Monday, January 19, 2009

What time is it is for us? Jonah 3:1-5, 10 Mark 1:14-20

The readings we have this week are all about timing. It's a good moment with high sounding speeches during an inauguration week to think some about God's timing as well as our own.

Our first lesson's from Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Some people think that Jonah is just a fish story. But a close reading says that the fish was just a part of the whole story.

Jonah was a prophet sent on a mission from God. He was sent to the people of Nineveh called to tell the whole city to repent. There was just one problem. Jonah didn't what to go. He decided that he'd travel by sea in the opposite direction. He was supposed to be headed overland towards modern day Iraq. Instead he was headed by boat towards Tarshish in modern day Spain. This is the part of the story where the fish comes in. Jonah is in the boat and a storm hits. The other sailors start praying, each to their own gods, looking for mercy. Then Jonah admits that he's the reason for the storm. He tells the others in the boat that he is supposed to be serving the Lord God who made the earth and sea. Instead of following he's going in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go. The sailors tossed Jonah over hoping to save their own lives and appease Jonah's angry God.

Timing is everything for God. At just the right time he sent a fish to save Jonah.. This wasn't in Jonah's plans at all. But God was making a point to Jonah that the time was right to save the people of Nineveh. We fight God; but he will win. Martin Luther wrote,

In order that the terror of death might be all the greater, not only was Jonah thrown into the sea, where there was no hope for help either from God or man, but when he thought that he must surely die, he was also swallowed alive by a fish, a fish the Lord provided for this very purpose. In this way it came about that, although he was in the midst of death, still he was alive. This is a wonderful account, in which the excellent, most high God has wished us to become very certain that He is the Lord of death and life, that all things are in His hand. Luther's Works, Vol. 19 : Minor Prophets II: Jonah and Habakkuk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1974) page14.
This story isn't about a fish; its about God and all of us who are reluctant to follow him into the world. We get too comfortable in our churches, our homes, our lives, and we forget that we have a mission. Jonah had a city he was called to preach to and he didn't want to go. God didn't care what one man wanted. God kept him alive in a fish to save others. God does the very same for us.

Paul touched on timing in First Corinthians 7:29-31. He sensed that time was coming to be ready to meet God. He saw the old world passing away and the new world beginning.

Mark 1:14-20 tells of Jesus early ministry and his anouncement 2000 years ago in Galilee,
... proclaiming the good news of God, 15 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 (NRSV)
We need to know today, just as much as ever, that we are in God's hands. The world we live in is in desperate need of the Father's love and care. We who know the love of the Father are asked to be followers of Jesus who went out into the world announcing the Good News. This Christmas a wise man said that Jesus came to the world on purpose when the time was right He pointed to Paul who said,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Galatians 4:4-5 (NRSV)
Jesus came at the right time to save us. He came to the world as is. He came at the time when God's love was desperately needed. He came to people who didn't all accept his ministry and love him. He came to a far from perfect nation. Jesus came and gave everything for the people he came to save.

What time is it is for us?
We are Christ's people called to into the world right now. Pastor Rick Warren, in a sermon on January 11, 2009 from a series on change said that America has been wounded and we need healing. Warren named all kinds of isms that hurt and tear us apart separating us from God and one another.
materialism, hedonism, secularism, racism, factionalism, terrorism, extremism, consumerism, narcissism, cynicism
We are citizens of this nation and world. In this week of inauguration ask the question, “What time is it for us?” Jesus was bold when he started his ministry in Galilee. He told the people of his own neighborhood in Galilee “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the gospel.”

Timing was everything for God. Jesus came at the right time. We are sent to serve in our time. Thanks be to God.


Ivy said...

Amen. Excellent reference of Rick Warren's as well. Blessings, Pr. Unlikely.

Nancy Marshall said...

Thank you for pointing out this "Kairos...God's timing " thread that runs through the lessons. There's a song we sing often "Hoy es el Dia". I thought of that song while I watched the inauguration and read your blog. Today is the day the Lord made. God's timing is perfect and we can rest knowing that he is in control. Yet... of all the things that we try to submit to God, in obedience and faith...our time is the hardest to release. In fact it takes a tremendous amount of faith to submit to God's timing. We always have plans. Jesus singled out some lucky guy saying, "Come follow me" (Luke 9:59) and the man, missing that he was in the midst of a kairos moment said..."later gator" I have plans..catch you in the next town after I bury my dad. Martha (of the Mary/Martha duo) had obligations. (oops.. that's an easy one for me to fall prey to)

Another obstacle to obedience and seizing the kairos moment is we dont want to suffer. God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be meek, poor, humble, trusting, repentant,persecuted (Mt. 5)...leaving our nets and putting total trust in God's care, like the lillies and the birds. How drastic! Who can do that? Even if I try to do that, financially and physically, is it too much to ask of "Joe the plumber?" No...the answer has to be no. Christianity is not an elitist's not something the priests and "holy people" do while the rest of the people carry on. That's the blessing. God has always chosen the poor, not terribly bright, sometimes sinful ordinary man...and through Jesus he chose ALL of us ordinary people to come, follow, and trust God with the details.

I pray for wisdom to recognize the kairos moments and then the courage to respond with obedience.
Peace Unlikely,
Nancy in Belize