RCL Year B Proper 28
Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14 and 19-25, Saint Mark 13:1-8

If we want a bird’s-eye view of this Gospel in the context of Good Shepherd in November, 2018, and we should want that, we need to imagine three rails or three tracks running in parallel until they end. Each of the three adds itself to our bird’s-eye view, and we need to keep each in mind for that bird’s-eye view to be accurate.

The first track involves Jesus and his disciples. They have finished proclaiming the kingdom, teaching the ways of God, and healing the sick in the hinterlands, in the outlying districts, and now they have come to Jerusalem, the big city, for the final show-down, the come-to-Jesus moment, for the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the followers of John, and the followers of Jesus. Those who oppose Jesus are about to kill him, and those who want him dead are in for a big surprise. He will die, willingly, but in three days he will rise again, powerfully. The world as they know it is in for drastic change. Time is marching on.

The second track belongs to the Jews, God’s chosen people, whose providential relationship with God is about to change. God has brought them out of slavery in Egypt, fed them with milk and honey in the promised land, prospered them, given them a king, allowed them to go into the Babylonian Captivity, redeemed them from that Captivity, empowered them to rebuild the Temple—that providential guidance is about to change. As drastic as the death and resurrection of Jesus are, they are as drastic as the change about to befall the Jews. They are about to be given a Savior and Redeemer in place of a providential history. Time is marching on for them, too.

And now for the third rail, the third track. Here we are at the end of the Church Year, and we are in for drastic change, too. We are two Sundays away from Advent, the Season that prefigures the drastic change of the end of time, the Season that marks repetitively our belief that time will end when Jesus comes again to be our Judge and our Redeemer. We live through that drastic change by celebrating the birth in barn of that Judge and that Redeemer. Things are about to change for us, too.

For time is running out. On our rail, on our track, we’ve reached that time of the year, the end of the Church Year, when the Gospels proclaimed on Sundays proclaim to us that the year is ending, time is running out, our freedom to be ourselves is lessening in the face of Jesus, who lets us be ourselves, but not forever. For the face of Jesus calls us to be his, wholly and entirely his, not just a little bit his, not just his one hour a week at church, but his all the time and in every way.

Each of us has the freedom to be and to do what we want. But Christ calls us to be his, his agents in a broken world, working to reconcile the world to God, working to reconcile people to God, working with God to bring all things to their perfection in Christ.

Each of us has the freedom to be that reconciler or not to be that reconciler. We have the freedom to be that reconciler 50% of the time, and to suit ourselves 50% of the time. But, I give you my word, if you choose to be that reconciler 50% of the time, Christ will want 51% of the time. And if you choose to be that reconciler 90% of the time, Christ will want 91% of the time. He will not be satisfied with anything less. The Epistle to the Hebrews, not in the Lesson for today but elsewhere, declares that “our God is a consuming fire.”[1] I know. I know firsthand. Whatever you try to keep to yourself, your private quarter, your private stock, your private part of yourself where you can be you and only you, God will want, and God will get in the end.

I believe I am talking to you about stewardship, but stewardship not in financial terms. But this stewardship is at least as important as your financial stewardship. It’s a stewardship that leads to your happiness if you will give to God. Everything that happens to you that you think is bad and painful and difficult and confusing can be what Jesus calls the “beginning of the birth-pangs[2].” Everything that is bad and painful and difficult and confusing can be turned to the birth of something—someone—namely you—who has worth and is very worthwhile if you will do but one thing. And that one thing is this. See and understand in that event God’s call to you for 51% of fidelity rather than 50%, 91% of forbearance rather than 90%, 95% of obedience to the will and call of God for your life rather than 94%. Death-pangs thus are converted into birth-pangs, and you will be reborn into the full stature of Christ. For time is running out, and the time when we shall see him face to face draws nearer and nearer each season, each Advent, and each second.

[1] Hebrews 12:29.

[2] Saint Mark 13:8.