my return. Just look up to me and around to one another. In my name Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, Amen.