Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Mark 13: 20-37

And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!”* or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs* and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he* is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert;* for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, 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. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

“How and when the world will end” was a hot topic of discussion in Jesus’s day. Countless would-be prophets would speculate publicly about what the end of the world would look like and when it would arrive. Often, that vision would include some sort of “Judgment Day” scenario in which each person would be held accountable for their lives and punished for their sins.

Jesus was asked for his version of the apocalypse and the signs that it was imminent. Jesus pretty much dismisses the entire topic as idle speculation, warning his disciples (and us) not to be distracted by false messiahs, and advising everyone to focus less on the unpredictable future, and more on the here and now. In short, his advice was to “Stay awake!” But that advice was not primarily about our being ready for the Last Judgment, which might come at any time, but about being keen observers of what is going on around us, and responding in positive and godly ways. “Don’t go to sleep at the wheel,” Jesus says, “when there’s Gospel work to be done!”

In our day, that’s become known as being “woke!” — that is, awake to injustices around us — especially racism — which call us to do something about them. Notice how the culture has made “wokeness” into a cliché as a way of robbing it of its power!! Notice how white supremacists scoff at the notion of being “woke” to belittle and dismiss its critique of our sin of racism.

Is Jesus calling you to genuinely aspire to being a “woke” person?


Holy One, you see us, your children, in all our sinfulness and our cruelty to one another, yet you do not turn away from us, or deny us your love. Help us, we pray, to see and care about the injustices in our world, and especially the sin of racism in ourselves and one another, and give us courage not to turn away. Instead, inspire us to act on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed, easing their pain and working for justice. Amen. (Vice President of Religion, Chautauqua Institution)