A Reading from the Book of Jonah (3:1-5, 10)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
6 For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
truly, my hope is in him.
7 He alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
8 In God is my safety and my honor; *
God is my strong rock and my refuge.
9 Put your trust in him always, O people, *
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
10 Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, *
even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
11 On the scales they are lighter than a breath, *
all of them together.
12 Put no trust in extortion;
in robbery take no empty pride; *
though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
13 God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, *
that power belongs to God.
14 Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, *
for you repay everyone according to his deeds.
A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (7:29-31)
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark (1:14-20)
Now 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.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
As those who participate in our Adult Forum already know, one of the Gospel According to Mark’s favorite words is the adverb “immediately.” Its Greek equivalent appears 51 times in the New Testament; and 41 of those 51 are in the Gospel according to Mark; two of them come in today’s brief gospel passage. Mark’s version of the Good News is pervaded by a sense of urgency.
But urgency for what? In the selection that we just heard, Jesus issues his fundamental call: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus’ urgent call is a summons to “repent” and “believe.” But we need to stop to ask what those two words mean.
As Adele Yarbro Collins points out in her extensive commentary on this gospel, the word “repent” had not, at the time of the gospel’s writing, taken on a focus on a “penitential discipline or primarily a human decision that begins a process of moral reform.” In other words, it’s not just about a decision to turn away from one particular, personal sin or another.
Instead, the word “repent” signifies a turning away from one’s previous set of convictions, practices and associations to a new set of convictions, practices and associations: all of them built on a belief that God is now at work transforming the world, recreating the world, bringing about the dominion of God. And they are built on a belief that God has called us to participate in this greatest of works, by a new set of standards and priorities.
Those standards, those priorities, are spelled out for us in the baptismal promises that we renewed here just two weeks ago and that we will be renewing here again next Sunday as we welcome yet another new member into the household of God. Essentially, those priorities direct our attention away from ourselves and point it outward: to serving others as God in Jesus has served us.
As we gather today for our Annual Parish Meeting, we come to ask ourselves how we can become more faithfully a community that embodies that repentance and that faith. We ask, not so much what the church or its leaders can do for us as what we can do together to serve the needs of God’s people and to help build up that dominion of God. That is the reason that Jesus called his first disciples, there along the Sea of Galilee. And that is the reason that God has called us today, here in this greater-Dayton community: to follow Jesus and the example that he gave in living his life and giving his life, not for himself, but for the sake of the rest of the world: the world that God has made, the world that God loves.