Making the most of life today
a sermon based on Mark 13: 24-37
By Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
As most of you likely know, one of the mottos of the Boy Scouts is: “Be
prepared!” The ability to be prepared, to be awake and alert is a
blessing in so many life situations, isn’t it? In today’s gospel, Jesus
is speaking of heaven and earth shaking events. The natural world is
malfunctioning; there are natural signs that wise people observe like
tender fig tree branches and leaves to prepare for the arrival of
summer. It seems that Jesus speaks here of a nearness and an
unpredictable not-yetness in the future when, one day the end will come,
and with it a new beginning. In this “both and” emphasis of Jesus; in
this “now and not yet” reality in which we live and move and have our
being; Jesus wants us to be awake and alert, to be prepared for his
Norwegian adventurer and author Lars Monsen is back home after having
spent 947 days crossing the Canadian wilderness.
Monsen used canoe and sled dogs on the 8252 kilometre journey north of
the populated regions of Canada.
Monsen encountered wolves, bears, forest fires, icy waters and winter
temperatures down to effective minus 80 centigrade during his two-and-a
half-year trip. He told NRK TV that at one point he did not dare to go
to sleep for four days and nights, for fear that he would not wake again
from the extreme cold.
Having lost 12 kilos during the strenuous journey, Monsen is now looking
forward to relaxing, eating, talking and spending time with his family.
Lars Monsen was prepared for what he had to face, and, by keeping alert
and awake for those four days and nights in the freezing arctic cold,
his life was saved. Had he fallen asleep he may have frozen to death. In
our life too, there are times and situations which require us to be
prepared, to stay awake and alert, otherwise we may very well lose our
lives—both physically and spiritually. This is not always easy, is it?
To be prepared, to keep awake and alert requires a lot of things.
First of all, as Lars Monsen no doubt realised, to be prepared for all
the possibilities of a long Canadian arctic journey, it was necessary to
carefully decide on—to list only a few—everything from mode of
transportation, to proper clothing, shelter, and food supplies and other
camping and survival gear. So it is with us, to be prepared for the
possibilities of our life journey, it is necessary for us to trust in
the LORD and keep our faith strong in him. He will provide us with all
we need for the journey. Do we take along what he’s given us for the
journey and put it to good use; or do we take along other things that
don’t help us out all that much? Advent is a time for us to prepare
carefully, and toss out or give away whatever gets in the way of our
relationship with Jesus—that may be physical, mental and spiritual
baggage, stuff that only hinders us and causes us to stumble and fall.
Jesus calls us to a repentance, to clean house, to replace this harmful,
toxic stuff with Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Secondly, as Lars Monsen also no doubt learned, to keep awake and alert
in freezing cold temperatures for four days and nights requires a lot of
intentional discipline and stamina. So it is with us in our journey of
life; we need to keep alert and awake lest we lose our faith and that
requires intentional discipline and stamina too on our part in order to
resist the powers of evil and destruction, which are always at work,
trying to seduce us.
The more delayed the second coming of Jesus is, the more difficult it is
for us to keep alert and awake. So it is important for us as Jesus said
to pay attention to “the signs of the times.” They prepare and warn us,
so that we do pay attention, keep awake and alert. However, there is
also the temptation that some Christians fall into of paying too much
attention to the signs of the times. This has happened throughout the
ages, whereby some Christians spend all of their time and energy
worrying about the end times and the second coming of Christ and
therefore falsely try to convince themselves and others the exact time
all this will happen. Many dates have been predicted, including the year
2000—all of these have proven to be wrong. Jesus is clear on this
matter: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
This does not mean, I believe, that we look to the end times and the
second coming with fear because we cannot know exactly when this will
happen. Rather, it is a call for us to live life now, today, to its very
fullest. Make the most of your life, enjoy it, live it as if today were
your last day, because you never know, it might be. The truth is that
Jesus is not only coming again in the future; the truth is that Jesus
has already come, he lived as one of us among us on the earth; he showed
us how to live life to the fullest; the truth is that Jesus didn’t stop
coming after he died and rose and ascended into heaven either; rather,
he keeps on coming and is present with us every single day; we meet him
when we live each day to the fullest; he’s there present with us and
speaking to us through our neighbour, through the stranger, through
family, friends, fellow workers, students, you name them—he’s there
trying to keep us all alert and awake and prepared. So enjoy life to its
fullest each day; trusting that Jesus has come, is coming, and will come
again. Live with the excitement and enthusiasm of a child deeply longing
to meet Jesus every day. And welcome him and thank him when you do meet
him, not only as the Christ-child in the manger, the Son of Man of over
2000 years ago; but also the Present and Risen Saviour with us now as he
promised, and the future LORD of Lords and King of kings who will come
again to complete all of history and draw all people to himself. Amen.
1 Cited from: Rolleiv Solholm, “Norwegian explorer completes Canada
crossing,” in the 16 November, 2002 issue of The Norway Post (www.norwaypost.no/default.asp).