West Point Grey United Church
Dec 03, 2023


Mark 13:24–37

Many years ago when I was living in a small village near Toronto most of the boys and girls were involved in the Girl Guide and Boy Scout Programs. After four years as a Wolf Cub I was able to become a Boy Scout at age 12. The motto of the Scouting Movement was “BE  PREPARED”. We did learn many useful skills and crafts and were able to handle some of the unexpected things that happened on the playing field or in our homes.

Today’s Gospel Reading also speaks about being prepared, but it is not an easy reading that helps us understand the nature of God’s love for the world. Several verses quote Jesus predicting terrible future tragedies for Israel. Other verses go on to speak about Christ’s return, with Jesus consistently saying he doesn’t know when that will be. But he does say “Be Prepared”, stay alert. Therefore rather than sitting around worrying about it, let us focus on how Christ wants us to live here and now. This passage from Mark’s Gospel reminds us of two essential truths: One, the future is in God’s hands, not ours. And two, we can trust that God loves us now and into the future.

One. The future is in God’s hands, not ours. We don’t know what the future may hold. Some people are obviously excited about the future. They see cures for cancer and other diseases. They see human beings routinely living longer lives.

They also forecast a new process to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable at a much lower cost than previously thought possible. They also report on the threat of another cold war, the increasing alarm about climate change and predicting widespread flooding and forest fires.

We just don’t know what the future will bring. But here’s what we do know. We know who holds the future. “He’s got the whole world in His hands”. God loves all people. What we need to do is make good decisions about the future to the best of our ability and then trust God. The future is in God’s hands, not ours.

Two. Meanwhile let’s do the best we can to live as Christ would have us live here and now. What would it look like for us to live as Christ wants us to live?

Almost 8 years ago President Obama attended a very special ceremony at the Israeli embassy in Washington. The purpose of the ceremony was to honour Roddie Edmonds, an Army master sergeant in World War II. He had died 30 years earlier, but his son was there to receive the “Righteous Among the Nations” award, the highest award Israel bestows upon non-Jewish people. Edmonds was the highest-ranking US non-commissioned offer in the Stalag IX Prisoner of War camp in Germany. In January 1945, as the war was winding down, the Germans ordered all Jewish POWs to report the following morning in front of their barracks. Edmonds feared the worst for his  Jewish soldiers, so he ordered all of the 1275 men, Jews and non-Jews alike, to stand together in front of the barracks. Together this mass of soldiers representing multiple religions made the German officer in charge furious. “They cannot all be Jews”. “We are all Jews” Edmonds replied, standing his ground even when the barrel of a pistol was held against his forehead. Edmonds made it clear to the German officer that to shoot him, or any of the other POWs would be a war crime under the existing Geneva Convention since prisoners were only required to give their name, rank and serial number, not their religion. Because of Edmonds refusal to give in, between 200 and 300 American Jewish soldiers were saved that day.

President Obama said that day “Roddie Edmonds went above and beyond the call of duty, his moral compass never wavered. He was true to his faith.”

Our daily challenges are not usually as dramatic as this story, but the truth is that every day we face decisions that call for us to follow our moral compass, to be true to our faith. Instead of doing what is convenient or easy or popular, we are called to do what is right and good and just. And in order to do this we must be prepared, assured that the HOPE of Advent will give us strength for our journey.