Sermon, January 25, 2015

Sermon is included after two of this Sunday's readings:
Gospel according to Mark 1:14-20
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news."
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Old Testament:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,
 2Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.
3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.
4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk.
And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
 
5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Epistle:  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Sermon, Pastor Kris Garey
Having as our readings two stories that if we open them up a bit include one beside a sea (the Gospel from Mark) and one where what we hear is preceded by time spent at sea on a boat (the Jonah story) is pretty darn fine when we are where we are, beside a great almost sea ourselves.Two sea stories, but hardly identical.  
Maybe you noticed.
The Gospel according to Mark filled throughout with immediately. Immediately follows immediately,
Jesus was coming out of the water of Baptism, immediately he saw the heavens split open ...
and immediately, Jesus is driven into the desolate places of the wilderness, tempted by Satan, ministered to by wild beasts...
And then immediately we hear...
Jesus came into Galilee.
then, passing alongside the sea
saw Simon and Andrew, brothers, casting a net into the sea.
And when Jesus said
Follow me             immediately they left their nets
Then Jesus saw James and John, 2 more brothers
immediately he called them...they rose, left their nets and followed.  
Sometimes we too have call stories like that, whether of lifetime or of take an action now calls.  Someone said to me this week, “I felt the urgency of God’s request, and just dropped everything and went...”
But other call stories take longer,
much much longer...
like Jonah’s.
Today we open Jonah here:
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”  
Which means there was a first time....
and that first time, God had said,
 “Get up and go to Ninevah and preach to them… “and Jonah got up—but fled the exact opposite direction, away from where God was sending him, and away, Jonah thought, from the presence of the LORD. 
And away fled Jonah, toward the sea,
not toward the inland city where the Lord directed him.
Jonah’s response reminds me of a character on a British Comedy Series
which is actually about a congregation, a pastor, and a church council...
maybe it doesn’t sound like it could be a hit comedy, but The Vicar of Dibley, as it was titled, was a hit in England for many years. 
My favorite character is Jim, who’s been on the Church council for years
and to almost everything that comes up,
he replies, ... no no no            no          no no  no           -- and then sometimes adds a final NO, but mostly finally adds  YES
which if you think of it
is exactly like Jonah...
 
Can’t you imagine it, from Jonah?  no no no no...no NO
Jonah is not Simon, Andrew, James and John, those immediately following brothers Jesus called.  
Oh, Jonah acts, immediately to God’s first call,
not following, but fleeing in the exact opposite direction—scrambles onto a ship, and hides below the deck, hoping to hide from God.
Can you hear the no no noooo NO !
It’s as if those that Jesus calls take off rowing like madmen headed for the opposite shore, to get as far away as they could.
That is what Jonah does. Run, flee, try to escape the Lord, and the LORD’s bizarre instructions. Get away quick, NO to Nineveh.
It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, that destroyer of Israel, that brutal occupying force.  Jonah says by how he runs, No no no noooooo NO .
But where Jonah flees to, God is.
And God takes Jonah to new places, unusual places, places from where it seems no word of God could come...
And then we hear  “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, “Get up and go.”
And, this time, Jonah does, and goes to Ninevah.  
What a contrast in responses:  those with immediate yes’ to Jesus offer,
the first rampant no no no of Jonah.
—both strike me as so like our own human lives.
Sometimes we might be like the 4 brothers,
yes to God right away.
And sometimes we don’t get to yes at all, or for a very long time.
One of my best friends is named Lori
and she lives in Duluth; we used to work together, ...
and she has an important part in my coming to faith story
but part of her story is that when she was a little girl
she’d “play church” she calls it.  At age 6 or 7, she propped up boxes for organ, altar and pulpit.
and dragged in a bench for a pew.  She’d sit on the bench, stand behind the altar, in the pulpit, and pretend to play the organ.
She talks, still, about that time with such love in her voice, for the time when her love of God was easy and when she thought: “I was sure, for awhile, that I’d be a pastor...but then...I changed.”
She grew up, got married, had kids, attended church faithfully.  But maybe partly because for so long woman were thought not allowed by words in the Bible to be Pastors, she stopped somewhere around 13 any thoughts of being a pastor.  
And she felt she ought not be the one to read scriptures “up front” either.  
But along the way, where she was, God was there ahead of her. She had a deaf uncle, and learned sign language; became the one who’d sit next to him in church, signing on her hands the words she heard. After awhile, deaf friends joined her uncle, and then she began to stand near the front so more eyes could see her.
And somehow one day someone asked her, could she read the scripture too, then sign the words.    And then one day her pastor asked her to preach...and today she preaches, words in voice and words on hands, and is pastor.
Did she have a no, no noo  at some point to God? 
She says she doesn’t even know if she said no,
or just never paid attention beyond thinking it was fun to play church; she says she doesn’t know if she was just letting herself off the hook and avoiding hearing her call...or if God just eased off for a time.
But we laugh about how whether she had said, no no no, or just didn’t ponder, it didn’t stop God !
God kept right on using her life as Yes,
in her uncles life,
in the many lives of deaf and hearing people who have heard the Gospel of the Lord from her voice and hands, in the people she is pastor to,
and in my life.
We here at Trinity feel we are a small congregation in the middle of woods alongside a sea.
Sometimes to God we say, YOU BET, and jump straightaway into YES to God’s call.
Sometimes it takes us longer, and we pass through no no noooo no maybe   to   no no NO...
and then sometimes land at yes.
This is our annual meeting day,
Look just at the last year, and you will see  
God has taken whatever
our hesitant or immediate or pondering ways have been,
our no no nooo NO,  our Yes, our Maybe  
and turned them into the love of God,
poured forth as he decrees,
that others might see, and hear the voice of Jesus say, come and follow....
Arise you!  the Lord said to Jonah, Go you !  hear the call I am calling to you.  Be arising, be a-going !  
Let us pray: We give you thanks, Oh God. We pray to hear Your call, that others too may know and follow You. In Jesus  name we pray.
Amen.
 

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