Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for Epiphany 3 ~ Jan 25, 2015

Mark 1:14-20

We’ve had a lot of different people in this space recently.  In the last week or so, AA met here four times, NA meets here, the Nanaimo Folk Connection sang here, the Danish Choir and the Sinclair Singers practiced here, Toastmasters gave speeches, the Greek Community worshipped here, we filled the room three times for memorial services and we have our own services.  The chairs move all over the place which has given rise to our chair map, so we have some point of reference.  Sometimes eyebrows go up and there are smiles at the end of a memorial service when I encourage people to come back in here with their coffee and sandwiches so that they can sit in circles of chairs and visit.

 

Our carpet has taken a beating, every so often we have to repair something. The building is getting tired, but we have polished it up where possible.  The piano is kind of hard to keep in tune.  Sometimes during communion we bump into each other.  We don’t always do things according to the rubrics of liturgy.  I am reluctant to wear some of the beautiful vestments because I get too hot.  If the hymns or the music seem too difficult we make adjustments.

 

When the men’s chorus sings, we usually try to figure out where to sing from. Sometimes we sing from the window, sometimes from up here – but we don’t quite fit up here.  During the 5th Sundays of the month when we offer prayer and anointing, we now have two stations, because one long line was creating traffic problems.  On the 4th Sunday, like today, we simplify the service for the sake of those who may not come too often.  We don’t want to lose folks with paper shuffling and page turning.  We are always wondering: How can we be user friendly?

 

I wonder what people think about our congregation, because we sure encounter a lot of them.    

This is all good because when Jesus announces a kingdom, he calls us to where the people are.

 

What do you do?

 

The metaphor of kingdom was painful for the people of that day.  So many kingdoms and empires had run over them.  King Herod was a puppet of the Romans.  He liked to build things like the Temple and other giant projects to impress Caesar.  But when Jesus said “kingdom” it was about God graciously approaching people.  It was good news that people could turn and welcome with open hearts.  That’s what repent and believe meant. 

 

It was life as usual. Simon and Andrew, James and John were doing what they always did.  They were fishermen. It was a still day – no wind for their sails.  If all you do is drift, you may as well stay on shore.

 

A man spoke to me recently about his life.  He told me that he had a Lutheran background, that he was baptized as a child – but that was all a long time ago.  He said he wasn’t even sure that God had any time for him…

 

Have you ever just drifted like that?   The next thing you know, a lifetime has passed.  What then?  What does the approach of Jesus mean then?

 

I said, “God didn’t drift away from you.  He loves you just as much as when you were baptized. You are still his own dear child.”  When he paused and said, “I hope so,” I replied, “That’s how God’s love works.”

 

With Jesus, a new kind of Kingdom comes near.  A breeze begins to blow because the heavens have opened.  Life can move with hope, move on in service.  Everything is the same, and yet something is different.  Something is “good.”

 

Good

 

This kingdom of God is about everything that is good.  It is “good” news.  Where sails were empty, a new breeze fills them.  Where there was discouragement, there is a reason to smile.  Where life was lonely and empty – this kingdom is a community.  

 

That message of God’s kingdom moves through the dark like the prow of a ship.  It carries a cargo of good:  interest in people, time to listen, walking together, noticing someone and bringing a warm light for those lost in life.  It’s a message for Simon, Andrew, James, John…. add your name as well...

 

We were talking about this at Bible Study last Tuesday.  Sometimes we have great ideas but can have difficulty getting wheels under what we talk about.  But the kingdom of God still urges us to bring on the “good” to others. We are a people place.  This season of Epiphany tells us that the good is on the way, the light is already shining.  Jesus talks to us, encourages us and calls us along.

 

When he said to the brothers, “I will make you fish for people,” it was not about using sneaky strategies for fish. Not fooling, luring, playing, hooking, netting and somehow gutting people.  Rather, it was about a shift in focus from daily drudgery to encountering people and finding the kingdom of God there!  That approach to people is always gentle, good and respectful because in some wonderful way God is present at the same time.  That is where the fun is!  That’s where the sacred moments are.  That’s where I get most of my stories. 

 

What compels someone to turn in God’s direction and follow?  Hope?  Acceptance?  Compassion?  Being noticed?  Something “good?”  We all have a story.

 

(they) … followed him

 

What are your reasons for being here today?  What gets you out of bed?  What would make young people want to show up?  Why do you follow Christ as a way of life?  How does God’s Spirit fill our sails and move us along?  How do we experience and offer what is good?  I’m talking about the kingdom of God among us.

 

What will you be doing this week?  Who will you see? How will you be forgiving, merciful, compassionate?  How will you serve someone else?  How will a few minutes with you make a difference to someone else…How will you follow Jesus?

 

When Jesus continued down the beach there were five instead of just one.  Four more heads with ideas.  Four more sets of eyes and hands.  Four more hearts like ours being shaped to for good in any way possible…

 

…because when Jesus gathers people – the kingdom of God is near.

 

Amen.

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