Today’s message covers a universal cataclysm which will end history (Mark 13:24-37). It’s challenging to wrangle such a depressing topic into holiday cheer. Nonetheless, the death and destruction of the last judgment can be elevated into a more helpful narrative.
What drives some peoples’ preoccupation with catastrophic biblical prophecies? Financial gain and a morbid fascination with enemies’ destruction feed some of the end-time mania. Sensationalist captains of the apocalypse industry create a profitable enterprise that builds egos and bank accounts. Prophecy peddlers have co-opted the end of history into a lucrative endeavor, a Hollywood-like theater of the absurd through best-selling books and Bible Revelation seminars.
Rather than dwell on apocalyptic fire and judgment, there’s joy to share by accepting Jesus’ invitation to be watchful in the sense of being aware and awake. Here is the key verse in the passage of Mark: “[a]nd what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37). What are people of faith supposed to be watching for? Parts of the Bible suggest horrific events, such as the Great Judgment, but there is more to consider than these dire events. For instance, it can be helpful to better prepare for more likely, everyday situations such as accidents and illnesses. Anticipating and watching with a greater sense of awareness will help you prepare for what you’re likely to face.
Jesus taught more than simple waiting for bad things to happen. If properly cultivated, watchfulness can transition into a state of mindfulness, which will better equip you to navigate life’s uncertainties. The term mindfulness includes not only simple awareness but also a heightened sense of living in the moment. Mindfulness is a productive sense of awareness that doesn’t get stuck in the past or immobilize you by fear of the future. Mindfulness invites you to remain tuned-in but not trapped in what has happened or what could happen.
Do you want to be mindful? Strive to make your best life in the present rather than worrying about dystopian, apocalyptic fireworks. By being mindful, you’ll be monitoring your thoughts, emotions and behaviors and better adapting yourself in relation to your environment. Sadly, mindfulness is often rejected in favor of fear, ignorance and anger.
Being mindful is wonderful for understanding and navigating day-to-day existence. A review of the world’s great spiritual writings suggests that mindfulness is not automatic but requires diligence. Jesus was not asking his disciples to stare blithely into the heavens gleefully anticipating his violent return. No, there is something far more crucial: being mindful of who and what you are—NOW! This is why it is beneficial to encourage yourself to do what you can by capturing the promise and possibility of every moment.
Developing the discipline to become mindful isn’t easy. This explains the need for persistence and resilience in building your self-management skills. Mindfulness takes time to integrate itself into your consciousness and yet the struggle is worth it. The next time you find yourself worrying or overly anxious take a moment to challenge your negative thinking and redirect your attention to solving problems calmly and steadfastly rather than blaming others or shaming yourself. By doing this you’ll demonstrate a key benefit of mindfulness.
Today’s Bible verses suggest signs of an excruciating future. But there’s also a much greater danger, which is distraction by an over-hyped apocalypse. All this indicates that people of faith can become sidetracked, creating a prophecy preoccupation which promotes the very cataclysm through which they have been theologically indoctrinated. Avoid succumbing to nightmarish visions of tomorrow. Instead, share love. By doing this you’ll promote a compassionate future for all of humanity.
Stoking peoples’ hopes and fears about future judgement is a way to provide comfort and triumphalist expectations on earth, where people of faith have been historically persecuted. All this demonstrates that hope for a better future is a driving force behind much of Judeo-Christian prophecy. Sadly, many people become obsessed by an apocalyptic end times rather than nourishing their compassionate mindfulness in the here-and-now.
If you strive for it, mindfulness invites you and other God followers to a splendid, hopeful journey, one that aligns yourself to God’s love in the marvelously liberating power of the present. –Reverend Larry Hoxey