ends of earth and heaven

a meditation on Mark 13:24-37, the gospel lesson for advent 1b

Here’s the full text of the meditation:

For this meditation, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a few moments, and turn off any notifications on your devices.

Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Draw your attention to your breath. You don’t need to breathe deeper, just notice your breathing.

Recall that the oxygen you breathe in is being sent to every cell in your body. The cells in your feet, your fingers, your ears, and your brain. The carbon dioxide you are exhaling is, in turn, being breathed in by the plants, shrubs, and trees nearby.

Recall that all of this is a gift from God, and take a moment to be grateful to God for everything.

The Gospel of Mark was written in a time of great turmoil. The Romans had just recently destroyed Jerusalem. Rome had burned to the ground under the leadership of Emperor Nero – and the Christians were placed under heavy persecution for they had been blamed for the fire.

These words from Mark’s Gospel would have struck a deep chord in Mark’s congregation.

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

There was so much pain and fear, it must have felt like the whole universe was coming unglued. But Jesus says not to worry. His angels are coming to gather up his people – from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

In your imagination, and with your eyes still closed, find yourself floating, as if in space. Look down and see the earth – that beautiful marble with swirls of blue and green, brown and white. Look down upon this home to 7 billion people, from every continent, and every faith, and every condition.

Ask God to help you recall the places in this world which dwell in the darkness of pain and fear. The places of famine
And death
The places that have fallen victim to earthquakes
And the evil machinations of the human mind
The places where parents fear for their children, and where children fear for their parents.

Vast swaths of these suffering people will be totally unknown to you. Just flickers on the television.

But there is also great suffering in the lives of the people you know. Find them on the globe spinning beneath you. See their faces. Feel their pain, taste their tears.

Now, as you look down, where once you saw the earth, now see your heart.

Ask God to show you the corners of your own heart and soul where fear and pain reside.

The fear and pain that has been visited upon you. And the fear and pain you have visited upon yourself.

Ask God to reveal to you where you have colluded with the principalities and powers of this world. Where has evil been done in your name, or in the name of your faith?

Now, see the angels come from the ends of heaven to the ends of the earth, and the ends of your heart to the ends of your soul. Watch them comfort God’s people, fight for God’s people, and gather God’s people.

Ask God to show you where the angels are leading you to comfort the afflicted. Where is there darkness, and how can you help shine a light there? Where is the fear and despair that you can help alleviate?

Now, inspired to follow the wings of the angels, and primed to reflect the love of God unto the valleys of darkness, let us pray,

Our Father…

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella