Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
January 24, 2021
Lessons: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; John 1:14-20
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people pay attention to time, particularly to the present moment, allowing God to speak to and through them.
Key Scripture: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” – Mark 1:14-15
Timing matters; in fact, in some cases timing is everything. Think for a minute about how time and timing has affected your life and perhaps even your beliefs. One prime example might be your own vocational call story. If you are a minister, youth director, church musician, or other vocational church worker, you likely have your own story of how God called you to serve. Very rarely are these stories short, simple, or sweet. We can reduce them to a very short story, but there is often so much more behind the public retelling.
Perhaps there are people who gave voice to the Spirit’s call on your life. Maybe you had a life-altering event, as Martin Luther did when he was caught on horseback during a thunderstorm and prayed to St. Anne to spare his life. If she would grant his petition to survive the storm, he promised to become a monk. He survived and entered an Augustinian seminary two weeks later. The rest is history, so to speak. It could be that a long series of small nudges comprise your call, or like poet Francis Thompson you feel that you have long been pursued by the “hound of heaven” (i.e. Jesus) until you relent. Whatever your situation, you have a story, and it is important to remember, recall, and even share. In sharing our stories, especially the imperfect parts and the suffering, we bear witness to the truth that no one is beyond the grip of God’s grace, love, and mercy.
This week’s lessons all explore, at least in part, the concept of time and timing. Of course, how we respond to time and timing is what matters, especially when it comes to following Jesus in this world and beyond. We remember, too, that time is largely a human concept. We try furiously to manage, master, and control chronos (or human) time, while God operates within and through kairos (holy time) a very different concept. The more we listen to God and move according to the divine will, the more we will learn to count our days and appreciate each one fully. Yes, time and timing matters greatly. May all of our choices and plans be expressed in gratitude for and praise of the One who created all that was, is, and is yet to come. Blessings on your faithful and prophetic preaching and teaching!
Jonah 3:1-5, 10: One really needs to explore the entire Jonah story (it’s short) to make sense of how God operates in time and how Jonah responds and misses the mark. Remember that Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh with a warning message. Jonah flees in a boat, and ends up spending time in a rather fishy environment. Now God addresses Jonah again with this command, and Jonah does go to Nineveh to announce God’s planned destruction of the city. Jonah is so sure that the Ninevites will not change their wicked ways that he’s surprised and disappointed when they do repent and God changes God’s own mind about their destruction.
Timing is something Jonah wants to control, but God consistently shows this reluctant prophet that humans are not in control and that God can even change the divine mind. We humans do not control the timing of the Creator of the Cosmos, even with all our clocks, calendars, and Fitbits. Instead we listen for and respond to God more like a divine dance partner.
Psalm 62:5-12: This snippet from Psalm 62 reminds us to trust God at all times (verse 8) because God is a refuge. We are reminded that silence is needed to hear God speak, and that we need to have patience and wait for God, who is the ultimate source of all hope and steadfast love (hesed). This psalm also reminds us that we need to take time to share our personal experiences/encounters with God. This God who is also a rock, salvation, fortress, and fortress not just for the psalmist, but for all people who seek the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31: What are we to do with this short passage? For starters, it’s helpful to look at the scope of what Paul is communicating to his beloved Corinthian congregation. There’s a clear apocalyptic tinge to the entire section, but there’s more than that going on. Paul is reminding his people that they need to be constantly ready for the Lord; that nothing should replace or diminish their focus on kairos living within chronos time. Nothing should stand between the people and their devotion to the Christ into whose Body they have been grafted. They are no longer independent agents, willing to make their own path and respond to their own desires. They, and we today, belong to the Christ and are children of the most high God. Our time rests in God’s hands.
Mark 1:14-20: Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (verse 15). The word for time in this verse is kairos, or divine time. Yes, timing is everything. John the Baptist has been imprisoned and will soon be martyred. Jesus is inaugurating his official ministry and calling students/disciples to journey with him. He also calls all who hear his voice to repent and believe in the good news. The word used in this lesson for kingdom is basileia, which may be interpreted more broadly to mean the reign of God. Yes, the world is about to change. It’s still about to change today because our human memory is short, and we fall back into the false belief that time is on our side and in our hands, that we are immortal as long as we don’t ponder our mortality. The Christ calls us to wake up and follow him as fishers of people to change the state of creation and help usher in a new reality. The question for us today might be this one: Are we willing to let go of our control of time so that we may fall into the holy work of changing the world now, one breath and action at a time?
If possible, provide images of clocks in your worship. Ask worshipers how many clocks and watches they have in their home. In my home we have seven, including three on kitchen appliances, our phones, a watch, and a bedroom alarm clock that is rarely put to use. We also have clocks in our cars. The concept of chronos time is ever with us. But what about kairos time? How willing are we to let go and be open to God’s idea of time and timing?
Hymns or songs you might consider include “The Church of Christ, in Every Age” (ELW* 729); “Canticle of the Turning” (ELW 723); “Give Me Jesus” (ELW 770); and “Way Maker.”
*Evangelical Lutheran Worship
This week consider the gospel lesson. Timing plays an important role. Jesus knows exactly when to inaugurate his ministry and call the people to repentance (metanoia or a turning around of one’s life). Simon and Andrew know the time to follow Jesus is NOW; they immediately leave their nets and way of life to fish for people with Jesus.
Just what is this fishing for people all about? If you can get your hands on a copy of Ched Myer’s commentary Binding the Strong Man, check out what Myers has to say about this passage in light of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. Fishing may refer to fishing out the bad and the abusers of power so that the good might flourish. This is a different understanding for the usual emphasis on evangelism, although “hooking someone for Jesus” is also pretty strange when you think about it.
This week’s focus verse is Mark 1:15: – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
What time is it? (Entertain all answers) How do you know what time it is? (Again, entertain all answers) Today we learn that Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus says “the time is fulfilled.” How do we know that the time has been fulfilled? (Entertain any answers.) We have this (hold up Bible)! Scripture tells us the Jesus story, and our lessons each week teach us that story. What could Jesus mean a out “the kingdom of God has come near”? Oh, I know! He’s talking about himself as Messiah, the fact that God came to earth as a human to teach and lead us. Then we have two directives from Jesus: 1) Repent, turn your life around and follow Jesus, and 2) believe in the good news, and let it change your life. These sound pretty simple, but we spend our entire life working on being faithful followers and devoted disciples.
The lesson we learn from Jesus’ words is that God is with us, we should turn our lives around and point our hearts and minds toward Jesus, and we should believe the good news that we have heard and will share. With God’s help we can do this and make our world a lot better place.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you (Thank you) for loving us (for loving us). Thank you for calling us to follow Jesus (Thank you for calling us to follow Jesus). Help us to turn to you (Help us to turn to you), and share the good news of Jesus (and share the good news of Jesus) wherever we go (wherever we go).
Keep us from fear (Keep us from fear). Keep us hopeful (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace). Amen (Amen).
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Jesus gives us some pretty clear instructions in this week’s gospel: Repent and believe in the good news because the reign of God has come near, and we are invited to enter God’s time. Thank you for being part of our faith community and for sharing your time, talent, and resources with others.
Stewardship at Home
No one is beyond the grip of God’s grace, and God’s timing is often very different from our own. Click here to watch a 30-minute video about the British poet Francis Thompson. In the grip of an addiction to opium, God nevertheless refused to give up on Thompson, and he became a treasured poet. You might also want to watch (click here) this modern adaptation of “The Hound of Heaven,” Thompson’s poem about Christ’s pursuit of him.
If you have young children at home, consider spending some time talking about time. Count the clocks in your house. Talk about how we mark time (calendars, birthdays, anniversaries, big events, etc.) vs. how God marks time. Try to count how often you check the time in a given day. Try going one day without clocks. How does it feel? Did you manage to be on time anyway? Did you feel more secure in your time or more anxious about it? Draw a picture or create a collage about time. Use Psalm 62:8a as a guide: “Trust in him at all time, O people…”
2012 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/01/what-time-is-it-2/
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