Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sermon for 22 January 2012, Epiphany 3B

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Mark 1:14-20
In A Hurry
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, 22 January 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Have you ever been in a hurry?
What a silly question, right? Who wasn’t in a hurry to do something, to go somewhere, to meet with somebody in the last week?
I have to ask a follow-up question: Were you in a hurry for the right reasons to do the right things in the right priority?
That question isn’t so silly. Some may consider it downright rude. I happen to disagree.
Not having the right priorities can have disastrous consequences. People fall away from faith in Christ. Marriages crumble. Children and parents have frayed relationships. Work may become drudgery. There may be too much month at the end of the money. People can lose hope.
Consider Jonah, the reluctant prophet. He did NOT want to visit Nineveh, modern-day Mosul, Iraq. He got on a boat to go in the opposite direction. And the Lord introduced him to a very large fish for three days and three nights. Jonah went to Nineveh. He preached the Law and repentance to the whole city. He couldn’t have been more surprised when those Gentiles repented.
Time is growing short, St. Paul proclaims in today’s Epistle. Psalm 62 calls for us to wait for the Lord in silence, for He is our salvation and hope. He is your rock, your salvation, and your fortress. In Christ, the time of salvation and hope has fully come. Jesus is ready to begin His earthly ministry. And according to St. Mark, He’s in a hurry.

 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The torch has been passed. John the Baptist has been arrested for telling the King he shouldn’t be having an affair with his brother’s wife. John still lives, but he is imprisoned waiting for the same king’s niece to dance and for that king to make a promise he can’t take back.
Jesus is in Galilee, called “Galilee of the Gentiles” in ancient times. He is proclaiming the Good News of God, the gospel. And what does He say specifically?
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus is present in the flesh. He was born of the Virgin Mary. He has been baptized by John in the Jordan. The Devil himself tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Today, He is calling disciples.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is near. How near? Well, how near is your hand to you? That is how close the Lord is.
Repent. Make a U-turn. Do a spiritual 180. Acknowledge your actions or inactions as sinful in thought, word, and deed. Confess them to the Lord. Sin cannot be ignored, approved, excused, or covered up. Sin is only successfully, completely, and comprehensively dealt with if it is forgiven in Jesus’ Name.
Believe in the Gospel. Jesus is the Good News in the flesh. He is the Son of God and Son of Man, Virgin-born and Divine, the promised Suffering Servant, the predicted Prophet, Priest, and King, the Temple, and He who was born to die for you.

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
As we read through the Gospel according to St. Mark this Church Year, listen for the word that shows that the Lord is in a hurry to save you: immediately.
And Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
And immediately Jesus called James and John…and they left their father…and followed Him.
We all have been in a hurry to do something, to go somewhere, to meet with somebody. Were we in a hurry for the right reasons to do the right things in the right priority?
Jesus calls two pairs of brothers to become fishers of men. In Wyoming, I’ve found it common for men to be such fishers of men on Sunday mornings and then relax in Christian fellowship and go fishing for fish in the afternoon.
Jesus radically changed the priorities of Simon and Andrew and James and John. He has called youto faith and washed you with water in His Name. He places into your ears His very word of life, of Gospel, of forgiveness and a fresh start. He places into your mouths the forgiveness of sins, His body and His Blood in, with, and under bread and wine. All these things He does for you on a day like this in a place like this. That is good news, too.
These are God’s priorities. How do yours match up?
Most Americans claim to be Christians and claim membership in a Christian congregation. Good.
Most Americans seem to find other things to do on Sunday morning than attend Church. That’s not good.
Most Americans take for granted blessings and freedoms that could land them in prison if exercised in dozens of countries around the world: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly. You can publicly declare that you are a Christian in this country. You can purchase a Bible. You can own a Bible. You can attend public Bible Study Classes, public Worship Services, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School.
Most Americans take for granted blessings and freedoms like these that could land them in prison if they were done in dozens of countries around the world. Sometimes mobs or governments persecute Christians. Prison is but one option. Some nations have tortured or executed Christians. Some cultures slander Christians falsely. And I’m not just speaking about the days of the Roman Empire. More Christians were martyred for Christ between 1900 and 2000 than from the time of Christ until they year 1900.
Most Americans claim to be Christians and claim membership in a Christian congregation. Good.
Most Americans seem to find other things to do on Sunday morning than attend Church. That’s not good.
Many non-Christians point out the hypocrisy of Christians. Unfortunately, they have lots of ammunition.

Jesus says to you, “Follow me.” What does that look like?
Let’s consider how God’s priorities can be your priorities for 2012. What vocations have you been given in God’s Word?
First, you are a Baptized Child of God. You have been given to receive the Lord’s Gifts according to Commandments 1-3 and especially the First Commandment, “You shall have no other Gods.” Jesus reminds us of the Great Commandments to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves in Matthew 22:37-40.
Second, you are a member of a family. You were born into one. You may have had the privilege and gift to marry into another. You may also have children of your own. Consider your vocations: son or daughter, single, husband, or wife, father or mother, uncle or aunt, grandfather or grandmother. We are given to care for our families, keep our marriage vows, and raise children as Christians. This time, the Fourth Commandment and Sixth Commandment apply. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not commit adultery. (Read Ephesians 5:21-6:4.)
Third, you have your work. Here is where you provide for the Lord’s work and His priorities as well as for you family. The Fifth Commandment joins the First, Fourth, and Sixth. You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body but help and support him in every physical need. (1 Chronicles 29:11; 1 John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 5:8.)
In fourth place is Everything Else: Leisure, hobbies, community involvement, sports, spectator sports, and even serving at church.
Did I hear that right, pastor? Yes. Yes, you did.
 Serving the Lord is not as important as the Lord serving you as a baptized child of God who regularly receives the Lord’s gifts in His house on His Day. We are to keep priorities 1, 2 and 3 first. The First Commandment is first for a reason.
We know that good works are not necessary for salvation, but that good works are necessary. There is a danger of burnout among servants of the church (both pastors or teachers and lay volunteers) when #4 takes over #1. Consider Mary & Martha’s priorities in Luke 10:38-42. One sat at Jesus’ feet to hear His Word. That was her priority. Please remember that not all church activities are equal.
Immanuel is blessed with many generous self-sacrificing servants. Today’s sermon text reminds me of one particular gentleman from a congregation where I previously served. Anytime something was in need of repair, he would come running. We were very thankful for his selfless service. Sadly, we only saw this individual in Church once or twice a year.
The Lord serving you is always more important than you serving the Lord. Christians need to be fed before they can feed others. To say it in a way similar to today’s text, you need to be caught by Jesus, the Fisher of Men, before you can be a fisher of men. Yes, the Lord delights in your service. He has more delight in those who serve that He has served first.

The Lord has blessed you with the forgiveness of sins. He has blessed you with people that you care about and serve that care about and serve you. He has provided you with gifts and training to be of benefit to society and provide for your family, congregation, and community. And you have the blessing of leisure so that you may volunteer your time to your congregation and community. These are rich blessings. These are incredible opportunities.
And we have the blessing of God’s Word, a Word which shall endure forever. We have the invitation of Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “Follow me.”  Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.