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Are we prepared?

November 24, 2013

Last Sunday of the church year

Eternity Sunday

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Mark 13:31-37

This Sunday brings us to another end. It’s a little hard to see in our world that’s already moulded with a large secular stamp that precisely on this Sunday a stage ends. This is the order of the Christian church year.

On this Sunday we want to talk about lastly things and also of eternal things. The word ‘last’ in our everyday language certainly has no positive meaning. We do not like being last, getting last place or reaching the end of things because the latter implies the end and the end could mean lack, doubts, fears of known and unknown things and that we must face the new or the nothing. From this comes the saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” It is often better to deal with someone or something you are familiar with and know, even if it or they are not ideal, than to take a risk with an unknown person or thing.

We humans grab onto what we have at hand. We get used to the life we ​​lead, to the routine we establish. A thinker once said that ‘man is a creature of habit’. Over time people get accustomed, settled down, get adapted, for better or for worse. And when we hear that something is going to end we don’t want it to be so. And when something ends, we want something new to start soon because we cannot bear the loss and we don’t want to face uncertainty. Therefore, film makers coined the term ‘happy ending.’ People always like a happy ending. Will we have a happy ending in our own life?

A relative of mine did not want a vigil to be kept over his father. At his death he said: ‘For me, here in the hospital, it’s all over. The sooner we get him to the cemetery, the better, so we can put an end to all this.’ Those were the words of my relative. From his words and from similar reactions that can often be observed in other people, we realize that there is a great fear of death, or of the Christian ritual surrounding death. We realize that this is the result of a person’s weak faith that has been infected with many of the ideas circulating in popular culture that are without a solid foundation of faith in the scriptures. We see a fear to face the end, the suffering at the end and, ultimately, lack of faith and hope in what comes after death.

Today, we are gathered here in a service where we remember those who past on during this year. For the people mentioned today, all their names, dates, and data, we realize that for these people everything has really finished. Although we would like to build the largest and richest and strongest cemeteries; or the most robust niches or most imposing tombs, life on this earth for these people is over. The question we can ask on this Sunday is: do we know that sometime we will reach our own end too?

The text, especially for this Sunday, comes into view from the Gospel of Mark. It has to do with the second coming and expectation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For what did the Christians of the time of the Gospel of Mark wait? A new time? The kingdom of God? Judgment day? The very presence of God through Jesus Christ …?

A good question for everyone of us on this Sunday might be: What do we expect when we are thinking about the second coming? Today we remember the end. And this Sunday marks the end of another church year. On December 1st we will celebrate the First Sunday of the church year with the first Sunday of Advent and then we will talk about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Two key words are presented to us from the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Two words that will give us an understanding of the selected section and will help us to reflect on this day of rest: lack of knowledge and preparation.

When we speak of lack of knowledge, we realize that every one of us ignores what God plans for us for tomorrow. It is a lack of knowledge in the sense that we often think that we have absolute control over our lives. We plan our lives, studies, special work projects, different educations and make long-term goals. There are still many Christians who become concerned about their future and their various plans and cannot even live life with contentment; they are always worrying about the future. And maybe, thinking about on an endless future life. Lack of knowledge, because we do not know what will be in our life tomorrow and lack of knowledge because we do not even know when the Lord will come.

When it comes to preparation, this means that we really wonder if we are prepared for the face to face encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ who shall come to judge the living and the dead as we say Sunday after Sunday when we speak our creed. Is there or was there a daily moment in our lives when we considered this perspective? Surely, this is difficult because we long for love and to live, work, make plans, and even to enjoy this earth God gave us. But we must do so without losing that perspective and not getting worried but only waiting expectantly.

We do not know when the world’s end will come with the second coming of Jesus Christ, although there are many cults and doomsayers who have wanted to predict it. Not even the angels of heaven know when: “No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows.” (Mt 24:36) From the Bible we know that as every day passes we get closer to the end.

The most important question we can ask ourselves today is: Are we prepared? And what does it mean to be prepared? It’s simpler than you can imagine. The short answer is that: you must receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and believe in him as the Lord, and lead your life according to the word of God, which is the Bible. Being ready for that coming is no more than to want to be true and steady Christians. It does not require anyone to stop dealing with their daily matters. It doesn’t mean to stop projecting or dreaming and working. The farmers do not need to leave their farms nor the sellers their counters, or the doctors their patients, the carpenters their tools, the masons their mortar and trowels, or the blacksmiths their forges. The best thing they can do, each and every one of them, is to be found doing their duty, but fulfilling it as Christians, and with a heart that is prepared and ready to go.

– The truly sad thing is that we live as if it were never to arrive, the time to give account to God for all our actions, because although one may not witness the end of this world, the moment of death will come for everyone, and there we will appear before the tribunal of God.

Moreover, the Judgment Day is a comforting reality for those who have lived as Christians. It is so in a time when so many innocent people suffer the consequences of a crisis that they have not caused, or are suffering due to the arrogance of the powerful, and they are weaker and they feel helpless against the abuses of unjust laws and freedoms that don’t exist because of totalitarian ideologies; for many people it seems that evil is really winning.

Such a time that a judge deems as worthy of truth and true justice is not something to be feared by one who has lived as a Christian. God makes a large step –maybe super – large by our impression of freedom to the evil and bad, but, however, the story is not out of hand. Evil does not have the last word.

Hopefully we can return to our homes today knowing what it means to be prepared. And accept that invitation.

The Last Sunday of the church year reminds us that one day soon will come our last day on earth. And the Lord shall appear before the world. Faith strengthens us to the crucial encounter on that day of salvation of the Lord, who comes soon. Amen.

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