EPIPHANY 3 Lessons & Meditation

EPIPHANY 3   01-24-2021

FIRST READING:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…” Remember what happened the first time God’s Word came to Jonah… the book is short enough to entirely read. Did this really happen? Or is it an imaginary “fish story”? And does it matter either way?

The historical situation. Israel had just restored her northern borders under King Jeroboam II (793-753BC), as Jonah had prophesied (2 Kings 14:25); now Israel was politically secure but also spiritually smug and morally corrupt. Nineveh was a large, important city in the kingdom of Assyria, its capital; and Assyria was a rising empire that posed a grave military threat to tiny Israel, that was known for its ruthless treatment of people it conquered.

God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn those people, but he didn’t go. Not the first time. Instead, Jonah tried to go about 2,000 miles in the opposite direction. What is your Nineveh? Have you ever tried to avoid and reject something that you believe God is calling you to do? How far did you “run away” before you realized that you could not get away? Last Sunday we read Psalm 139:7-12 and remembered that “there’s no hiding place” when it comes to God.

The second time (THANK GOD FOR SECOND CHANCES!) Jonah went to Nineveh and preached. To his dismay, the people of Nineveh repented. Jonah was so angry that he wanted to die. (THANK GOD FOR NOT ALWAYS GRANTING WHAT WE WISH FOR!)

The point of the entire story is the question “On whom should God have mercy?” Be careful how you answer that! Can you or I or anyone else put limits on God’s mercy and forgiveness, God’s saving grace? What GOOD NEWS do you have for your enemies,,, can you show compassion, can you offer love… will you try?

By the way, Nineveh repented in this book during Jonah’s time. Later they would return to old patterns, and later prophets – Nahum and Zephaniah – predicted Nineveh’s downfall for their excessive cruelty. In 612BC that city was destroyed.

Jesus compared himself to Jonah, and the people of his time to the Ninevites (Matthew 12:39-41 and Luke 11:29-32). He predicted that “the people of Nineveh will rise up in judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”

SECOND READING:  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Paul does NOT disapprove of marriage, expressing sorrow or joy, buying or selling, or various other human  social interactions. Paul is NOT saying that we should completely drop out, ignore our emotions or divest ourselves from all our relationships, shirk all of our responsibilities, ignore our economic needs, etc.

But Paul DOES believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought the beginning of a “new age” that anticipates Christ’s return – he and other Christians thought that the Second Coming of Jesus was only a little time ahead, just around the corner – and that immediately changes our present values and priorities during this “in-between time”. We should focus on the life that God calls us to… we should not allow the cares and anxieties of this earthly existence to derail us.

You might want to read all of Chapter 7 to see how Paul tries to address various and sometimes thorny issues related to marriage, circumcision of males, slavery, sexuality, and remarriage. He carefully distinguishes between what is his personal opinion and what he believes to be a clear revelation from God. The priority he emphasizes is a commitment to God, a real attempt to serve and praise God with our lives here on earth.

We are still waiting for Christ’s final return all these many years later. We still don’t know the details of “when”. We should not become disillusioned with the passing of time. We should not jump to the newest precise prediction of Christ’s return in a long history of failed predictions. We should continue to proclaim in our worship that “Christ will come again”… we should continue to trust in his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection and the hope and assurance that it generates… we should continue to value that each sunrise in our lives is a new day to do some things that are faithful and right. 

GOSPEL READING:  Mark 1:14-20

In the season of EPIPHANY each year we are often looking at call stories. Last Sunday, in JOHN, Jesus invited Andrew, who ran and told his brother Simon…then Jesus called Philip, who found and brought his friend Nathanael. This Sunday, in MARK, we have a different account of the call of the first disciples.

MARK tells us that a newly baptized, divinely called and acclaimed, and recently tempted Jesus began to preach the good news of God in the region of Galilee. He announced that it was a new and special time, he offered that God’s “kingdom” was near, he called for a changed life (“repentance” means to turn around, go a different direction). Note that he was in the desert for forty days battling Satan before his ministry began. Note that his ministry began after John the baptizer – who had been preparing the way for this ministry – was arrested. There are people, there are demonic forces, and there are even inner spiritual battles that are opposed to God’s will and to God’s way, that reject GOOD news about God’s love and mercy.

MARK’s Gospel is dramatic and fast-moving. The word “immediately” shows up in his story about forty times to convey a sense of urgency. Something is happening – don’t miss it!

Here four fishermen are called, and they “immediately” respond. Jesus called Simon and Andrew. They dropped their nets. Jesus called James and John. They left their boat with their father sitting inside. These four are leaving to follow… they are following to learn to “fish for people”.

You are most likely here because HE called you here. HE invited himself into your everyday life, into your busyness and burdens, into your comfort and convenience, into what you experienced and expected to be normal, and – yes! – into your fundamental uneasiness, your void that each of us has. HE invited himself into your life, touched you with love, and then invited you into HIS life, into the bold adventure of faith, into the challenging journey of mission. And you have realized that HE is what you have been looking and longing for over your entire life. JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT IN THIS WORLD’S DREADFUL GLOOM. MAY YOU ALWAYS SEE, ACCEPT, AND BEAR THIS LIGHT!

Jesus has called you to send you… blessed you to be a blessing. If you have accepted the invitation, then you must “live on purpose”. Go! Leave your boat, drop your net. Go! Leave the old life of self-centered living focused on this world’s ways and values. Walk, then, as disciples of love and servants of light. Go, tell, and do and be! Tell the message with love. Deliver the message with grace. And be the message with power. Even among the Ninevites of your life. 

Let go and go. Immediately.

Lord, help us to let go.  

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.