3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B 2021

1. January 6, 2021 was one of the darkest days of my life;

2. as it was for many of us.

a. For me as a person of faith,

i. one of the most difficult images from that dark day

ii. was not the protesters vandalizing the Senate,

iii. not the guy in the horns bellowing at the speaker’s chair

iv. nor that yahoo with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk.

3. It was the crosses the rioters carried.

a. It was political banners which advocated Jesus for president.

b. It was the number of people who saw that day

c. not just as a protest,

d. not just as a riot

e. but as a Holy War.

4. I was disturbed, but I should not have been surprised; none of us should be.

5. For years many Christians have believed

a. that there was something terribly wrong with our nation,

6. and that the only way to fix it was by turning it around and returning to a time

a. when families were stable, gender roles were stable

b. When there was no protest over affirmative action or women’s rights or gay rights or any rights at all.

c. When law was respected, our nation was respected and of course God was respected.

7. For years they believed that they had it on good authority that America had to repent,

i. a “churchy” word which literally means to turn around,

ii. to return our nation to its former greatness.

iii. to return the church to its former importance.

iv. in short to make the world the way it is supposed to be.

8. That good authority of course, was the Bible.

9. In books such as that of Jonah,

i. whom God sent to Nineveh to call the people there to repent.

ii. And in the gospels,

1. where Jesus comes calling all people to repentance.

10. IT is hard to argue with the Bible.

11. And yet there are many of us who are deeply uneasy with the tight fit some make

i. between biblical stories and political platforms,

ii. national renewal and religious repentance.

12. For there are many of us who have fought long and hard

i. to see to it that all people are treated equally,

ii. who do not see a return to the past as a plus,

iii. and despite the modern world’s many problems

iv. still see IT and not some past ideal, as the way things should be.

13. And yet It is tempting, isn’t it?

a. to think that all we have to do is turn around,

b. reject what the world has become

c. all we have to do is repent.

i. and our lives, our families and our world

1. would be the way they “should be”.

14. It was tempting to many of those people waving crosses and banners in the Capitol.

15. And it was tempting to the people of Israel in the 4th century BC

a. For they were living in a land that was changing rapidly and as far as they were concerned it was not for the better.

i. Waves of immigrants from non-Jewish nations had moved in,

ii. bringing their different languages, customs and religions.

iii. they were interrelating, intermarrying, interbreeding.

iv. many were afraid that God’s people were being destroyed.

1. And as a result, they followed the law more strictly,

2. kept kosher more completely,

3. because they wanted to return to a purer time,

4. when Jewish meant Jewish

a. and everyone followed God’s law.

b. It did not matter that such a time had never really existed,

i. what mattered was that they believed that it did.

1. For that was when the world was the way it should be.

16. It was in that Israel that the book of Jonah was written.

a. It is a shame we can’t read all of it.

i. For in the passage we read today,

1. we see the end of Jonah’s mission,

2. he goes to the Nineveh,

3. preaches repentance,

4. and lo and behold, they all repent!

ii. But what we miss is the fact that throughout the rest of the book,

1. it is Jonah who needs to repent,

a. for the first three chapters

i. deal with Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh,

b. and chapter 4

i. deals with his resentment of God

1. because the Ninevites were Gentiles,

2. and God showed them the mercy

3. God had shown Israel.

ii. This was not the way it should be!

17. It was still tempting 400 hundred years later,

a. when the people of Israel were occupied by the Romans.

i. Many believed that if only

1. they followed the law more closely

2. were somehow more obedient,

ii. if only became as holy as priests were holy,

iii. as holy as the temple was holy,

iv. if only they became something they were not,

1. then the Messiah would come,

a. and things would be the way they should be.

18. IT was in that context that the story we hear in the gospel of Mark was written.

a. It is a shame we cannot read the whole of the Gospel,

b. This morning all we hear is the story of the calling of the first four disciples.

i. IT is a story rooted in the calling of Jesus for everyone

1. to turn around, to change direction, to repent.

c. And yet, when Jesus calls the disciples, who were all fishermen, to repent,

d. Jesus says quite pointedly that they will remain fishermen,

1. it is just that their catch will be different

2. instead of fish it will now be people.

19. We can almost hear the complaints of many;

a. you mean these dirty smelly fishermen will be Jesus’ closest followers?

i. Even though they will fail him, and abandon him on the cross,

1. he chooses them

2. and then allows them to remain what they are?

a. They don’t have to fast,

b. live like priests and be holy?

3. But that is not the way it should be!

ii. Of course, it is not.

20. If we believe that repentance means

a. rejecting our neighbors,

b. and denying who we are.

i. Then we would be right there with the people in Jonah’s day,

1. resenting the mercy God shows to others

ii. we would be right there in Jesus’ day,

1. resenting the mercy God shows Jesus’ disciples.

21. But what if that was not what repentance was?

a. What if it was not turning our backs on our neighbor

i. but turning towards them

1. As God again and again tried to get Jonah to do?

b. What if repentance was not denying who we are,

i. but accepting who we are,

ii. As Jesus did those fisher-disciples?

c. What if repentance was not a rejection of who we are,

i. but precisely a rejection of sin,

ii. which is by definition what we are not?

22. Well then, we would see

a. that much of what passes for repentance is really simple pride

b. For it causes us to judge our neighbor rather than love them

c. And reject who we are rather than cherish it.

23. And we would see that true repentance

a. is not a turning away from who we are

b. It is a turning towards who we truly are as daughters and sons of God,

i. so that God can use us, in all our God – given diversity,

ii. to make this world the way it is TRULY supposed to be.

24. January 6th did not go the way so many of those rioters hoped.

a. Jesus did not become president that day –

b. not that he wanted the job –

c. but nor did anyone else.

25. We will be hearing about the effects of that day for years to come.

a. I for one hope that one of its effects is repentance;

b. Not just for those who broke the law

c. But for all of us

26. A repentance where we ask not just

a. who did what and seek justice.

27. But a repentance where we ask

a. how we got here and seek guidance.

28. Where should we begin?

a. Well, start with God in today’s first reading

b. And with Jesus, in the Gospel

29. For when we do,

a. we see that repentance isn’t about judgement

b. it is about honesty

30. It is one more way for Jesus to tell us to open our eyes

a. and after years of fake news and alternative facts

31. To see the truth;

a. We are all children of God,

b. and no matter who we are

c. where we come from

d. language we speak or lifestyles we lead;

e. no matter how much money we make

f. or who we vote for,

g. our glorious, terrifying diversity IS evidently,

h. because it is the way GOD wills it to be,

i. exactly the way things are supposed to be.

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