Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel According to Mark 13:1-8

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 13:2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

13:3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 13:4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 13:5 Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 13:6 Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 13:8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

The Gospel of the Lord . . .

Keep Watch! Remain Hope filled in Christ, in all Times

"Are you and your community ready for a volcanic eruption? Do you know which areas will be dangerous during the next eruption?  Do you have an emergency plan? And when faced with scientific uncertainty as to the size and timing of an eruption, are you willing to err on the side of safety and accept the possibility of false alarms?

The ultimate test of your emergency preparation is a real volcanic eruption. The time to reduce your volcanic risk is now, before your volcano threatens to erupt. And then, when your volcano rumbles back to life, don't hesitate to use your emergency plan."

This is the advice given from a website on the Internet . . . don't be alarmed though, its not talking about any active volcanos here in the Catoctin Mountains!!

But it is serious and it is speaking of the dangerous reality that the people of

New Britain, an island within the region of Papua New Guinea, have to recognize every day. For these people who live in this part of the world, "remaining attentive to the signs" that the earth is producing beneath them and around them may make the difference between life and death.

In fact, back in September of 1994, Rabaul volcano on the Papua New Guinean island of New Britain erupted.

"The death toll could have been many thousands, because about 75 percent of the houses collapsed," said Dr. Stanley Williams, a volcanologist at Arizona State University. But as it turned out, only a handful of people died." (This is a true story – thanks be to God!)

There are two reasons for this stunning success that saved so many lives: First, in the hours leading up to the eruption, "Observant elders" who had survived an eruption of the same volcano in 1937, noticed -- and acted upon -- several strange occurrences that had preceded that "long-ago blast." (So these older people were remembering what had happened many years ago when their volcano erupted before.) The unusual disturbances that the Elders noted included :

The ground shaking vertically rather than horizontally (as it had done periodically since 1983); These same wise elders noticed a certain species of birds (megapods) suddenly abandoning their nests at the base of the volcano; they also noticed their dogs barking continuously and scratching and sniffing the earth (no bones buried there!!); But seriously, Last but not least, they noticed sea snakes were crawling ashore from the waters surrounding the island-- ! Now that sounds to me like the most alarming sign for many of us!!

Finally, "Catastrophic loss of life was minimized because residents followed a carefully designed evacuation plan."

So what does this story of the people of the little island of New Britain off the far away coast of Papua New Guinea have to do with our Gospel lesson for this morning??

The key word or thought here is that "the people remained watchful for what was going to happen." More importantly, they carried out what was necessary to be doing during "the time of the watchfulness." Every day was the time to watch the volcano, you had to constantly be observing what it was doing. The Elders had watched for some 46 years!!!

Over these many years, They remained Attentive! They watched and noted the important aspects of what it meant to be prepared if and when their volcano was going to erupt!

"These people really do have a lot to teach us!! Listen to your Elders!!"

Similarly, we as disciples of our Lord Jesus must also remain Ever Expectant of his return. We must be both WATCHFUL for his coming and ATTENTIVE to our mission as we await that time. We also remember his birth, and we look to his life and teaching and example in order to know how to live for each new day.

Note from the text how the disciples were so very impressed with the grandeur of the Temple -- Just as we mentioned last week from Josephus' account, the Temple at Jerusalem was so big and so impressive, it was breathtaking!

But Jesus dismisses all of this impressive observation and instead directs his disciples to their need to watch and pray. Jesus says, "Beware that no one leads you astray." Here Jesus is directing his followers -- not to place their attention on the things or events or popular figures that appear so brilliant and appealing or even those that are demanding of our attention including news of wars, or famines or natural disasters. But that, in spite of everything that goes on around us, we are not to become deceived nor distracted from our belonging to the risen Christ.

We are first and foremost to understand ourselves to be drawing our sustenance and very life breath from the living Lord.

We are not to be deceived by those who would claim that they are the hope of our future. We are not to become distracted by glorious buildings or fantastic displays of power -- even though they are real and life threatening -- Certainly, Mark's audience was well aware of the power and forces that were menacing and threatening to them from all around. To this Jesus says, "Beware", But "do not be alarmed." @@

Neither are we to become disillusioned by popular slogans of our day ("No New Taxes -- everyone's doing it -- "). But instead, Christ is our highest reality. No "New World Order" cannot take precedence over our faith and steadfastness in following Jesus. Neither can economic surges or downfalls cause us to waver. Just like the people of that little island of Papua New Guinea+++ who must live in a state of constant alertness to "their volcano" -- So we must live each moment in light of our hope in the Living Christ. He is our living imperative. Because we are in him we do not fear.

In this morning's Psalm it says, "But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied." Our first thought should be: "I am a follower of Jesus. All of my decisions and the things that I give my attention to must be thought about and discerned in the light of my faith."

If we lived each day under the shadow of a smoking volcano, our daily thoughts would be filtered by the sight of the possibilities that that natural threat could entail for us.

In like manner, we must consider every matter of our lives in the light of this Gospel == The GOOD NEWS that The Savior has come into the world! Not as a threat to us like the volcano, but in all of God's Love and presence and from a desire to be in a relationship to us as thought-filled-living-beings.

Jesus says that if you have seen me, you have seen the Father, and by walking in the paths of Jesus, we are going in the ways of God. By and In this Gospel We live and move and have our very being –we are new creatures because we have been born from above -- given by gifts of the sacraments the very nature of Christ our Lord.

In spite of what ever could happen or does (and we do suffer pain and anguish such as any other person does) Yet we live in the knowledge that He gave his life in order that we might have life, both now and in eternity.

And so we Remain watchful for Christ and we adhere to what Jesus has given us – our Life and Salvation. No catastrophe natural or man made can discount the whole story of Jesus coming into the world to be our Savior.

Of course in our modern lives it becomes increasingly difficult for us to block out the news of every day – its not that we are not concerned with what is going on, to the contrary we as Christians are (should be) and are the Most Concerned! But we are also instructed by our Lord not to allow the news or the seemingly fantastic ideas that imposed on us to take away the significance that God has come into the world in the form of a man, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are not to be alarmed. But we place our trust and focus our lives on living in Him.


Thanks be to God who comes and has come into the world in the form of a fragile human child. And He calls us to wait and to watch for his coming again, even as we demonstrate care and concern for all our neighbors and the earth. Come quickly Lord Jesus.


Read more sermons of Pastor Jon