Extraordinary times all round.

Signpost for Sunday 30 November 2014, First in Advent: Isa 64:1-9; Ps 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37

Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Or would you rather I just said, ‘Hi’?

Reading Corinthians this week reminded me how much has changed since we swapped letters and postcards for emails and texts. How letters began and ended used to be all important. My darling, Dear sir or madam, Sweetheart, Dear Squidgy. The beginning said so much about not just who was writing to whom, but how they felt about each other or thought they should feel, or even the feelings they were trying to conceal.

And then, after whatever needed to be said had been said, the end of the letter could reassure you, or leave you wondering, maybe even slightly annoyed, even suspicious or ecstatic: Love Pidge, Your humble obedient servant, yours faithfully, your sincerely, Yours, Best wishes, Love always. Now all we have to look forward to is the ubiquitous and totally meaningless ‘Regards’, or the only slightly more effusive ‘Kind regards.’

I mention all this because I probably should have started this week’s Signpost by saying a Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year for the church and this Sunday is the first ‘extraordinary’ Sunday for yonks.

So here we are, waiting and getting excited. It’s been too long, as a friend said to me the other day, when I sent her an invitation to something and we realised we hadn’t seen each other for ages. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you in action says Isaiah 64:1-2. Of course, Isaiah 64 contains the famous potter/clay analogy (verse 8) but the key words this week are in verse 4 “a God … who works for those who wait for him.”

I’ve mentioned before about my youngest daughter who couldn’t wait and instead of opening one door at a time on her first Advent calendar, opened the lot, scoffed all the chocolate and then closed the doors again so we wouldn’t know. Chocolates! So many people can’t stop eating them once they’ve opened the box. Jesus! I want him all now. Why don’t I feel all the weird things some people say they do? Maybe I’m not good enough. Advent. It’s coming. We’re going. Journeys, like newly opened letters, can take us where we never expected.

And then there’s the second coming, which is what the church wants us to think about as well as Christmas. Apparently most biblical scholars agree that Mark was writing either during or just after the Roman-Jewish War (66-70 AD). By 68 AD 60,000 Roman soldiers had crushed the revolt and Jerusalem was packed with refugees, rebels and religious fanatics who had flooded into the city. They would have seen the coming battle of Jerusalem in apocalyptic terms. God would not let Jerusalem be conquered! The Messiah would appear to save the city, the Temple, and the people! Our reading is among other things a description of life in revolutionary times. A world is in crisis. So Mark, echoing Daniel 7: 13 (“As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven”) sets the stage for the appearance of the “son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” I will leave you to ponder verse 30 and come to your own conclusion.

Cheerio for now.

Or rather, as Paul said the at the end of all his letters, the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Paul (the other one)

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