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Nov 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 4, 2018 – Mark 13:1-4, 33-37

It’s Like Waking Up

As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled.”
 Mark 13:1-4

Intro: Most everyone wants to know the future

It holds a fascination for us that is hard to escape
– fortune telling is an ancient practice that continues today
• people still turn to psychics, horoscopes, palm reading, fortune cookies
• for Evangelical Christians, the fascination centers on biblical prophecy
◦ people have come up with all sorts of calculations to pinpoint specific events
– Jesus made references to future events from time to time,
• but only once did he go deep into it like he does in this chapter
◦ notice, he didn’t hype his teaching
◦ for instance, he did not announce a seminar entitled, The Secrets of the Future Revealed!
• Jesus’ main concern was to prepare his disciples for the challenges ahead

Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert–for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning–in case he shold come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, “Be on the alert!” Mark 13:33-37 
Notice his statement, What I say to you I say to all.

– Jesus knew these four disciples would tell other people
• and those people would tell other people, and those people would tell others, and so on
• eventually the message would reach all of Jesus’s followers:
Stay awake! Because you just don’t know

I spent most of this week at a hermitage near Big Sur

During my free time, I tried to stay focused on what I had learned in previous visits

Fr. Romuald had told me, “According to our tradition, anything human is a door to the divine. Anything physical is a door if you use it with respect and reverence.”

– What does this mean?

  1. There is a mystery to be encountered behind all reality
    a. we just see the surface of things
    b. we’re trained to reject mystery and taught to look for explanations
    c. the mystery is there, but we don’t see it
  2. Any object or event can awaken us to God’s presence
    a. scripture tells us God is everywhere
    b. but that’s not what our experience tells us
    c. we have to be awakened to the experience to know it
    d. I can sit in a room and imagine grandchild sneaking it, but when a human person actually enters, the feeling of his or her presence is completely different
    e. feeling God’s presence is different from “knowing that God is omnipresent” (everywhere)
    f. I want to sensitize myself to that feeling
  3. Romuald’s advice was to “pay attention to what you are doing every moment, because the divine could break in at any moment. God truly does not care what you’re doing at the time.”
    a. notice the flower, the bicycle, the sound of a dog barking
    b. wake up to what is there, because something may be a door
    c. notice the door, and the next thing you’ll discover is God’s presence

If this is true, then there are doors to God’s presence here–now

In conversations, we can be aware of other sounds and sights
– we usually filter those other things out of our attention
• but we may be filtering out more than we realize
• in some conversations, I intentionally look into the eyes of the person
◦ instantly I am not only hearing their words, I am reading the person
feeling what they’re saying, maybe even feeling what they’re feeling
– I am not merely listening – I sill hear the person’s words
• but I am hearing more – I am experiencing more
◦ I often try to watch myself as I read or write
◦ it’s a way I try to keep my heart open to God’s presence
• you can have this same extra awareness while listening to me
◦ you can listen to my words and at same time, watch yourself listen

One morning, sitting in my room . . .

I took notice of the chair, the bed, and the lamp
– that is how those objects presented themselves to me
• now if I had concentrated enough,
◦ I could find meaningful analogies in them to other things
◦ the chair could symbolize God’s throne; the bed, rest; and the lamp, enlightenment
• but that would be playing the role of a ventriloquist
◦ I would be projecting these meanings onto those objects
– my analogies are not doors to the transcendent
• they’re no more than what the disciples did last week
◦ they latched onto an analogy for leaven and came up with “bread”
◦ not too creative, really
• my analogy might lead to something, but not to the experience of mystery and Presence

The experience of God’s presence is always a revelation
– Someone has opened the door for me
• and I know it has opened, because God is there
• he is present and he is telling me so — “I am with you”

Let’s think about objects or events that can be doors

Anything in nature
– the Psalms beautifully open some of these doors (e.g., the ocean in Ps. 29)
– a preying mantis has literally been coming to our door this week

Anything that comes as a surprise – that snaps us back to attention

Anything that sparks gratitude or spontaneous praise

Anything beautiful – could be a kind action we witness

Time – being forced to wait does not have to be an annoyance

Space – the LORD is in this place and I did not know it (Ge. 28:16)
– specific space, all space, or simply space itself

Am I a God who is near, declares the LORD,
And not a God far off?
Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? declares the LORD (Je. 23:23-24)

– when doors open, we learn that the answer to his questions is yes

Our bodies – they can always be a door that opens with each breath

How does an object or event become a door?

When it opens by itself – it waits until I’m ready and then opens
– this is not about our ability to make anything happen
• there is no success or failure
• there’s nothing here for us to get down on ourselves about
◦ you’ve already experienced this – maybe by accident
◦ if we’re on the alert, it’s just a matter of time
– remember what Jesus wanted his disciples to do:
• to prepare themselves for his return
• and what he said to them, he says to us all

Are there ways to prepare ourselves?

Look – not only at cell phone, computer, newspaper
– technology steers us away from mystery
• look around, but not like an investigator searching for clues
• use a more relaxed way of noticing – enjoying

In the next chapter, a woman will pour expensive perfume over Jesus’ head. This will irritate some of the disciples, but Jesus will say, “She has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.” There were no morticians in Palestine during Jesus’ lifetime, so family and friends prepared bodies for burial. This was one of the ways their grief was ritualized. This woman may have discerned something in Jesus’ eyes and mannerisms, she may have felt his sadness. Anointing him with her expensive perfume may have felt like the appropriate thing to do.
The disciples, however, did not feel anything close to empathy for Jesus. If he was disturbed, they either did not notice or paid no attention (after all, he was Jesus). So even when he announced at dinner, “One of you will betray Me,” rather think of what that mean to Jesus, each thought of himself, “Surely not I?” And when he told Peter, James and John, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death,” they fell asleep.

– LOOK – so when door opens, you’re there to see it
• and if nothing appears at first, change your perspective
• move in closer or pull back – things change in different lighting

Release – I am referring to a relaxed way of paying attention
– we tend to hold our attention too tightly
• this is how get stuck in one way of seeing things
• release your grip on what you see, hear, feel, etc.

Simone Weil, “Method for understanding images, symbols, etc. Not to try to interpret them, but to look at them till the light suddenly dawns.”
Sister Wendy encouraged to look at paintings they enjoy. She did not mean that we are meant to study them like art critics, but to spend time with them allowing them to speak to us. She wrote of one particular work that through it we “enter into silence to let the holiness of mystery take possession of us. We do this not in the absence of thought, but beneath thought. . . . The longer that we gaze at it, the more we ‘see’: not in understandable images, but in pure experience . . . .”

Receive – God’s presence is always a gift – it is always a grace
– the mystery and its meaning is always revealed, not discovered
• how hard is it to receive? To receive what is here already?
• I see an ocean that doesn’t need me, and I can just receive it
– this week at the hermitage,
• there was a significant difference in temperature between standing in the sun or the shade
• when I was too warm, I didn’t have to change anything
◦ I just moved into the shade and received its coolness

Conclusion: Our lives swing from the sacred to the mundane

From the awe-inspiring to the trivial
– we take bread and wine of Communion and we pump gas into into our cars
• rarely are we aware of being “here” and in this present moment

Simone Weil, again, wrote that if “we keep our gaze directed towards the same thing, in the end illusions are scattered and the real becomes visible”

It’s simple, but nobody said it’d be easy


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  1. Dhyana Winant / Nov 14 2018

    Thank you for this entry.
    Are you on retreat ?
    I am looking for an inexpensive silent retreat.
    I am learning more about meditation at the Vedanta monastery, Trabuco.
    Your entry here is inspiring. To me it hits the mark.
    Thank you, Chuck.
    Dhyana Winant
    [Diana Gray}

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Nov 15 2018

    I have two friends who observed a weekend silent retreat at the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside (about two months ago). I don’t know what they were charged, but they both came back renewed and inspired. They spent an evening telling a small group gathering about all that they did and experienced while there and I think most of us decided we wanted to put that on our “must do” list.

  3. Tracy Nash / Nov 16 2018

    So, about 30 years ago, in Dana Point about in about 1986, I was about 23 years old and had attended Calvery Chapel several times. Being young as well as not knowing where my career, life
    And Relationships were even going. Mostly I do remember I just wanted to become closer to God” wanting to give God more” I stumbled into a group of “Christians” who wanted to be my friends and help become closer to God. They wanted to show me the REAL way, they were part of a church called THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. They made me feel guilty, shame and that the church I attended ways were”wrong” I was so confused! All I had wanted was to do more for the Lord. One early morning at a hole in the wall gym, I don’t even remember where it was. I remember seeing Pastor Chuck in there working out with a friend, I remember hurting so bad, I was so confused as to what was wrong with “my God”
    I was pretty shy, but knew there was a reason Pastor Chuck was working out with his friend at the same time. I asked if I could talk to him for a moment. He
    helped with the most encouraging words and at that moment Irealize that what I was feeling about guilt shame etc, was a good indacation that this was NOT what God wanted from me especially after even wanting to grow closer to the Lord. Pastor Chuck spent some of his work out time talking to me and told me about a book in Galatians and some verses . God soon showed me what His will was and I moved back to Colorado that year.
    Thank you all for your spiritual words at such a difficult time many many years ago.
    Obviously, it will never be forgotten! I stumbled on this web page today and felt inclined to write this letter. I hope he gets to read this. My husband and I have a son that is 20 and struggling with addiction and today hearing his story about his daughter touched me.
    Thank you,

    Tracy Nash

  4. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Nov 17 2018


    I received this and, apart from your son’s struggles and your heartache for him, my heart is warmed to know that our conversation back then has helped you move forward in God.

    Grace and peace,

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