Sunday, January 26, 2003

3 Epiphany
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:6-14
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

For thou renderest to every man according to his work.

Some of you may recall the 1960's hit by the Rolling Stones called "Time is on my side" a song about a failed love relationship where the singer is sure the lover will return as soon as she realizes that there is nothing for her anywhere but in his arms. Ever since I read the scriptures today, that song has been stuck in my head. You know the line "Ti-yi-yi-yi-m is on my side, yes it is..." but the scripture for this week seems to say something much different.

Jonah tells the Ninevites that they have only 40 days until the town will be overcome. Paul tells the Corinthians that the present form is passing away. Time is short! Then we hear Jesus proclaim that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Even the Psalm talks of time, telling us to trust in God at all times. For those of us who understand that we are sinners who deserve nothing but death, the final verse of the Psalm can be depressing. "For thou renderest to every man according to his work." Yet, all these scriptures are filled with grace and hope.

Think about the story of Jonah. Did the Ninevites get what they deserved? Of course not. Even Jonah was upset by the outcome of his trip into the wicked city. I loved the way the Veggietales told that part of the story. Jonah ran to the top of a cliff that overlooked Ninevah and he sat there excitedly waiting for the show to begin. But God saw how the Ninevites reacted to His Word. They believed the Word of the Lord and He had mercy. In a sense, time stopped for that city because that fortieth day never came. The Word of the Lord came into their lives, they believed and God rewarded the Ninevites for their faith.

Jonah was a guy just like us. Haven't we all tried to tell God how to do His job and when He saves our enemy, don't we get upset too? We are just like Peter, Andrew, James and John also. Oh, perhaps we aren't fishermen (though I am sure at least a few of you like to get out on a lake whenever you can.) At this point in the story, we don't know very much about these guys, but over the years we hear stories about their doubt, greed, confusion, arrogance and other human frailties. Yet, Jesus calls them to be His disciples -- to share in the ministry of drawing people into the kingdom of God.

That's what it is all about, isn't it? We are called together to share God's Word and draw people into a relationship with Him. The Ninevites had no idea they were doing wrong, and when Jonah shared God's Word, they believed. Jesus called four fishermen and eight other men to be His disciples. They believed and they followed. They argued with Jesus, just like Jonah argued with God, but they eventually did what He asked. Just like us.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It has been nearly two thousand years since Paul wrote this epistle to the church at Corinth, and we are still losing our focus today. Our time for ministry is short -- our lives will end eventually either by physical death or the return of our Lord Jesus. Whether it is a day or a thousand years, are we using our time wisely? Paul was concerned about those who were getting caught up in all the wrong things, worldly concerns and desires. How are we spending our days?

The Psalm reminds us that God alone is our salvation, that He is our hope, our rock, our rest. Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God who came into time and space to draw people into the kingdom of God. We are really nothing, our stuff is useless and time is fleeting, but God is strong and loving, our refuge.

May He always keep our hearts and minds on Christ Jesus as we look toward the prize and move forward doing as He has called us to do, fish for men for every moment we are blessed with breath in this world. Thanks be to God. 

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