The song goes like this:
You’re so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn’t help to know your just time away.
In her 1971 song, Carole King soulfully laments the pain of being separated from a loved one. I must have listened to this song a thousand times and never really heard the lyric “your just time away”. How striking to be separated from our loved ones not by distance or the time it might take to get from point A to point B to see them but by the very time of our lives.
This Sunday, we begin a new liturgical year. It is a new time in our faith journey, the season of Advent. Advent is a time of living in separation. It is a time of Chronos, human time and Kairos, God’s time. It is a time of apocalypse. Both our present time of conflict and God’s revelation in the midst of it.
Today’s gospel reading is part of the apocalyptic discourse in Mark. Apocalypse defines much of Mark’s writing and the first century disciples would have recognized this end of time literary genre. The messy chaos of living in times of apocalypse is something they understood well. Their lives were being upended by the Roman Empire’s warring and the imminent destruction of their beloved Temple, the place where they gathered to worship and break bread. It was a time of extraordinary uncertainty. The Israelites were being scattered, separated from one another to live in diaspora amid the horrors of Roman persecution. It was a time of fear and anxiety as they lamented living in isolation, and were left to grapple with the pain and grief of their loss.
One need not reflect long on the events of 2020 here and around the global to relate to these first century disciple’s lives and identify with their soulful cries of lament. COVID-19 and global government’s inability to affectively control its destruction has wreaked havoc in our lives. With rising cases across the U.S., businesses and houses of worship, like God’s Love, are shuttering their doors for the second time moving into the diaspora of the world wide web. There is extraordinary uncertainty. It is a time of anxiety and fear as many lament living in isolation, separated from loved ones.
We lament the times of our lives that cause separation. These COVID times and other times in our lives. Times of empty -nesting when grown children have moved out into the world; times of ill health when sickness separates us from our formerly healthy selves; times of depression or dementia that causes separation between spouses and parents and their children. There are many times when we are all just time away from one another as King laments. These chaotic, painful and messy times feel apocalyptic, yet Mark’s gospel reminds us that apocalypse is both the conflict of our present time and God’s breaking through it all unexpectedly.
In his discourse, Mark reminds the first century disciples that the trauma and catastrophe that they were experiencing were not signs of the end of times. While suffering was their current reality, Mark emphasizes that God’s loyal, merciful, loving trustworthy word is the final word. God had freed the Israelites from oppression in the past, does and will free and gather them together. God’s time transcends our time. Chronos, human times marches on yet Kairos, God’s transcendent time bursts through at opportune moments unexpectedly. So, Mark exhorts his readers to “Keep watch”.
Keep watch. Like our ancestors before us, we “keep watch”. God’s time transforms our fears and anxieties into expectancy. Watch and experience what God will do. For it is not a matter of IF God breaks through, but WHEN. Divine Love has, does and will confront the chaos of our messy lives, conquer our despair and bring healing and reconciliation. God’s time was, is and will always be our end of time. Watch for it. For God will burst into your life unexpectedly. God erupts into our lives in the spectacular sunset that breaks through the clouds on an evening’s drive. God’s love descends into anxious thoughts as the small voice urging you to call a friend. God’s light breaks through when we respond to a neighbor’s need delivering a homecooked meal and offering care. God appears unexpectedly when after yet another treatment you pause and realize for the first time you can remember; you are without pain. God reveals Godself in the lyrics of a well-worn song that pours forth and wraps you like a blanket reminding you that all that is, is not all that is yet to come. Kairos, God’s transcendent time is imminent and imminently hopeful transforming our anxieties about this day and age into hopeful expectancy for this day and age. Watch for it. It’s just time away.