Exploring the Word: Sermon – January 25, 2015
By Roland Legge
3rd Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Are you ready for a revolution? If you are not you might want to reconsider if you want to be a follower of God and Jesus. God and Jesus are continually trying to bring on a revolution of love, peace and justice. They are always surprising us and encouraging us to walk a different path.
Back in the days of Jonah, God was just as busy trying to transform the world. God chose Jonah to be part of that plan. Now Jonah seems like an ordinary person. He is no king or prince. Jonah is not unlike us, fearful of living and speaking prophetically and often too lazy to try. So it is no surprise that Jonah couldn’t be bothered to go Nineveh. But God somehow got him there. The story goes on to tell us that Jonah was first eaten by a fish when he was trying to run away and then burped out near Nineveh. Yes, God does go to great lengths to get our attention and then cooperation. Most importantly, God wants us, like Jonah, to be part of this transformation of love.
So Jonah gets to Nineveh and reluctantly does the work of God. He is just barely into the city proclaiming the sinfulness of the Ninevites that they begin to repent. They were so convincing that our surprising God heard them and forgave them. But like lots of us Jonah was not so forgiving and became enraged when God so quickly forgave them of their sins. Jonah had become so full of hate that he was not so ready to forgive. Then God let Jonah sulk under a bush until he knew that God was not going to change her mind again. You see God is always surprising us. Doing the things we least expect. How is God surprising you? Who are you meant to forgive? Who are you meant to challenge? Who is God calling you to see in a new light?
When God breaks through our armor, often during the traumatic times of our life, then we become open to living out God’s revolutionary plan. If we choose to be part of God’s plan , then we can become part of this holy work.
In the Gospel according to Mark at the beginning of Jesus’ revolutionary ministry he calls upon two men, Simon and Andrew the fishermen. They were both courageous men! It is quite likely that Simon and Andrew came from upper middle class families. They not only had to be willing to give up family and friends but a comfortable standard of living. They were willing to risk their lives. They followed their hearts rather than over analyzing their options which would have probably prevented them from living out their calling. They chose a very different life from what they had been groomed to be. They chose to be counter cultural.
It is Jesus who brings out the revolutionary love in others such as in Simon and Andrew. It happens in the surprising ways that Jesus goes about building God’s revolution. Most revolutionaries would build a strong army. But Jesus goes about inviting ordinary but extraordinary people into his movement. These are a group of untrained, uneducated, fishermen, and tax collectors stumbling along after Jesus.
(Pulpit Resource Vol. 34, No. 1 Year B January, February, March 2006 by William Willimon Published by Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 18)
Are you surprised?
When we can feel the Spirit of God, which is always accessible to us, we see and feel the world in a different way. When we see injustice, we see a way to liberation. When we see poverty, we not only ask why, we seek the path out of poverty. When we experience neglect for Mother Earth, we grieve, but make choices that will begin to heal the earth. When we are told that we can’t make the world a healthier and more loving place we ignore the sentiment and get on with the revolution.
Each of us has done something to further the revolution. Here is one story of a teacher in Los Angeles as told in Awaken The Art of Imaginative Preaching. Does this story bring any people to mind for you?
Rafe Esquith is a teacher in inner-city Los Angeles, California who sees culturally sanctioned disparity between resources and opportunities available to children of wealthy parents and children of parents with lesser means. He also recognizes that there is a misconception about poor children not caring about school. His way of teaching, his whole way of living, which for years included working four jobs to pay for all of his classroom extras, is countercultural. Esquith draws his students to class hours early and keeps them in school hours after the closing bell, and seven days a week. They clamor to reach and perform Shakespeare, to do challenging mental math problems during breaks in class, and to spend recess learning intricate guitar concertos. This inspired and inspiring teacher has swept up generations of children into his pro-learning movement, many of whom have grown up to return the support they received from him. Other schools have tried to lure Esquith away with much larger paychecks and easier settings but he holds his ground. Viva la revolution!
Awaken the Art of Imaginative Preaching Advent Epiphany 2005-2006 by Janet Norman and Paul Turley Published by Logos Production Inc Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 37
I hope the story Esquith brings to mind people in our own community. We do have revolutionaries/healers right in our own midst. We have people who visit our many shut-ins. We have people who give of their time to community groups who provide great opportunities for our residents of all ages. We have teachers, nurses and many others who go the extra mile to care for those they serve.
Our society tells us the poor, the elders, the disabled, the mentally ill are not worth our time. Thankfully we have people who the see the value in each person just like Jesus did. Even coming to church today is counter cultural. It goes against our society that says that life has everything to do with consumption. Thus in some way we are all revolutionaries of Jesus. What do you think of that?