The Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Year B (1/21/2018)

Lessons:Jonah 3:1-5, 10 Psalm 62:5-12 1st Corinthians 7:29-31 St. Mark 1:14-20

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us into your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

St. Mark 1:14-20 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Good News of God

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” With these words, in St. Mark’s Gospel, the story of Jesus’ public ministry begins.

The time is fulfilled. Here St. Mark uses the Greek word καιρὸς (kairos) for time. As opposed to χρόνος (chronos), a word that refers to time that can be measured, καιρὸς refers to a special time — significant time. Sometimes Biblical writers use the phrase “the fullness of time” to refer to καιρὸς time. It is, indeed, a full time. The Messiah has arrived. God is about to accomplish what faithful people have been waiting generations to experience. Jesus announces, and St. Mark reports, that God is about to act. The entire course of history is about to change.

The kingdom of God has come near. Immanuel. God with us. In Jesus, no longer is God a remote, unreachable being. God has become human, intimately experiencing life as humans know it, and willing to be available to believers; in a living and growing relationship. First century people met Jesus face-to-face. People in our time “approach [God] boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.” (Luther: Small Catechism)

Repent. As John the Baptizer makes so clear, this new relationship with God begins by repenting. Believers acknowledge that sinfulness distresses God — even arouses God’s anger. But through open and honest confession about the brokenness of humanity, trusting God’s promise to forgive, renew and restore, a new beginning is made. Repentance is a distasteful, painful experience, but the hope of new life makes it possible to take it seriously, and look for the ways in which it helps to make new beginnings possible.

Believe in the good news. The good news is that sin does not have the final say. Human sinfulness is not the end of the story. Instead, through the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s love and grace is proclaimed. As the Apostle insists: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (The Apostle Paul: Romans 6:3-4)

As St. Mark’s Gospel begins, so does our life with God. We too live in a time that is filled with the presence of God. We too experience God not as a remote, theoretical possibility, but as an immanent presence in our lives. We too begin our life with God in sorrow and regret for what we have done (and for what we have left undone…). We too, by the promise of our baptism, are welcomed into love and grace of God.

Epiphany creates a time for us to explore how the Scriptures shed light on who God is, and how God is active in our lives. St. Mark’s opening verses invite us into this journey.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What expectations did the first century faithful have about the Messiah?
  2. Why do these fishermen so quickly (and so eagerly?) leave it all to follow Jesus?
  3. What might the phrase “good news of God” mean to them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How might I increase my expectations of what God wants to do in my life?
  2. What sins of mine put distance between me and God?
  3. When has the gift of forgiveness changed my feelings about God, or myself?