Sunday, January 21, 2018

Year B Epiphany 3 2018 Wholesale Change

Year B Epiphany 3, 21 January 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Wholesale Change…”  
Collect: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  Mark 1:14-20 After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 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. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.  
Immediately. It says immediately. Immediately they left their nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father… Many are caught up in the timing, but for me it is the why of it all. Not the when.   
In this season after Epiphany, we look at the ever-expanding radius of the light of Christ. Last week, we looked at how the God speaks to us, each in our own way. The How of the Call of God. This week we look not at the When, the timing of it, so much as the Why, what was Jesus coming to do anyway.   
Change is a hard thing. We have to want what we do not have more than the discomfort of leaving the known. James Hillman, prominent (Jungian) psychologist, puts it this way, “Anytime you want to grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you are hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.” To gain the desired outcome we have to let go of the known. What was it that was so amazing and so attractive for these deeply committed men to break the cultural norms and the familial bonds to drop their nets and follow him?  
Even our language messes us up here. We change our minds, we change our clothes. Change can be flippant and instantaneous, when it comes to things that do not matter. “I am sorry, Mr. Waiter, could I have the balsamic vinaigrette instead of the ranch?” Changing our minds, being particular and singular, is something that we have made commonplace in our lives.  
I remember once I was in East Germany, when there was an East Germany, and was taken to a nice meal, as nice as they had in East Berlin. Before the meal we were offered drinks. One of the options was Saft, juice, and I asked “What kind of juice?” After too much back and forth on such a simple question, to me anyway, our host finally said in exasperation, “A little apple, a little grape, a little orange, a lot of water and some sugar.” That was their juice. In my Western privilege I was shocked, and humbled. Our options are unlimited and a burden themselves. Try going to Starbuck’s or Chipotle. Too much choice is the world we live in. For Jesus, the choice was “Follow me.” Or not.  
We get hung up on the disciples dropping of their nets, their yes or no binary chocie, because we miss what Jesus says at the beginning of his ministry.   
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come nearrepent, and believe in the good news.”   
And even here, the words of translation get in the way.  
The Time is fulfilled, is not saying the alarm has gone off and the time is up. The word time here is not Chronos which we still use in chronological and chronometer, that constant ticking. The Time here is Kairos, the stacking up of all the cosmic dominos. The patient and detailed work is over and the time has come for what we have all been waiting for. The overarching theme is ready to transition. That is Kairos, that is what is fulfilled. “The old has passed away, the new has come.”   
And that begs the question for What? The Kingdom of God has come near. Once again, our literal reading, and that is what it says, misses the point. “Is At Hand” might be a better way to say it. In these sense, “has come near” means joining one thing to another. The old has passed away and the new has come.   
If the time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom has arrived, what do I do with this? 
REPENT! Once again, our words get in the way. We have let repent be reduced to a course correction, or worse, saying to God, “Sorry, I’m bad.” The word used here is metanoia. Transmutation. Wholesale change. Reprogramming ourselves. While literally meaning Change Your Mind (meta- = change & -noia = gnosis, i.e. knowledge) Metanoia is “thinking entirely differently after this.” This is not how we mean Change Our Mind. It is not like preferring one dressing over another. It is Transformation. An indecisive person changes their mind, a caterpillar transforms. We may take a new job, but a tadpole fully commits.   
One of the great detriments in the Church since Constantine, is that Church is something we do. Before the Roman Empire jumped on the Christian bandwagon, someone who chose to become a Christian was committing to a total commitment to a new identity. In our day, faith is something we try on, mostly on Sundays, and it does not seep in and change who we are. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and transforms into SpiderMan. He cannot go back, he is wholly new. Rarely in our culture do we have those type of milestone moments. In earlier days, tribes would have huge coming of age rituals that had everyone KNOW, without a doubt, that what was before had passed away, and a new life had started. All would recognize and acknowledge it. In many parts of the world where missionaries go, it is fine for a person to “believe” but trouble happens when the baptism occurs. That is the transformative moment that leads to disowning or even stoning by their birth families.  
Once we ride a bike, we can always ride a bike. That muscle memory of the balance is something we “get.” Once we “see” many an optical illusion, we have trained our brains to “see” it, and so can no longer go back to not seeing it. I personally am going through that transformative shaping of my mind. I am shifting from traditional lenses to progressive. I am tired of doing this [put glasses on head]. Or preaching staring at my text. Slowly, 10 minutes, then 20, then 30 and so on, I am shaping how my mind and my eyes interact. I am transforming my mind and shaping how I see the world. Hopefully to the better for us all.  
So what was Jesus saying, “Waiting is Over, God’s Kingdom is at hand, be Transformed, and… 
“Believe in the Good News.” The Euangelion. Literally Good News. Good Message. And what might that be?  
I live in Cary Town. It has a lot of funky, quirky shops. Once I saw a button that said, “Jesus is Coming. Look busy.” Funny. But so tragic. That is the exact opposite of Good. There is no News there. Fear is neither Good nor New. That is as Bad and Old Hat as can be.  
The Good News is this:  
1. Our Waiting is Over.  
2. God’s Rule is Here Now. 
3. We can Transform.  
Now wait. Isn’t that what we just said.    
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, (This is it from the Gospel directly again): “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come nearrepent, and believe in the good news.” In fact, in the way I see it, this is Jesus’ Mission Statement. Succinct, clear, actionable. Mark puts it as the first words out of his mouth. John speaks of him as being greater, and at the Baptism, God declares him the Beloved. But in Mark, the first words of Jesus are This. We mess it up with caveats and nuances, and as we do, it ceases being Good and New, and it is bogged down and myeah.  
We live in a culture that says it embraces the self-made individual. Horatio Alger and his smyths of these self-made men we gave a title, the American Dream. But rarely do we allow people to change, rarely do we allow people to truly transform. As much as we say we expect and want this, so much is stacked against people and families who really want it different and better in their lives. 12-Step groups are successful because they take people whose lives are chaos and terrifying, and enable and encourage them to sanity and wholeness. How are we fulfilling this, if Jesus’ Mission was this?  
If the Time is HERE & NOW: 
  • How do we preach, teach, and live out God’s Rule in Ashland and Greater Richmond?  
  • How do we transform, wholesale and real? One can be kinda Christian in the exact opposite way that one can be sorta pregnant. One cannot. You are or you are not. Too often we try to follow Jesus and stay at our Nets. We cannot have it both ways.  “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” -Rosa Luxemburg (Polish revolutionary) When Jesus came along, inviting and hoping, the fishermen look down and see their nets, and then they look up and envision what Jesus is inviting them to become. And there is no choice. The Hope offered is so much greater than the discomfort of leaving, that the Immediately is moot. When we truly see what Jesus is offering to them, to us, we cannot but drop what is to Repent. To Metanoia. To Change Our Way of Being. 
  • How do we believe the Good News? Deep down, down in our bones? Letting go of what is hard. Our muscles have become used to holding on tight. Flexibility must be regained, and those stagnant muscles must be stretched and used once again. It will taking stretching, cracking the knuckles, and reaching out for what we really want.  
A Chinese proverb puts it this way: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” One part of the Good News is that the Kingdom of God was at hand on that day, and it still is. The Time is not passed. The Time is Now. Repent, and believe in the Good News. 

And, when we are offered the choice, the real, all or nothing choice, will we IMMEDIATELY drop the lesser and gain it all? Amen 

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Blessings, Rock