Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Jonah 3:1-5 10 Psalm 62:5-12 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20
The kingdom of God has come near, Jesus proclaimed. But really, does it look to you that the kingdom of God has come near?
Today, with racism, sexual harassment, climate change, a carbon tax and the debate around that, changes around the minimum wage and what that might bring, and of course there was that false alarm for a nuclear attack, and we are to believe the kingdom of God is coming near?
Or can you say that in your own life or relationships – with your partner, your kids, your siblings, your friends, your job, your health – can you say, “Yeah! It looks like the kingdom of God is coming near!”?
What is Jesus talking about when he makes that claim? I think the phrase that explains it is that little phrase in our lesson today – “the time is fulfilled.”
What we have to do is understand what is meant by “time” and “fulfilled”.
First that sense of time. Greek has two different words for times – chronos and kairos.
Chronos: that’s like chronological and we still use that word today. Chronos time is a kind of measured time that we work with everyday – the seconds, minutes, hours, week, months, years, and centuries. This is chronos. And that’s not what Jesus is talking about.
Another word for time is Kairos. And Kairos is momentous time, a time that will make a significant change in your life.
Kairos-time events for us are things like the birth of a child, when you get married, when you graduate from university or high school, when you get a job or a promotion, even when there is a death. That’s Kairos-time because now things are significantly changed. It is a momentous time in your life .
And so when we are talking about the kingdom of god we are talking about Kairos-time because the reign and rule of God breaking into our lives is momentous. It changes us.
This second thing we need to understand is what is meant by “fulfilled”. And this sense of fulfilled is like filled to overflowing.
It is like you had a glass and you’re not looking at your life as though the glass is half full or half empty, but it’s as if someone has a water pitcher and fills the glass. And once it’s filled doesn’t stop and keeps pouring and pouring and pouring and the glass just overflows and overfills, like the way a river overflows its banks and fills everything.
That’s the sense of “fulfilled” we have here. That’s the way the kingdom of God is at work in our lives now, overflowing for us.
So just what does this Kairos-time, this time of overflowing and overfilling mean?
All three of our lessons indicate that Kairos-time is there when indeed God shows up where you never would expect God to be. Think about the first lesson with Jonah. Jonah, that reluctant, curmudgeonly, irascible prophet, who didn’t want to be a prophet at all, who thought, I can run away from God and escape it.
And it didn’t work. And the great fish swallowed him but apparently Jonah isn’t so great and even the great fish got wise and spewed him back out again.
So Jonah goes to Ninevah with the hope that by preaching the Word it will be able to condemn the whole city and God will destroy it. But it doesn’t work.
The time was such that the people repented. The word of God was at work in a time where you would never have expected that to happen, a momentous change in the lives of the people of the city,
And the same is true for the people of Corinth. Corinth is probably the most cantankerous of all Paul’s congregations. They seem to constantly be at one another’s throats – factionalism, fights, and disagreements
And Paul says in what we read today, Live as if the total opposite is true: Mourning and not mourning, married and not married, purchasing and not using.
But how can you live that way?
Because it’s a whole new time, a momentous time, when you see and do things differently.
And in our gospel lesson that’s true as well. It starts up after John was put in prison. And remember at least two of these first four disciples, Andrew brother of Simon Peter was one, were first called disciples of John the Baptist. But now John is in prison. Things seem to be at an end. It’s the worst of times. And yet it’s precisely at that time that Jesus comes to them and says, “Follow me.”
It’s a momentous time and these disciples follow. And of course they don’t have a clue what they’re getting into. And yet they recognize that one thing: this is momentous for them. It’s a Kairos. When we are talking about fulfillment it is when things seem to be empty that God brings fullness.
We think in terms of fullness two things for which God is noted: Creator and Redeemer.
Think of Genesis 1 – what was there in the beginning? The earth was without form and void. And in the midst of all that emptiness here is God – bringing creation, life, abundance for all. God the Creator is precisely that one who brings overflowing fulfillment.
And God the Redeemer does the same. The resurrection shows that as well. Jesus crucified, dead, buried. The life of the disciples is completely empty. There is nothing there for them just a dead Jesus. Hope is gone.
And in the midst of that nothingness, what? God raised Jesus from the dead, bringing life and fullness of life where there seem to be nothing, emptiness, death.
That’s how the kingdom of God is near and work for us and in our lives. Because that word of life, of grace, of forgiveness is a momentous word and a momentous word for us, because this is what enables us to see things differently then what they seemed to be on the surface.
And it also a time of fulfillment, that even among what might seem to be our greatest emptiness God is still at work in our lives bringing about fulfillment – grace overflowing.
One way the early Christian church illustrated that in artwork is that whenever they had pictures of baptism (and of course baptism then always happened in a river with flowing water) they would have the picture there of the person in the river and the water, but as well there was always fish in the water.
Now why was there always fish in the water? Two reasons: One, F-I-S-H was an acronym for a Christian’s most basic belief. If you put the Greek letters for the word “fish” – ἰχθύς (Ichthys) – each letter would work out to JESUS CHRIST GOD’S SON SAVIOUR, which is key and fundamental to what we believe.
The second reason there were always fish in the pictures of baptism is because if it’s true that Jesus Christ is God’s Son Saviour, then that overflowing of God’s grace for us means that we, too, are all just little fishes.
And just as fish cannot live without being immersed in water so we, too, as we are immersed in water in our baptism. And what we are really immersed in is God’s grace. And just like that fish can’t live without the water, we, too, cannot live without God’s grace.
Immersed in God’s grace is the way in which the Kingdom of God comes near to us. Immersed in God’s grace is Kairos-time, momentous time, as our life is significantly different because of God’s grace at work in us.
It is a time of overflowing – overflowing because God’s grace never stops, never runs out, never leaves us empty.
And as for those disciples then, so for us now: we know the kingdom of God has drawn near.
Pastor Michael Poellet