By Brittany Caine-Conley (Rev. Smash)
Mark 13: 24-37
Blessing When the World is Ending by Jan Richardson
Look, the world is always ending, somewhere.
Somewhere the sun has come crashing down.
Somewhere it has gone, completely dark.
Somewhere it has ended with the gun, the knife, the fist.
Somewhere it has ended with the slammed door, the shattered hope.
Somewhere it has ended, with the utter quiet, that follows the news
from the phone, the television, the hospital room.
Somewhere it has ended with a tenderness that will break your heart.
But, listen, this blessing means to be anything but morose.
It has not come to cause despair.
It is simply here because there is nothing a blessing is better suited for
than an ending, nothing that cries out more for a blessing than when a world is falling apart.
This blessing will not fix you, will not mend you, will not give you
it will not talk to you about one door opening, when another one closes.
It will simply sit itself beside you, among the shards, and gently turn your face
toward the direction, from which the light will come, gathering itself
about you as the world begins
These words are striking. Because the world is ending. We’ve experienced this ending, over and over again.
And yet, here we have a blessing, a blessing that forgoes simplistic answers and well-meaning pleasantries.
This blessing of waiting, of keeping watch. Of a gently turned face, yearning toward the light that is to come.
There is a striking difference between this waiting on the light, and the keeping watch of our frenzied day-to-day.
The words “Keep Watch” or “Keep Alert,” on their own, they seem to have an anxious, anticipatory, security-culture, feel. We know what it feels like to keep awake in this careful, concerned and restless way.
We keep watch for violent white supremacists, for oppressive legislation, for the latest drama and the most cringeworthy news.
We’re constantly on high alert.
The community that first heard Mark’s Gospel was in a similar place. They spent their lives under violent Roman occupation, but as they were receiving these Gospel words, nationalists were pushing out the Romans, and war ensued. They were under constant threat. I’m sure they kept awake and kept watch.
In this time of turmoil, the Gospel writer made sure the people heard these words from Jesus, which come just before our Gospel lesson, in the 13th chapter of Mark:
As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
It is in this context, in this imperial violence, in this constant threat, that the community is told that the sun will lose its light. They are told to keep watch.
We see that we’re not called to keep alert for the crises that swarm around us, but in this season of darkness, disorientation, waiting and yearning, we are called to keep watch for tiny specks of light, for the inbreaking of God’s dream, God’s kindom. We keep alert for the goodness that will surprise us.
We dwell in the dark, and the Spirit dwells with us, and she turns our face, ever so slightly, gently, toward the light that is to come. May it be so.