The Compleat Angler
On Sunday 24th January our Priest in Charge, Susan Carter reminded us how God is asking us to feed those who are hungry not only in body, but in soul for the message of hope and life in God.
Readings for Epiphany III - Year B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62: 6-14
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Mark 1: 14-20
What an interesting set of readings before us today.
Religion, and politics, and money. Oh, my. It sounds like the agenda for an Annual General Meeting. Perhaps.
In this Epiphany, we are being encouraged, and tugged, and pulled to get out there, to spread the Good News.
It’s not a tired or a shopworn message but one that has real meaning and value for our lives today: to love God, to love one another as we love ourselves – and to love ourselves. And to love ourselves.
We can’t do that alone. We must share our love and warmth and caring in community, whenever two or more are gathered. We are not a people of solitary or solo existence. Even while we are separated by Covid, we are drawn together by desire, and by Zoom.
Let me share with you that, while in Michigan, I have regularly gone on retreat at the Abbey of St. Gregory near Three Rivers. It’s south of Kalamazoo – a city perhaps you have heard of because of its interesting name, and a famous old song mentioning it.
Some might consider the monks’ lives solitary and enclosed – but they are very much in community: worshiping, working, and eating together. There are no Lone Rangers, the fictional character of the old US West. And even the Lone Ranger had his sidekick Tonto. God means for us to be in relationship with other human beings.
As I read them, there is some sense of urgency in today’s lessons.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he is writing to the community in Corinth, Greece, a city Paul had stayed in for eighteen months after leaving Athens -- developing and firming the ministry and the little band of Christians.
This letter, or epistle, is to bolster the community, help it grow, guide it in settling disputes - that never happens in today’s church - and to strengthen them in their worship and love of Christ.
He also understands that there is change coming. The ground has shifted, adding further resolve in his message to the Corinthians: “For the present form of this world is passing away.”
How strikingly valid those words seem almost two thousand years later. We can only hope that 2021 will not be like 2020.
Paul is communicating with a community he has helped to grow. It is a church that was brought together likely in small groups of people, a household at a time. Because it grew, though, it was a community that was not afraid to talk about faith or to bring others in.
We move to Jonah.
Jonah, whose name means “dove,” is a rather unexpected hero, certainly by his own account!
Remember the story? God orders Jonah to Ninevah to call them out for all of the rotten things that they are doing.
No way, he says, and he high-tails off from God in the opposite direction.
On to a boat – escaping – up comes the storm, and Jonah fesses up to the sailors that – well – he is the reason for the perfect storm. Over the side of ship he goes, to be scooped up by a whale where he resides for three days. There he sits, pondering his fate and his call.
Jonah then prays and praises God, and out he pops from the whale.
We meet our hero today as he heads into Ninevah, a great capital of the Assyrian empire that probably did have close top two- hundred thousand people living within its walls – so maybe it actually took him three days to walk across it.
With faith and courage from God, Jonah the Reluctant becomes Jonah the Proclaimer, and the people hear and believe him. And they are saved.
It is a wonderful story, truly a metaphor that shows us the power that one person, strengthened by God, can have – out there talking about faith.
The strength that we get as we move out into the world and extend our community is right in front of us in the fine words of the psalm as we read today:
For God alone my soul in silence waits; * truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, * my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor; * God is my strong rock and my refuge.
If you find yourself lacking in courage, looking for strength in this most challenging of times, God is right there. In the darkest times, in the belly of that whale when the world feels like it is tumbling down, God is there. The present form of the world may be passing away, but God is there.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is telling us two things: that the promise has been fulfilled with God’s kingdom on the way, and that it’s time to get the news out there.
So what does Jesus do? He starts a serious recruiting campaign.
Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John. They were accustomed to casting nets for fish. Jesus tells them that they will now go fishing for people.
What clear imagery Jesus presents us. In their unusual times, he encouraged them, he called them, to set aside their homes, their jobs, their families and get on board.
In our unusual times, we, too, are being called. Some of us get put in the belly of the whale for a “time out” to think things over. I’ve been there. How about you?
Others of us are being tugged and pulled to serve in new ways, to be a part of our community in deeper fashion.
We are summoned to bring others to join us in our worship and love of God, the one who makes us, the one who gave up his human life to redeem us, the one who walks with us in spirit every single day. How can we be shy in the face of such awesome love?
I do not believe that we are being asked to “super-size” our church. That’s not who we are. Christ Church has impact well beyond its size.
But we are asked to take the good news we experience here, right here every Sunday, and move it out of the church doors We are asked to feed those who are hungry not only in body, but in soul for the message of hope and life in God.
We are up to the task. We are called, and ready, to invite others to the Lord’s table. Again, in the words of our psalm:
Put your trust in him always, O people, * pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.