An obituary in the small, online newspaper of my little home town simply said that my old high school buddy had died “after a brief illness.” Around that same time, the twenty-year-old son of a friend died in his sleep. And as if to remind me of that old adage about troubles coming in threes, one of my parishioner’s grandsons was about to be stillborn after a full-term, seemingly normal pregnancy. Sometimes it’s simply hard to be alive and be alert to what’s going on around you.
One day as Jesus was leaving the temple in Jerusalem, one of his disciples commented to him about the magnificence of the structures around them. Instead of agreeing how marvelous it all was, Jesus went into a mild diatribe bout end times. “None of this will be left standing” were basically his words to that unsuspecting follower. Then he warns everyone to be on guard, to be wary, to be on the lookout. For what?! Nothing good, frankly…
Then he relates one of his famous stories—a parable. You’ll probably remember this one. The master of the house leaves and “puts his servants in charge.” Like Jesus, the master tells the servants to be on the lookout. “Watch!” They have no idea when he’s coming back.
There’s one phrase in that parable that really catches my eye. In Mark 13:34 he says that the servants who were left in charge each has “their assigned task.” While I realize it’s not particularly good Biblical interpretation to read too much into that, I can’t seem to get away from it. Only one of them is told to watch the door. The rest have their assigned tasks. They’re all supposed to be alert, but yet continue with their regular duties.
Okay, so what are these duties? He doesn’t tell us—at least not in this particular parable. But throughout the length of his teaching ministry, Jesus (at least in my understanding) outlines and highlights many things, which I would categorize as falling under the category of duties. These duties, if you will, are what we (the church) should be about while we’re waiting for his return.
Over the next few weeks, I want to explore what I think these assigned tasks might be. I’d like you to help me out here. I want this to be a discussion. I’m not the high and mighty guru who will lead the church to the Promised Land. I’m just one of the servants like you trying to do my bit.
Things like obituaries, vacations, and taking out the garbage easily distract me. I’d rather watch the skies than be about my Father’s business. I suspect much of the church is like me. Our distractions imprison us, and we’re no longer aware of why we’re here. Is it possible for us to get back on track?