[Listen] An Immersive Advent Audio Devotional for Church Leaders

Missio Divina is an exclusive audio devotional, available only on the FX Connect App. Each week during Advent, we’re releasing a special edition of the devotional, designed to help you prayerfully consider your place in God’s mission this time of year. 

Below is the text of a recent episode from our Director of Remissioning, Michael Beck.

You can listen here, or read the transcript below.

Sign up for FX Connect to listen to past episodes and hear a new one each week.

 


This week, our passage is from the gospel of Mark, the 13th chapter verses 24 through 37.

But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and heavenly bodies will be shaken at that time. People will see the son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds from the ends of the earth, to the ends of the heavens.

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree, as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know, that the summer is near even. So when you see these things happening, you know, that it is near right at the door. Truly, I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about the day or the hour, no one knows not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the father beyond guard be alert. You not know when the time will come. It’s like a man going away. He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge each with their assigned task and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Jesus is teaching in preparing his disciples for the Second Coming, letting us know that there’ll be a massive shifting and transforming of creation as we know it, and that the Son of Man will come with all power and glory riding on the clouds. Jesus teaches his disciples to do semiotics, to look and pay attention to their natural surroundings.

He tells us, “You can see the fig tree. You know that when its branches become tender and it puts forth its sleeves that summers near. You can read the signs of the times. You can see the seasons change and how life ebbs and flows, and you can make predictions about what’s coming.

But can you read the spiritual signs?

Can you pay attention to the signs that Jesus is coming soon?

Jesus promises us that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away. What Jesus is doing here is teaching his disciples to have “contextual intelligence.” In a word, to be “semioticians,” people who study the signs and symbols of our times, who are contextually aware of the changes that are happening all around us and seeing the deeper spiritual reality behind those changes.

Jesus is teaching us to pay attention – focused attention on the world around us and then finally, to be watchful. Jesus is calling some soldiers that will “sleep with their boots on.” He says, “stay awoke.” The [greek] word here is grēgoreō , “to keep awake.” You’ve already been awakened. Now stay awake. Be watchful for no one knows the time when the Son of Man will return.

In the season of Advent, we hold on to this subversive hope. We read the signs of our times, and the spiritual realities behind those signs, to await that triumphant second coming of Christ.

As you listen to the passage of second time, consider how Jesus is calling us to pay attention.

But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and heavenly bodies will be shaken at that time. People will see the son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds from the ends of the earth, to the ends of the heavens.

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree, as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know, that the summer is near even. So when you see these things happening, you know, that it is near right at the door. Truly, I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about the day or the hour, no one knows not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the father beyond guard be alert. You not know when the time will come. It’s like a man going away. He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge each with their assigned task and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

We live in an attention economy. Where our attention is monetized by our screens. What we pay attention to, there are third parties, mining data, mining our awareness, keeping us focused on the digital screens that we often hold in our hands.

What would it look like in this time to use our focused attention and our awareness in different ways? To be people who actually paid attention to the changes and the challenges around us. [People] who just, as we can tell, when the seasons change, we can tell how the spiritual realities of our world are changing. People who have contextual intelligence who see the context, who can read the signs of that context and know what to do.

What would it look like for the Church to become awakened and aware to the deeper spiritual realities around us all the time?

Would it look like for us to be the kind of Christians who ‘sleep with our boots on’, waiting for the triumphant return of Jesus – prayerfully, and hopefully and expectantly, waiting for Christ to come and to make all things right.

Are you paying attention to the signs of the times?

Are we waiting with hopeful expectation for the return of Christ?

Are we helpless victims of an attention economy where our time is spent fixated on our screens? Or are we prayerfully awaiting Jesus’ triumphant return?

Are we being the kind of faithful disciples sleeping with our boots on? Watching and waiting for the Son of Man to come and set all things right?

May we go forth and pay attention to our surroundings. May we be sensitive to the shifts and the context and the spiritual realities behind those shifts? May we pay attention and be people that stay woke and watchful until Jesus Christ returns.

Amen.

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Michael Beck

Rev. Michael Beck is South Atlantic Coordinator Fresh Expressions US and North Central District Cultivator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Michael serves as senior pastor of Wildwood UMC where he directs addiction recovery programs, a jail ministry, a food pantry, and a network of fresh expressions that meet in places like tattoo parlors and burrito joints. He currently lives in Wildwood with his wife, Jill, and their blended family of 8 children.

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