I delivered this sermon today at The Heritage Lifecare Community a senior living facility near Fort mason in San Francisco. It's shorter than most of my other sermons and I am probably somewhat louder and more intentional with my phrasing, because it is a senior living facility and they prefer a shorter sermon, and I wanted to be sure everyone could hear me. Today's gospel text s from Mark 13:1-13.
I grew up back east in a considerably different climate than that you get to experience here in the bay area. When the rains start coming down here, the weather is considerably drier back there. By the same token, as the summer months turn rain into fog and warmer weather, the heat circulates in the atmosphere over there, bringing frequent roiling thunderstorms that can drop torrential downpours causing flash floods and sending people scurrying for cover.
There is something about a thunderstorm that draws me close. Right before I moved to San Francisco a the beginning of 2008, I spent a year in the other Bay area, the home of the Buccaneers and the Rays: Tampa Bay, Florida. One interesting statistic about Tampa Bay: There are more strikes of lightning there than any other place in the world. As we all know, Lightning is a dangerous thing. And accordingly, you are far more likely to be struck by lightning in Florida than any other state in the United States, so out there you learn to take care during a thunderstorm.
Having lived back east, however, there's something I can tell you from first hand experience with storms. You can practically feel in the air when a lightning storm is coming. And they are quite a beautiful thing to watch. One thing I do miss about living back east is being able to get close to the weather, from a safe, grounded location, of course, and watch the streams of light and rolling thunder making a concert in the sky. At those moments, knowing how close I am to the immense and potentially destructive power going on around me, while I sit there in comfort, grounded as I am, and safe to the world around me.
It is like what Jesus tells the disciples about in today's Gospel text. What we read today from the Gospel of Mark is the beginning of the passion narrative, but it is also the first time in Mark that we hear about something that sounds like something resembling the end times. Jesus describes the destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, of wars and what must take place; and he makes allusions to the wars and his flock being led astray. He talks about kingdoms fighting, and the earth shaking. But he also is also careful to caution his disciples not to be surprised, because this is what is supposed to take place. He wants to be sure that they can see the danger around them, because there is a place where they can be safe from harm.
At this point the disciples are just beginning to understand that their lives are already beginning to change from having encountered the messiah in their midst. The "destruction" that Jesus is talking about is nothing to be feared. It is the birth of a new era, the new kingdom where he is in his reign. They may see chaos and turmoil around them, but being prepared for it, they will meet it without too much fear and anxiety, knowing it will herald the coming glory on the other end.
And surely, in our lives, we have turmoil and anxieties. Things may change for us at a moment's notice. People leave our lives and people come in to our lives. Some of us build up our reserves and one day find that illness or disaster strikes and it feels like we're starting off all over again. Like our neighbors in the northeast found out three weeks ago, you can watch the news one day and find out that a major hurricane is on its way with a direct hit to your home, bringing with it wind and rain and destruction.
But we have faith, and we recover. We trust in Jesus, and we are refreshed anew. We know that turmoil will be around us at times, and we can keep faith in knowing that Jesus Christ is there to support us in our time of need with love and devotion. And it is through that faith that we become strengthened, because this is where we meet Jesus, comforting us amidst our struggles in this world and there to give us warmth and a welcome home in the kingdom to come.