January 21-22, 2012
“What are the first words Jesus says to his disciples according to the gospel of Mark?”
Answer: “It’s time.”
“What are the last words Jesus says to his disciples according to the gospel of Mark?”
Answer: “It’s time.”
I doubt it’s a coincidence…
And I doubt I have to convince you that first words and last words are important.
Garrison Keillor once told a joke about what makes a good sermon.
He said a good sermon has
- A good beginning;
- A good ending;
- The two as close together as possible.
(Well at least I think it was meant to be a joke…)
Beginnings and endings are important.
First words and last words are important.
I would submit that they are important especially when they’re from the savior of the world.
And most especially when they are the same!
In the interest of full disclosure – Jesus’ opening and closing words are not exactly the same,
but listen and you be the judge…
First words from Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled.”
Last words from Mark 14:41, just before he is arrested: “The hour has come.”
Pretty close I would say!
In both he tells his disciples, “It’s time.”
Have you ever wondered just how it happened that the disciples just dropped everything to follow Jesus?
Seems rather incredible doesn’t it?
Mark doesn’t say that they’d ever met Jesus before,
and yet Simon and Andrew hear him say two sentences
and then they drop everything and run after him.
And then there’s James and John….
Mark doesn’t give us the words Jesus said to them,
but just that he called, and they came.
I mean they really make Jonah look bad…
Remember how Jonah’s reading started,
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a “second time….” –
he didn’t go the first time.
Jonah needed more convincing – a big fish.
But not Simon, Andrew, James, or John.
Jesus chats briefly with them and they’re off –
leaving the boat, the nets, the hired men, and even their poor old father Zebedee.
The only thing they apparently didn’t leave was fish.
So maybe they weren’t very good at their jobs.
Or maybe they were tired of fishing.
Is that why they left?
I don’t think so.
I think that when Jesus came,
his message was so compelling that they had no choice but to follow him.
I think that when he said, “ThekingdomofGodis near. Repent and believe in the good news,”
they saw the possibility of a new future which they had never seen before.
And when he said “It’s time,” they heard that it was time for them too.
It was their time to repent.
We probably think we know what the word, ‘repent’ means…
When Jesus tells the disciples to “repent and believe”,
it means to stop doing something they shouldn’t be doing
and do the right thing, right?
Actually, in the New Testament, “repent” means something different.
“Repent” means to turn and see things differently, to get a new perspective on things.
Jesus asks the disciples to repent – to see something new.
He asks them to see that thekingdomofGodis near –
to open their eyes and instead of seeing discouragement or despair,
to see that God is at work in the world.
Right here, and right now.
I believe that that was the message which was so compelling to the disciples.
When they heard Jesus, they looked around and saw God’s work.
They saw God’s healing and God’s strength and God’s compassion;
they saw God’s love;
and this new hope took hold of them and they had no choice but to respond.
They wanted some of that hope.
They needed some of that hope.
It was time.
There are many, many people in our world who want some of that hope too…
but unfortunately, they are not hearing the message the disciples heard.
They aren’t seeing God at work in the world.
They aren’t feeling compelled to drop anything.
They just aren’t sensing that it’s their time to respond.
There was news this week of a YouTube video that went viral.
The video, “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus” has had over 15 million hits.
It’s a young adult performing a poem which rails against organized religion,
saying that it has lost the message of Jesus.
One stanza goes like this:
“I mean if religion’s so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor?”[i]
The video has resonated with enough people, that
over 15 million people have seen it.
The popularity of the video says to me that people want to hear Jesus.
It says to me that people are looking for God at work in the world.
And it says to me, that sadly, many people do not think they’ll find it in a church.
Let me say that again – many people do not think they’ll find Jesus in a church.
Well, it’s time.
And what better time than the weekend of our congregation’s annual meeting?!
It’s time to repent in the New Testament sense of the word.
It’s time to see the church – our church — with new eyes,
and to look at the church with a new perspective about why we even exist.
It’s time to consider whether the message we’re preaching through word and deed
is Jesus’ message.
It’s time to think about how we’ve responded to Jesus’ message –
and if we really haven’t felt compelled to change anything about ourselves, it’s time to ask ourselves why not?
The disciples felt compelled to drop their nets and follow Jesus.
Where are we being called?
Maybe it’s time for us too.
There’s a story of a woman who discovered it was time for her to answer the call to something new. Her name was Grace Thomas and I heard her story from Preacher Tom Long.[ii]
Grace was the child of a streetcar conductor and grew up inBirmingham,Alabama. Long says,
When she married, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and to help make ends meet she took a job as a secretary at the state capitol building. She grew interested in politics and law, and so she enrolled in night law school. After years of mothering, working, and studying, she made a decision that amazed her family, “I’m not going to practice law. I’ve decided to run for political office.”
They said, “Mother, what office?”
Expecting her to say school board or library board, she said, “I’m going to run for the governor of Georgia. The highest office in the state.” Now this was 1954 and Grace Thomas ran for governor of Georgia. There were nine candidates that year: eight men and Grace Thomas.
There were nine candidates but there was only one issue. It was 1954 and Brown versus the Board of Education had come forth from the Supreme Court to integrate the public schools. And eight of those candidates for governor said that they thought Georgians ought to resist this with every fiber in their being. Only one candidate, Grace Thomas, said that she thought it was the coming of justice.
Her campaign slogan was “Say Grace at the polls.” Not many people did. She ran dead last and her family was relieved that she had gotten this crazy dream out of her system. But she hadn’t.
In 1962 she ran for the governor of Georgia again. This time the civil rights movement was in full flower and the stakes were high. She went around the state with her message of progress and prosperity and racial harmony. She received death threats on her life and her family feared for her and traveled with her to protect her.
One day, she went to give a campaign speech in the little town of Louisville, Georgia. The centerpiece in Louisville is not a Civil War monument or a county courthouse, it’s an old slave market where human beings were bought and sold. She decided to give her speech under the canopy of that slave market. She addressed a (group) of farmers and merchants and she pointed at the slave market and said, “This, thank God, has passed and the new has come. It’s time for Georgians to
join hands, all races together.”
Somebody in the crowd shouted at her, “Are you a communist?”
“No!” she said.
“Well, where did you get those darned (sic) ideas?”
She thought about it for a minute. And then she pointed at the steeple of the First Baptist Church and she said, “I got ‘em over there in Sunday school!”
Some Sunday school teacher had called Grace Thomas and now she was saying things she never dreamed she’d be saying and she was called into places she never dreamed she’d be called.
Where are we being called?