Right Here, Urgently
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Jonah 3:1 “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” (NASB)
Mark 1:14 “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ 18 And they immediately left the nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.” (NASB)
In the Old Testament Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh after his attempt to flee from his God given mission and after three days in the belly of a whale. He was sent with an urgent message to the people of Nineveh telling them that unless they repented of their evil ways and worship the Lord God, God would destroy their city in forty days. The message was time sensitive.
In the Epistle lesson Paul tells the Christians in the city of Corinth (and the rest of us) that “time is short” and “this world in its present form is passing away.” Again, there is a sense of urgency in the message. Time is running out and people of this world and Christians are to think and act accordingly.
In the Gospel lesson Jesus also conveys sense of urgency as He goes about preaching and teaching and calling His disciples to the work of the church. “14 . . . Jesus came into Galilee, preaching 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 time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. In other words, the kingdom of God isn’t on its way. It is here. It is here in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Think and act accordingly.
In the midst preaching the good news of God and that time is up, Jesus calls His first disciples and they seem to understand the sense of urgency. When Peter and Andrew heard the call to follow Jesus “they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”
Then when He found James and John in their boat fishing with their father, “immediately He [Jesus] called them.” They understood there was a sense of urgency too. James and John left nets and their father sitting in the boat and followed Christ.
There’s a bit of a different between the sense of urgency in the Old Testament and the sense of urgency in the New. While both testaments make it absolutely clear that the call and the time to repentance is always right now, confess your sin and trust in God’s Messiah, in the New Testament there is an added sense of urgency because the kingdom of God is at hand, it has arrived, and the time is short. People get confused on that issue. They think the phrase the last days, refer to a rather particularly intense period of time, just before the Second Coming of Christ. But the Bible uses the phrase and concept to denote the period of time between Christ’s first Advent and His Second Advent, His Second Coming.
In the Old Testament lesson the people of Nineveh were told exactly how much time they had left. In 40 days God was going to wipe the out. That of course impressed a sense of urgency on all parties concerned. Jonah, against his will, preached the message God had given to him. The word went out and accomplished the purpose for which it was sent.
By the power of the Word and work of the Holy Spirit the Nivenites repented. They didn’t even bother run out the string. They didn’t wait for day 39. They repented right there on the spot.
Nineveh was a ruthless city state. They were the blood-thirsty terrorists of the day. The Hebrews arch enemy. Jonah didn’t want Ninevites to repent. He wanted them dead and damned to hell. He certainly didn’t want to share eternity with them.
St. Paul, the author of the Epistle lesson was a murderer and persecutor of Christians, but Jesus meet him on the road to Damascus and called him to be an apostle. As for the original twelve, it would seem Jesus went out of His way to choose the least-qualified guys for the job. At least Paul was an educated Pharisee; a guy who knew and lived the Torah. The first twelve guys were from the bottom of the educationally/cultural barrel – fishermen and a tax collector.
As I said last week when Jesus’s call carries with it the power and authority to bring about the desired result. When He said to those men, “follow me,” the men did what Jesus called them to be and to do. And He calls them with the sense of urgency and they respond accordingly. Oh that we in the faithful church today would understand and respond with that same urgency.
That is the first point to be made regarding all three of the readings assigned for this morning. The call of the Gospel, the work of the church is urgent and we ought to have that sense of urgency and think and act accordingly. There is no time for foolishness, distraction, and busy work. There is no time to be nonchalant about the work of the congregation. In most congregations, including faithful ones, there is an awful lot of stuff that goes on simply for the purpose of making the people doing the work feel good about themselves. It’s a form of self-righteousness.
When it comes to the Law and Gospel, the call to repentance, and the proper work of the church, our family, friends, and community don’t have “all the time in the world” to wander back into the church. Time is short in all kinds of ways.
That is what Paul is talking about in the Epistle lesson. He is teaching Christians that when it comes to the mission of the church and the work of the Christians, the Gospel is first and last. All else is secondary. Pastors, leaders, and members should not have divided loyalties. He uses marriage and family as an example of how divided loyalty happens. Jesus used money as the example. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
But there more in the readings this morning than the time is short message think and act accordingly. Notice that before God issues His call, He does something strange, at least strange if you are God. He goes to the people to whom He is issuing the call. He lives and works among them. For lack of a better image, He gets His hands dirty.
It is through the mouths of the prophets, apostles, pastors, and His people that He goes to the people. The Lord God meets the Ninevites in Nineveh; that is, in the trenches of their own sinful turf. He didn’t summon the Ninevites to show up at church in Jerusalem. He didn’t wait for them to wander into church. God takes the message to them and when Jonah tried to prevent that message from getting into the streets and homes of Nineveh, God takes corrective action and has a whale swallow Jonah and spit him up on the shore near Nineveh. Then speaks to Him a second time. “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.”
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus is found in a dirty little district called Galilee where men work as fishermen. Jesus doesn’t wait for His chosen disciples to seek Him out or show up at the local institution of higher learning. Jesus goes to them. The Son of God goes down to the fishermen’s wharf and seeks out His chosen in the midst of their daily lives.
Paul is met by Christ in a blinding light while on his way to arrest Christians for trial and stoning. Jesus confronts him right on the road to Damascus. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” You know how that turned out.
Paul becomes the first great missionary to the Gentiles. He is sent into the synagogues and streets of towns, large and small all around the Mediterranean sea, including the city of Corinth. These were pagan cities, filled with idol worship, temple prostitutes, immorality of every kind, and crash living.
God sent Paul to meet the people where they lived and worked. He even went into the tent making business and lived among the people as a business and a preacher of the Gospel. And the congregations he created, were right there with him.
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are never passive. God is never idle. In order to carry out His work in places like this building, among His baptized children, He sent His Word first to people outside the church. He called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified them through the mouths of other sinners. He sends that word through preachers and people who speak His Word.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)
Here in the church our lord meets His brothers and sisters in a unique way. He is here in the liturgy, hymns, the readings, the sermon, the prayers, and in the sacraments.
But when you leave this place, you are not left alone to fend for yourself. The Word goes with you. That means Christ goes with you. Not as some abstract concept. Rather, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and Word He remains in you. Deuteronomy 30:14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”
It is that Word that we are to live by. That by the way– is what true Christian faith is. It is trusting in Christ and His Word and then letting that trust do what it does, namely repent and confess. Luther summarized repentance in the very first of his 95 Theses. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “repent,’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. True repentance is also true for belief.”
The second way we live out the Word of God in our daily lives to speak it to others as the opportunities present themselves. Thus the Word of God goes to sinners where they live, and work, and play.
After all, you’re there in the trenches with your loved ones, friends, and coworkers. You’re right there! You’re at work with them. You’re at home with them. And when you speak God’s Word, God meets them where they are at. He goes to them through you and through me. Mine is just a heavier and more public office and duty. But you still have the duty to confess Jesus Christ and to speak His truth. So don’t be afraid to open your mouth and let God speak. Speak those simple words of repentance and Gospel forgiveness. Let God’s Word go out.
After all, your Lord comes to you through this man’s sinful mouth. He speaks to you and forgives your sin. The pastor speaks the words of baptism and applies the water and a child of God is created. He comes to you amidst a sinful life and gives to you His body and blood, bestowing upon you His forgiveness.
Time is short and Christ has come to you, right where you are and He forgives your sin with urgency.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.