He is Always Watching

Mark 13:24-32

Jesus says “when you see these things happening, know that I am near, at the gates.” Even in the darkest of times Jesus doesn’t abandon us. He is always watching over us, night and day. In today’s reading Jesus speaks of being on our guard for we do not know the day or the hour when we will be called to him. But if we take his words to heart and stay close to him as we journey, we have nothing to fear. His gift to us is his merciful presence with us in our time here on earth.


There's a story that I'll share with you that I think will remind us that Jesus is watching us, not with a condemning eye, but with mercy and forgiveness, ready to open the gate for us to allow us to pass through, to live in the fullness of the mission he has planned for us.


The story is about a little boy named was Sam, who was 9 years old. He and his sister were visiting their grandparents who lived on a big farm in the country. Sammy had a favorite toy that he liked to play. It was sling shot.  While he was visiting, he'd spend hours out in the woods, practicing his aim, shooting at various targets.  As much as he worked at it, he wasn't all that good at it, but he enjoyed playing with it just the same. This was back in the day when kids tended to play outdoors.


One evening, Sammy was out shooting at targets when the dinner bell rang.  As he was heading toward the house, he saw at a distance his grandmother’s pet duck sitting by a pond.  He paused for a moment with his sling shot in hand.  The duck was far enough away that he knew that he'd never be able to reach it, not in a million years. So without thinking about it much, he pulled the sling shot back, let the rock fly, and sure enough, he hit the duck right in the head and the duck fell over dead.  


Sammy felt terrible. He panicked. He ran over, got the duck and secretly buried it behind the wood pile. As he was walking back toward the house guilt ridden and trembling, he realized his 12 year old sister, Julie, saw the whole thing.  Sammy, who killed the duck, knew his goose was cooked.


That night after dinner, his grandmother said to Julie, “Julie, I’d like you to stay and help me with the dishes, if you don’t mind’.  Julie said, “grandma, I’d love to, but Sam said he wants to do the dishes tonight.”  She looked over at Sammy with a condemning eye and whispered in his ear, “Remember the duck.”  Sammy went over and did the dishes. 


The next morning, the grandfather was setting out to go fishing. He invited both of the children to go. But grandma said, “Oh, I really need Julie to stay behind to help me with the chores.” Julie replied, “Grandma, Sam said that he’d like to stay home with you and help you with the chores today.” Julie again whispered in Sam’s ear, “Remember the duck.”  Sam stayed, did the chores, and Julie went fishing with grandpa. 


After a couple days of feeling guilty and remorse, and doing both his and Julie’s chores, Sam had finally had enough. He went to his grandmother and said, “Grandma, I’m so sorry but I gotta tell you something. I didn’t mean to, but I accidently killed your pet duck” He was then surprised by his grandmother’s reaction. She gave Sam a great big hug and said “I know you did. I was standing on the porch. I saw the whole thing. An incredulous Julie then said, "You mean, you saw the whole thing, and you're not gonna to punish him?" "No", grandma said. She turned to Sammy and said, "I also saw you crying over there on the swing, and I know you realize your mistake - I’ve already forgiven you.”


Like the grandma from the porch, Jesus is always near. He’s there at the gate. He’s always watching. He’s seen it all. He’s seen all our stellar moments, and he’s seen our miserable failures. The good news is for us his mercy endures forever. 


C.S. Lewis said, "It doesn’t take a big sin to take us out of orbit around God – just a little distraction will often do the job." My interpretation of that is, we distract ourselves and become blinded from the presence of Jesus when we let our little transgressions build up in us a sense of guilt and shame and unworthiness. Though Jesus is always near to us, we become separated from him.


In our lives, it’s hard to receive love when we feel shame. Shame happens when we allow our guilty feelings to overcome us, when we hate something we said or did so much, that we consciously or unconsciously shield anyone else from seeing it or knowing about it.  We fear the rejection and condemnation that we assume will come from others. 


When we feel the need to hide any part of ourselves from our friends, our spouse, or parents, shame has gotten the best of us, and we may find ourselves in a spiritually empty place, a lonely existence.


The irony of all this is that when we are truly honest with ourselves and others, we discover that sharing our hidden parts, our hidden frailties with the people who love us most does not cause them to love us less. They, like grandma, love us even more and become drawn closer to us.


At the heart of becoming emotionally healthy and content in the presence of Jesus watching us from the gate is knowing that we are desired and loved by God, despite our sins.


We undermine the authority of Jesus, and his free flow of mercy, righteousness and forgiving love that he has spoken over us, when we engage in self-doubt and buying the accusers (Julie’s) version of who we are.


I heard this quote, “Always remember that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross”. In other words, we all stand as sinners before Jesus needing a Savior. No one is higher up than anyone else. We’re all made worthy by the blood of the lamb, that guy watching us at the gate.

So let us pray today that during this upcoming week, we can more fully feel the presence of Christ watching us lovingly from the gates. He’s ready to reach out to us with a grandmotherly hug of mercy and forgiveness. Let us also be less judgmental of others who likewise are worthy of forgiveness.  There's no need to keep score between us, no need to remember the duck - in fact, we need to forget the duck, and anything else that has blocked Jesus from showering us with his mercy. 


We pray, Lord you are worthy of our praise. We thank you for making us worthy because of your Son's sacrifice. Thank you for always watching over us. We are not who others say we are – we are who you say we are – your beloved. Through reconciliation, you take away our sin and make us guiltless. We do confess that sometimes we don’t feel so guiltless, and our shame has made us forget who you made us to be.


Help us in our unbelief. Grant us your strength to resist temptation, and urge our souls to spend more time in prayer and praise, because it’s in acknowledging your presence where we become transformed and ready to walk through the gates you have opened for us, to live in the fullness of the mission that you have planned for us.




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