Homily: January 25, 2015
3 EPIPHANY, YEAR B; Rev. Theo Park
Jonah cries out: “In forty days God will destroy the city.”
Paul writes to the Corinthians: “The appointed time has grown short
and the present form of this world is passing away.”
Jesus in the Marcan account begins his career by preaching:
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near.”
What is all this about? Why have the framers of the lectionary grouped these readings and what cumulative message do they have for us today?
I say “cumulative” because as we hear them the readings do not stand alone—
not even the gospel, though we give it pride of place—
they pile up, one on another, each informing and giving weight to the others.
So what is going on here? What do you hear?
I hear immediacy. I hear action. I hear that something is going to happen…soon…now;
in fact, something is already happening although we may be unaware of it.
Our job is to discern what that something is and to join ourselves to it.
I hear a call to change, a call to conversion, a call to a completely new way of being.
I hear that God is the principal actor, the initiator, the One who calls—
the One in whom we live and move and have our being—
and that we are those who respond…or don’t...to the call.
What do you hear?
And where does it connect with the stuff of your life? With your passion?
What message does it have for you? What meaning?
Individually and as a community of faith?
The message is clear in all the gospels, each in their own way,
that for the Christian, discipleship to Jesus must be the number one priority.
"Sell all you have and give it to the poor," we read later in Mark.
"Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead," we find in Matthew.
It seems harsh at first, certainly extreme. Many of us want to reject such teaching.
I think the key to appropriating this message for ourselves
lies not in thinking of it in terms of sacrifice but in terms of recklessness.
There is an extravagance of commitment in what these four brothers do,
giving all of themselves and all of their lives on the spot to Jesus and his message.
The decision to follow Jesus is a glorious break with convention,
a call not to hold back but to overdo.
It is a summons to absolute trust in the reliability—
and more particularly the abundance—of God.
Which is, according to the author of Mark, where Jesus begins, after all:
he proclaims, and calls his listeners to believe in, the Good News of God.
The God who heals those who have fallen away, whose very nature is forgiveness,
in whose promise of justice is hope.
"Change your ways and put your trust in the goodness of God!"
is the message Jesus preaches.
And then everything he is and does and says throughout the three years of his ministry simply fleshes that statement out.
Who wouldn't respond to that?
Well, lots of people, actually.
Recklessness is not something that comes naturally to most of us,
not in our personal life, not in our corporate life.
We are more cautious, more prudent, ultimately more conservative.
Extravagance of commitment doesn't always sit well with mortgages and job security.
As much as we would like to, in the face of the realities of our world
it is hard to trust God's abundance, probably because we want to define
just what abundance means and we want it on our terms.
Even these same disciples who so eagerly abandon their old ways now
will begin to doubt and question before the gospel ends.
Simon will end up denying Jesus; most of the others flee when things get tough.
Judas—also one of those whom Jesus calls, don't forget—will go so far as to betray him.
God alone remains faithful.
Despite everything we do, God's love is steadfast and sure, overflowing.
Jesus calls us to believe that, demonstrates it
with his very life and death and resurrection.
And then he calls us to act out of that place of belief.
So if we trust in that Good News, where in our lives
do we need to show some recklessness of response?
What needs changing in our settled ways, as individuals, as the Church,
so that we can be more extravagant in our commitment to God and Christ?
You will shortly be interviewing candidates to join you as your next clergy partner.
Were I one of them I would want to ask what your vision is for the future of this place.
How do you articulate your mission and the story of Gethsemane’s call to Christ?
Where are you willing to risk, to dare, to be extravagant?
When you get to the part about your response, how would you describe it?
Would it be like the Gospel of Mark: "And immediately we..."?
Or would it be something else?
In my own life I have many passions:
God, Jesus, justice, children, formation, liturgy, community.
They are the stuff of my life; they all give meaning to my life.
They all call out to me on any given day; often they overlap.
But just as often the clamor of their competing demands makes it hard for me
to hear the call to immediacy, the call to action,
the call to respond that comes from God alone.
And in the confusion I stop discerning and turn to other tasks,
things that may seem important but are actually the world’s “make work.”
So I need to be reminded regularly, to be brought up short by the one call
and the message it brings.
Some time in the relatively recent past I was participating in a small group
we were doing an exercise in just such discernment
and I shared with the group that the call I heard was “to be more outrageous.”
There was laughter all around, and maybe a little discomfort:
Theo more outrageous?
But what I meant was that I am not called to play it safe;
I don’t believe that any of us are.
Not as Christians, not as the Church.
We are called to risk.
We are called to follow.
We are called to act.
We are not to worry what the world thinks,
we are not to shrink back out of fear of offending or even of being hurt.
We are to trust in God, to whom power belongs;
God, who alone is our rock and our salvation,
from whom comes our hope and in whom we shall not be shaken.
God speaks to us in the silence of our heart, saying
“You are created and called to act with me in my world.
Let your life speak.”
When God calls, what do you hear?
How will you answer?