This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. In Advent we prepare for the feast of God coming into the world as one of us.
God who knows what it means to be cold and hungry.
God who knows what it is like to play sports, to laugh with friends, to be nervous before a test.
God who knows about war that rips apart the world, about praying for peace.
God who knows us.
It is a good feast. To prepare, we change the colour of the season to purple.
The reading for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13—the chapter before Jesus gets arrested and taken away from the disciples. Today we hear him speaking to the disciples about a time after the Resurrection, when he comes again. We do not hear about his first coming, but about his second. His second coming we call Parousia.
The disciples want to know when Jesus will come again. When is Parousia, they ask, when will the fullness of the Kingdom come? But Jesus replies,
“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
He does not tell them when. In fact, Jesus himself does not know. Perhaps the disciples do not ask the right question.
Jesus tells them a parable. (Of course he does! He always tells a parable when they do not understand.)
It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with a particular task, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn—or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
Jesus repeats those words, "you do not know." And now we have other questions we do not have the answers to: Why does the Master of the house leave? Where does he go? And we still do not know when he will come back.
But although Jesus does not tell us when the Parousia will be, he tells a parable that has a lot to do with time.
...when he leaves...when he comes...times of day...
This reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not so much a place, as a time.
It is a time when each moment is sacred. When each moment fills with God.
If the Kingdom of God is a time, but we are not supposed to know when it is, what are we supposed to do about it? Nothing?
In the parable, the man puts his slaves in charge of his home, each with a particular task. Remember, slaves are people who own nothing—all that they have is given to them by their Master. Even their tasks are given to them by their Master. How well he must know them if,
a) he entrusts the care of his home to them, and
b) he knows which task to give each one.
When we are Baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit and are anointed like Jesus to build the Kingdom of God,
or maybe we should say,
to bring about the time of the Kingdom of God.
Later, when we are Confirmed, these words are prayed:
"Send them forth in the power of that Spirit
to perform the service you set before them"
Each of us is given a particular task, and we are given all that we need to perform that task.
How well we are known! We have been chosen.
It may seem a little strange to begin Advent with a reading that prepares us for Jesus' second coming rather than his first.
But Jesus is already born.
For that matter, he is already Risen from the dead.
But the Kingdom is not yet complete, and there is work to be done.
As we prepare in the weeks before Christmas,
as we prepare in the coming months and years before Confirmation,
we can think with God about what particular task we have been given to do.
Then, in each moment of our days—
in the evening,
whatever we do, we can do with God,
filling each moment with God,
making each moment sacred.
The time of the Kingdom.