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January 25, Third Sunday after Epiphany:
Jonah 3:1-5,10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
To listen to earlier homilies click here
Draft text of the homily, please do not cite without permission.
It’s all about choices.
Jonah finally chooses to bring a message to Nineveh.
The people there choose to change their behavior, put on sack cloth, declare a fast.
God chooses not to inflict calamity.
Paul warns that the time is short…
those who mourn should choose to stop mourning…
those who rejoice…to behave as though they were not…
Essentially, choose to live in the world as if you had no dealings with it.
Which isn’t a way of saying ignore all your problems…
It’s a way of saying there is another reality…
another way of being in the world…
another way of living…
choose to be a part of it.
Jesus is all about choices…
“The time is fulfilled.”
No more waiting around.
“Repent and believe this good news.”
God is here…
God is active…
God is calling…
God’s reign of peace and justice—of shalom—is not coming soon.
Choose to be a part of it.
Simon and Andrew choose…
So do James and John…
What about you?
Remember the Matrix?
The scene where Morpheus asks Neo to choose between the red pill and the blue pill.
Choose whether he wants to go back to his “normal” life…
and believe whatever he wants to believe…
stick his head in the sand and pretend that he doesn’t know that something else is going on all around him.
Or whether he wants to know the truth.
If you haven’t seen The Matrix it’s about a post-apocalyptic nightmare world run by intelligent machines.
The machines have created a virtual reality known as The Matrix.
It looks and feels exactly like the world around us.
The world we can see.
But it’s an illusion.
The real world is [no spoilers…let’s just say it’s] much more disturbing.
In one scene the main character, Neo a computer hacker, meets Morpheus, the leader of a band of humans rebelling against the machines.
And Morpheus offers Neo a choice between a red pill and a blue pill.
“take the blue pill, he says and, “the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
“Take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Many of us have that feeling…that something’s off…
something isn’t right with the world—that MUCH isn’t right with the world.
That another reality is not only possible, it’s actually straining to break in…
Another world where (to quote the psalmist) no one puts trust in extortion, or robbery,
No one sets their heart on wealth, but on doing the will of God…
Where compassion trumps profit…
Healing is valued over hectoring…
Where caring for the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised is the communal priority…
Where the common good is sought above private gain…
Where love wins.
That other world…is the reign of God.
Paul proclaims that the “appointed time is growing short”; that “the present form of the world is passing away.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean “the end is nigh.”
Jesus doesn’t say “the end is coming.”
He says, “the time is fulfilled.”
“It is finished.”
The reign of God—isn’t something that is will get here eventually—someday.
God’s reign is happening—now.
It is already reality.
To repent really means to take the red pill…
to wake up to this reality that this world isn’t all there is
that the reign of God is already here and readily available—which is Good News—if only we can recognize it.
Andrew and Simon and James and John don’t become fishers of people because there’s a quota to meet—some magic number of souls to be acquired that will usher in the reign of God.
They leave their nets because they recognize that God’s reign is already here.
We don’t follow Jesus in the hope that one day we’ll finally meet Jesus…
We follow because he’s already come and called us by name.
“The reign of God,” as one scholar puts it, “is not the product of discipleship, but the precondition of it.” (Ted A. Smith, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol 1. p 288)
It’s already here.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that everything is already fixed and we have no role to play.
Jonah has to choose to go to Nineveh…
Those in Nineveh and Corinth have to actually begin to live differently…
The disciples must walk away from their work, their families, from all that was familiar.
We all make choices.
We all make decisions.
Both small and great.
Not all of our decisions are like Jonah’s, or Andrew’s, or James’ or John’s
or even like Neo’s…
But then again, maybe they are…
Come to the communion rail…and the word changes.
Begin to operate out of gratitude for all that’s been given to you…and something begins to shift.
Start reaching out with compassion despite your fears…and discover more courage.
Choose to follow Christ instead of merely believing in him…and the world will never look the same.