This was written prior to the outbreak of the new Southern California fires; we pray for the safety of all involved there.
Deborah Beach Giordano
© December 3, 2017
Mark 13:24-37 ~ told by Deborah
Jesus said, “But in the days that follow, the sun will grow dim, the moon will go dark, and stars will be falling from heaven, and the cosmic powers will be shaken.
“Then the Son of Man will make a dramatic entrance — in grandeur and power. He will send forth angels to gather his chosen ones from the farthest corners of the earth to the distant reaches of heaven.
“Take the the fig tree as an example: as soon as leaves begin to form on its branches, you know that summer is coming. So, too, when you see these things happening, you know that he is near by, right on the doorstep.
“I’m telling you truly, all this will take place during your lifetimes. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But nobody knows the day or the hour when it will happen — not the angels above, nor the Son — only the Father. So be on the alert, because you don’t know when the time will come.
“It’s like a man going on business trip, when he leaves the office and puts his managers in charge, each with a particular responsibility, and orders the staff to keep the place secure.
“That’s how it is: you don’t know when the CEO will arrive — it could be while you’re at dinner, or before breakfast; it might be in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, at sunset or just before dawn; any time at all — so be on the alert, otherwise he may find you asleep when he appears.
“I say to all of you: Keep awake.”
All of a Sudden
It is impossible to read Jesus’ warning as given in this passage without thinking of the terrible fires that rampaged through our region of California. For many people, it happened just as the Lord said: without warning, at an unexpected time; suddenly a firefighter was pounding on the door, shouting that they must leave their home immediately, this very minute, for an almighty conflagration was on its way. All at once, in the midst of a tranquil, ordinary day, their very lives were at stake.
Burning embers rained from the sky, igniting new blazes miles away like fiery “stars falling from heaven,” and the smoke and soot was so thick that it “dimmed the sun and darkened the moon.” It was as if it was the end of the world.
And for several days the terror continued, unabated, out of control. Our powers were as nothing against the sea of flames.
Nothing and no one was safe: the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the aged and the young. The disaster struck “the good and bad alike”: devouring houses, hotels, and apartment buildings; gated communities and trailer parks; cars and campers and fire trucks, farms and forests and vineyards; crops and clothing and computers; birds and bees, livestock and wildlife, and forty-four human lives.
Those of us living in the area were made vividly aware of the destructive force of fire, and the fragile nature of life as we know it. All at once, without warning, everything could change — everything could literally vanish; disintegrated into ashes, into nothingness.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Just as Jesus said.
It’s easy to take our safety for granted; surrounded by civilization we are lulled into a false sense of security: the fire station is less than a mile away, there’s a fire hydrant on the corner, emergency services is just a phone call away. Besides, disasters happen to other people, and if — God forbid! — anything were to go amiss, we’d have plenty of time to prepare.
But the firestorm proved that we might not.
It might happen when we weren’t expecting it: in the middle of the night, or late in the afternoon; it might happen at dinner time, or just as we stepped into the shower.
“The end of our world” might come suddenly. As Jesus warned.
The greatest threat to us isn’t wildfires — or hurricanes, or floods, or earthquakes — what they destroy, generally, are mere things: earthly “stuff” that can be replaced. What if, instead of a fireman pounding on our door, shouting out that we had only a few minutes left, it was the Angel of death?
Suddenly, often without warning, our lives are ended. Nobody gets out of here alive, that’s a fact. How, then, have we prepared ourselves?
Is It Well with Your Soul?
One of the traditional questions asked in faith-supporting communities is, “Is it well with your soul?” In contemporary terms: Are you ready to go, if that Winged Messenger came calling today?
What would you need in order to be ready to leave this life “at a moment’s notice”?
Are there any essentials you’ve let go by the wayside, any important issues you have avoided or neglected? Any promises you’ve failed to keep? Any joys you have postponed?
Is your heart filled with compassion and lovingkindness? Is your spirit infused with gratitude and delight? Do you trust in God’s goodness and mercy? In short: Is it well with your soul?
If Death came knocking at your door today, are you prepared to go?
It Can’t Happen Here
As the Lord said, we need to be awake: aware and ever-mindful of the reality of our mortality. We don’t have “all the time in the world” to prepare; none of us knows the day or the hour when life as we know it shall come to an end.
I’m not afraid of death;
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
~ Woody Allen
It’s natural to put off thinking about such things, just as we’re prone to do with disaster planning. It’s not pleasant to imagine our dying: the world going on without us, the events that we would miss, how our end might come, or how long it might take — but that doesn’t prevent it from happening. We mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of our youth, or health, or family history of longevity. How often have you heard it said, “If I die…” as though it’s an option?
Awakened to Life
“Be awake, therefore,” not in fear-filled sleeplessness, but in daily alertness. Be aware that today is all we have for certain. Today — not tomorrow; today — not last week. Mindful of death, we will be fully awake to life: to seeing this world, our world, without expectations of tomorrow.
Today, with no guarantee of tomorrow, be alive, awake, aware, and supremely grateful. Perhaps this time will be the very last time your eyes see that face, your ears hear that music, your tongue tastes that flavor, your nose smells that fragrance, your fingers touch that texture, you think those thoughts, you feel those emotions, you say those words….
What if, in the midst of these things, Someone came knocking, announcing that the time had come: that you had to leave, at once? Some day it will happen, but no one knows the day or the hour. It can happen at any time: in the middle of the day or the middle of the night — suddenly, without any warning. And we will have to leave everything behind.
A Departing Blessing
When we go we will leave everything behind — including those who love us. If it is well with our souls, our legacy will be a blessing. Our loved ones will grieve, but not without hope, for the Light will have shined in our lives, and through our lives, leaving a legacy of lovingkindness and compassion; we will have demonstrated what it means to be Awakened and Alive in Christ — in this world and the next.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Suggested Spiritual Exercise:
Are you prepared to leave at a moment’s notice?
Is it well with your soul?