Contributed by Paul Baglios, St. Paul, MN
When we pray to God as Jesus taught, “your kingdom come,” do we really mean it? Do we really expect it? Do we really want it?
Signs of the Coming Kingdom?
Earlier this month , Asteroid 2005 YU55 passed by the earth at a distance closer than the moon. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the following: “Asteroid 2005 YU55 was discovered Dec. 28, 2005, by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program near Tucson, Ariz. The nearly spherical object is about 400 meters in diameter [i.e., a quarter-mile wide, bigger than an aircraft carrier]. The closest approach will be at 6:28 p.m. today [November 8], when it will come within 80 percent of the distance to the moon. There is no danger the asteroid will pose a threat to Earth for at least 100 years. The next approach of a space object as large as Asteroid 2005 YU55 will be in 2028.” Within days of that event, a passing comet produced an event known as a Taurid meteor shower, producing fireballs in the sky visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth.
- How many of you were aware of the passage of the asteroid close to the earth on November 8? How did you hear about it? What did you know about it? Was this event discussed in your school?
- Do any of you enjoy learning about astronomy? If so, what do you enjoy most about it? Do any of you have a telescope?
- How do you think earlier generations of human societies regarded visible astronomical phenomena before the invention of telescopes and the current understanding of our solar system and the cosmos?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 21, 2011 (First Sunday of Advent)
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
Long before and ever since the birth of Jesus, some people have regarded astral phenomena as signs of an approaching end-time which brings the destruction of the earth and the end of life as we have known it. Many religious traditions have incorporated such speculation into their understanding of sacred purpose and reality. Jesus speaks to that interest in our gospel text from the Mark 13, but he cautions us against speculations which distract from the central concerns of faith. For Christian faith, speculation about the end-time is a trivial distraction from the present circumstances of our life and our world. When Jesus tells us, “keep awake,” he is not calling us to anxious concern about the end-time but to vigilant exercise of faith in each present moment. The facts that dazzling astral phenomena can be seen in the skies in every generation and that Jesus speaks to “this generation” help us to understand that focusing our faith on speculation about the future is not nearly as important as engaging our faith in each present moment. Elsewhere Jesus says, “the kingdom of God has come near” (for example, Mark 1:15). When he tells us to “keep awake,” he is calling us to pay attention to the nearness of God’s kingdom in the circumstances of our lives, today – and every day.
- To help you think about what Jesus means when he speaks about “the kingdom of God,” read Mary’s song of praise (known as the Magnificat) in Luke 1:46-55, and Jesus’ own teaching in Luke 4:16-21 and Luke 7:18-23. When and where and how have you seen such signs of God’s kingdom in the circumstances of your own life and the circumstances of our world?
- What makes it difficult to see signs of God’s kingdom in our lives and our world? Why is it often difficult to believe that “the kingdom of God has come near”?
- How do we, individually and together, represent to others the signs of God’s kingdom, the signs of its nearness?
- Ask individuals to list two or three signs of God’s kingdom they have seen recently – in their lives or in the lives of others, whether within their our own community or in the larger world. Share lists with the whole group.
- As a group, identify two or three ways that you might work together to be a sign of God’s kingdom to others. Make a plan to act upon what you have identified.
God, strengthen our faith that we may sincerely pray for the coming of your kingdom, giving us eyes to see its nearness in our lives and in our world. Teach us to pray daily with all your people: Amen; come, Lord Jesus.