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This Time

Every moment is surely full of God and therefore full of all we need and all that is asked of us. And it seems that some moments, some points in history, sometimes are particularly potent and require our response. This time, our time, seems to be such a time. (Third Sunday after Epiphany. Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; and Mark 1:14-20.)

Last week we focused on the call to relationship with the One who knows us and thereby growing into our fullness. This week I think the convergence of our readings is on the need of our world and our time for us to respond to the call for the sake of others. Ultimately I think we will find that both reasons are the same gift and demand as we are made of the same star dust, breath the same air, and are the creatures of the same Creator. There is in essence no neat distinction between us and them, of God and not of God, only our lack of awareness or our openness of heart and mind.


The people of Nineveh needed Jonah, reluctant though he was, to respond. All that happened after historical Jesus, including the recording and sharing of the gospel, depended very much on the disciples who responded to him in his earthly time. So it does not seem too great a claim to suggest that the people and issues of our time depend on our individual and corporate response!


You may be interested in my reflections on the Jonah text three years ago.

While the sweep of human salvation history and social development might look steady and onwards and upwards a closer look reveals a more stop/start, faithful then unfaithful, haphazard progress. God has always seemed to work in and through individual prophets, teachers, leaders and whole communities of faithful people. And presumably still does.


If we accept, or entertain, that the response to the call of God on our lives is at least in part for the sake of others – not just our own personal salvation – then how does that look? Salvation history can be read as the chosen and gifted leaning down to “do” for others out of their faithfulness and righteousness. Or, as I grow older I think more and more, we grow into a holistic and compassionate membership of the whole and increasingly see others as fellow creatures of our Creator and neighbours in the broadest and deepest sense.


Jonah operated out of the former and I can only hope that he grew into the latter with time. Jonah did not care for those he prophesied to, Indeed he was angry when God decided not to punish them. Jonah was a reluctant servant and many of us may have had a season or two when this was the best we could manage. Part of me is grateful to have such a grumpy and realistic example but I think more is possible and desirable!


When Mary said yes to the call to participate in God’s plan for the world she became an essential part of something so much bigger than herself or even what she could imagine and yet the Son of God could not have come as he did when and where he did into the world without Mary’s participation. In a much more modest way we too are called to fully participate in life in God.


Simon Peter may have said yes immediately (according to Mark) but we know that his journey was much more twisting and turning than this suggests. One moment he sees who Jesus really is and then in the next misunderstands. He is a faithful follower for much of the time but then will deny Jesus at the vital moment. Peter may be a rock but is also a wonderfully and recognisably flawed disciple.


The Bible and church history are full of individual people who said yes to the call and played their part in proclaiming and making real the nearness of the kingdom. And God seems to also work through whole communities of people. Indeed the call is to become part of the kingdom or community of God. Nineveh repented as a whole after their king heeded the words spoken by Jonah. The chosen people were saved many times over as a people, as a community. The church has at times been powerful as a community living out its vocation in the midst of the larger community.


And surely that is what we are called to in this time – to be a beacon not only in rhetoric but in being a living example of hope, joy, respect, flourishing, justice seeking, loving neighbourliness. (Not - as sadly the church often seems to be - an example of rule enforcing, niceness policing, injustice tolerating, and feint heartedness?!) Our time is in desperate need of a people who can live in hope and joy with simple, inclusive, curious, generous, courageous faith now and live and work towards becoming fully the kingdom of God here on earth.


To be the people of God in this time, not only individual persons of God, we need to grow inward towards where God lies within our hearts and DNA; downwards into the whole created order whose source and destiny is the divine creator; and outward into the world who needs maybe more than ever the good news of being loved by the Beloved. If we respond to the call in this threefold way we will not so much see ourselves as bending low to those different than ourselves but leaning toward those who God loves without restraint; we will know ourselves having something to offer and being in need of the gifts of others; and once we are so engaged we will desire to stand up for justice, to create safety and plenty; the neat divisions between this world and the other will melt into the kingdom experience of this moment.

Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ, come call us into your vision and beyond the barriers in our hearts and minds.



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