+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark 1:15
Theme: The Time Has Come
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
“Timing is everything.” “Timing is key.” “Timing is important.” “All in good time.” “All in God’s time.” These phrases are all familiar to us. The instrumentality of perfect timing often facilitates momentous events that would have otherwise never have happened. It’s also important for a stable routine in daily life. There is a time for work, a time for nourishment, a time for rest, and a time for prayer. Today Jesus raises the magnitude of timing’s importance, “‘The time has come,’ He said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”1 In Christ, the time for God’s redemptive work had come.
The Messiah comes to warn sinners with the intent of saving them. Sinners are always at risk of becoming secure in their offenses. Christ says, “The time has come.”2 The time has come, and is now, for you to repent. The time looms when each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God. How can we be righteous before Him? Our preparations for that time should not be delayed. We should be ready to face the Almighty within the next week, the next day, yes, the next hour. Not that our preparation should involve panic. Irrational commotion gets us nowhere. We should be clear-headed and resolute. The Scripture says, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revelaed.”3
The time to make amends, the time to heal, the time to restore may be tomorrow and it may be every day after that. But the time to repent is never tomorrow; it is today. The time has come to reconcile that relationship that you had been avoiding. The time is now to forgive that person you have been nursing a grudge against. The time has arrived to humbly confess to God your transgressions. Faith is evidenced by its actions. Faith always strives to move away from self towards the well-being of others. Temptation can only be resisted by the power of the Holy Spirit and He will not desert you in time of need.
In the bigger picture we recognize that we live to advance permanent life in the midst of a transient world. St. Paul reminds us today, “This world in its present form is passing away.”4 This truth is a watershed. Either we believe that the world can keep going on under its own steam; or we believe- as the Scriptures say- that it is fallen and in the process of decay. Either we believe that life will evolve on its own to higher forms and more stable structures; or we believe that God sustains life and prevents the universe from collapse. We might not spend much time pondering these things but our world view is informed by our convictions on these matters. How can the benefits we have as God’s redeemed be extended to others? Jonah, one single man, was the Holy Spirit’s instrument to move the great city of Nineveh to repentance. The disciples were sent out be fishers of men. He calls you to less dramatic but not less important tasks. Time is of the essence.
Tomorrow the country celebrates the privileges and blessings the nation of Australia enjoys. We easily take for granted the liberties that we have. The majority of people in the history of the world and many living today do not have these freedoms. Decades ago Australia was dubbed the ‘lucky country’. It’s a secular moniker that resonates with many. But the Christian perspective must be more penetrating. God is generous beyond our comprehension. The greatest blessings of God are always spiritual. Better to be poor and have faith than to be affluent in unbelief. Material wealth does not open the door to heaven. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”5 We are not sustained by wealth, or by luck, but by grace.
What better time than an occasion that galvanizes the national consciousness to remember that God places us in community. Here a tension exists between the meaning of democracy as it is popularly misunderstood and the Christian walk of faith. If you, yourself, or anyone you know thinks that the exercise of the Christian faith can happen as a confidential matter between the individual and God; that faith can be maintained, nourished and renewed privately, that autonomy is one of the higher virtues of Christian teaching; then you are a Christian living under false pretenses. Faith is nurtured in community. Your faith was conceived in the fellowship of the Holy Trinity at the baptismal font and it is nourished here where you have contact with His means of grace. Here absolution is declared to you. Here you receive forgiveness in His body and blood.
If you are honest with yourself you will admit that sometimes you take issue with God’s timing. Why was this trauma allowed to happen now? Why did the darkness of death pierce my life then? Why am I struggling with my health or personal life at this moment? God says through Isaiah, “In the time of My favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you.”6 Paul interprets, “I tell you, now is the time of God’ favour, now is the day of salvation.”7 Dear friends, God does not withhold His grace from us until a later time. He does not ration His mercy. He is not stingy.
Perhaps the problem lies with our expectations. Our view of happiness is heavily coloured by the world’s preferences. Happiness in the world’s eyes is marked by self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, and a liberal gratification of the senses with the least amount of effort and responsibility attached. God never promises happiness in this sense. If you believe God wants you to be happy in this way you better make very certain which God you are worshipping. Satan is quite eager to facilitate happiness when it serves his ends.
God does want you to be filled with joy. And that is possible even when your life is severely lacking in worldly-defined happiness. The Holy Spirit seals you in baptism. “He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”8 What is to come is abundant life beyond our current comprehension. All these blessings are guaranteed in Christ who secured them through His life, death, and resurrection.
“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law.”9 The timing of Christ’s crucifixion to coincide with Passover was no accident. Jesus died at the time the sacrificial lambs were to be killed. When the times seemed to be at their darkest- the disciples were terrified, their Master was dead, the Jews were hunting them, their hopes were dashed; the future looked bleak, before the sun rose- Christ, the Son of the eternal Father, stepped out of the grave. He stood there alive, not as a magician, not as a charlatan, not as the beneficiary of an elaborate scheme of deception, but as the victor over death, hell, and the grave. The time had come to end the shedding of blood. The time had come to deprive Satan of his power. The time had come for the new era to dawn.
The time is now. The good news is our and in it we have life. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Third Sunday After Epiphany
25 January, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Mark 1:15 2 Mark 1:15
3 1 Peter 1:13 4 1 Corinthians 7:31 5 Mark 10:25
6 Isaiah 49:8 7 2 Corinthians 6:2 8 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 9 Galatians 4:4-5