Sermon - 1/21/18
2018.01.22 23:12:49

EPIPHANY 3/B (2018): Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor. 7:29-35; Mk. 1:14-20 


Time,            [T]he appointed time has grown very short…  For the present from of this world is passing away (vv. 29, 31b). 


St. Paul’s warning that the “appointed time” is short dominates our Readings, including the Introit, “From the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps. 113:3) and Psalmody, “For God alone my soul waits… Trust in him at all times” (Ps. 62:1, 8).


The Readings deal with God’s urgent call to men and our response to his voice; urgency is punctuated by the efficiency of the Word in our texts.


Much to Jonah’s displeasure God commanded he deliver a precise ten-word sermon to the Assyrian Ninevites, “Yet in forty days Nineveh is about to be changed” (3:4b).  On hearing these words from the Hebrew prophet of God all Nineveh repented, with the result that God relented; judgment changed to grace.  Nineveh’s repentance, worked by God’s word, averted imminent disaster. 


Two Sunday’s ago we heard JB’s pithy sermon, proclaiming, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” with the result that all Judea and Jerusalem were being baptized and confessing their sins (Mk. 1:4, 5). 


Last Sunday Nathaniel responded to Philip’s invitation, “If you come, you will see [Jesus the promised Messiah]” (Jn. 1:46b).  Later when Jesus revealed to Nathaniel the sight of his sitting under a fig tree known only to him, Nathaniel gesticulated his confession, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (vv. 48b, 49).  The power of God’s word is such that long sermons to conversion are unnecessary, only our receptivity to what God declares. 


Today’s Gospel finds Jesus preaching near the Sea of Galilee, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14, 15).  The urgency of this sermon is unmistakable.  That evening as the Bethsaida fishing fleet was getting ready to cast-off onto the water, Jesus cast his gaze on Peter and Andrew, and then on James and John, personalizing his sermon, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17) [into my Kingdom now at hand]. 


The Ninevites, the Judean populace, Philip, Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, at God’s proclaimed word, all discerned what Paul reveals as the “appointed time”, calling men to urgent and wholehearted response at the beckon.  God comes to men for mercy and grace, or if refused, for judgment; but desiring we choose Life. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed the heir of all things…” (Heb. 1:2). 


So what is the urgency to which you and I are presented at this “appointed time”?  It is the urgency that attends the fallout from great kingdoms at war, when there is nowhere to hide but in the safety of the kingdom assured of prevailing.  God has ordained his king out of heaven, the man Jesus appointed to his hour to finally depose the pretender Prince of the World. 


On being baptized and anointed with the HS, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to confront Satan and be tested by worldly blandishments. After dispatching Satan in that initial engagement, warfare on earth was fully joined.  


Jesus, in Mark, next appears in Galilee to gather an apostolic band of brothers, precisely between his confrontation in the wilderness and exorcism of an unclean spirit in a Capernaum synagogue, portending the spiritual nature of the war of kingdoms.


All mankind is born in sin into bondage of Satan’s thralldom. At the appointed time, today, if you hear his word, men are called to transfer their kingdom allegiance, a different life than offered by a fallen and dying world. 


Jonah was called into the army of God’s word; instead he dodged and burned his draft card. God commissioned him to preach his word to Gentile religious pagans in Assyria for salvation or destruction in forty days.  Jonah, disgusted at God’s plan of universal salvation, instead ran in the opposite direction to Tarshish (modern Spain). 


In God’s warfare against of Satan one is not permitted to stand as a pacifist, morally superior or ambivalent toward God and his plan for the salvation of all men. At God’s word, one is either for or against his coming reign on earth.  Jonah, rejected God’s command marking his treason.  He was thrown into the deep, consigned to death in the abyss of the demonic. 


But God is the God of second chances, assigning a great fish to rescue from where Jonan prayed for delivery. After three days in the grave Jonah arose from his watery baptism onto shore and new obedience to travel to Gentile Nineveh, preaching God’s ten-word sermon to conversion. 


In today’s Gospel Jesus called his initial band of brothers from the Sea of Galilee to public ministry, “fishers of men”, by the power of his word and raising men out of Satan’s deep place.  God’s word catches and brings us into the boat and Light of God’s kingdom, new creations in Christ whom we call Ichthus, the church’s great fish of salvation.  


We have as examples in our new kingdom citizenship, the unhesitating enlistment of the Galilean Apostles. Peter immediately left the worldly comforts of house, wife, and occupation.  The sons of Zebedee urgently left the security of family and business opportunity with their earthly father; but with St. Paul we discover the “Apostle of a Second Chance. 


From the martyred St. Stephen, Paul heard the testimony of Christ crucified and risen; nevertheless he rejected the word to persecute the church, re-crucifying the body of Christ. While on the road to Damascus Paul bore the same anger toward God in Christ as Jonah held for God’s salvation of all men.  Jesus, the enfleshed Torah of God, spoke to Paul from heaven’s blinding Light and graciously according baptism’s second chance, new sight, and apostleship. 


Paul, like Jonah received a second chance from the God, relenting of judgment in the face of repentance. Where Jonah continued in his anger with God for his grace to Gentiles; Paul instead gloried in being “least” of brothers (1 Cor. 15:9, Eph. 3:8) and Apostle to The Gentiles. 


Paul’s gracious salvation was keen to teach Corinthian brothers and sisters to remain strong and wholly committed to Christ in the warfare underway, warning, “[T]he appointed time has grown very short… For the present from of this world is passing away.”  


Paul would have us understand what it means to find ourselves in Christ by Baptism. The activity of God in Christ crucified, and his blood and Spirit conveyed in water and word make us new creations for the new creation coming into being.  This is the sight to which Christians are called in the church’s Light. 


Paul says, “let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29b), which is to say, that as men and women in the world marry, men are wont to exercise arbitrary dominion.  In such sinful relation women desire her husband’s office and authority.  But the Baptized marry “in Christ” who is the center and fount of all sacramental forgiveness and sacrificial love that God intends for marital union in the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Men live with wives, as God loves you; and wives love their husbands as the church loves her Lord who has given his all. 


“[A]nd those who mourn as though they were not mourning” (v. 30a). Only those without hope inconsolable state at the grave.


“[A]nd those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though who they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (vv. 30b, c, 31). It is vanity to rejoice in the things of a dying world being remade to a new and better creation. 


Rejoice rather in the things of God’s abundant word with us. Consider our table prayer, “The eyes of all look to you and you satisfy the desires of every living thing”; nor should you squander your joy toward the passing stuff of the world that merely delights and appeases decaying flesh. 


You have been plucked from the kingdom of Satan who distracts on every occasion from what God has done in Christ crucified and your inheritance of all things in him as sons and daughters of God. In that Joy and those riches is our true delight and hope.  Amen. 







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