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Posts Tagged ‘Repentance’

The Revised Common Lectionary for January 22, 2012 pairs a selection from Jonah 3 with the call of the first four disciples in Mark 1.  Both texts certainly involve making a change in direction.  Here is a sermon that looks at the story of Jonah as a whole and focuses on what it took to get Jonah turned around.

Holy Timeout

A Sermon on Jonah 1:1-2:1a and Acts 9:1-9

Imagine what it would be like to move forward, full speed ahead, with total confidence.  Imagine what it would be like not to have to struggle with doubt or indecision or anxiety.  Feeling certain certainly does feel good.  Complete certainty—what an appealing possibility!  Or is it?

For the two men in our scripture lessons today it was full speed ahead.  Paul was on his way to Damascus to conduct a holy roundup.  Filled with conviction, he climbed up on his horse and headed out.  This was holy war!  Paul knew in his heart that these people following the Jesus Way were wrong, dead wrong.  These people of the Way were dishonoring God and disrespecting God’s good law.  They were condoning sin and leading others to do the same.  For the sake of the true faith and true belief, they had to be stopped.  Whatever it took: inquisitions, beatings, prison, even death, just stop them!  Full speed ahead in the name of the true religion.  Full speed ahead in the name of God!

Paul was sure he understood what God wanted.  But Jonah indeed did know what God wanted.  God was calling him to go to Nineveh and preach the good news of repentance.  That was clear.  But Jonah didn’t want those no-good Ninevites to be saved, so it was full speed ahead for him in the opposite direction.  God would just have to find somebody else.  Being God, God certainly could find somebody else if God wants to.

“I’m outta here,” Jonah declared.  He went down to the seaside, and bought a ticket on a boat bound for Tarshish.  Then he went down into the bottom-most part of the boat.  Then he went down into the oblivion of sleep.  He wanted to get as far away from Nineveh as possible.  He didn’t even want to think about those people!

No uncertainties nipped at Jonah’s heels or Paul’s heels.  It was full speed ahead!—but in both cases in the wrong direction.  They were both certain they knew better—better than those Ninevites!  Better than those people who belonged to the Way!  By implication, even better than God!  We can take it from here, God!

Thinking they know better has gotten the people of God into trouble time and time again.  Assuming they know the way has gotten them into trouble time and time again.  Where has arrogant certainty led the church through the ages?  Into crusades, so called “holy” wars. Into violence against one another, Protestant versus Catholic, Anglican versus Presbyterian.  History is full of Christian fights.  (more…)

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Jan Brueghel the Elder, John the Baptist preaching

Image via Wikipedia

Here is an Advent sermon about what repentance looks like, and in particular, what repentance looks like in a church setting.

Get Out of the Way of the Lord!

A Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-5 and Mark 1:1-8, Second Sunday of Advent—Year B

God was on the move into the future, the prophet Isaiah declared.  And the people of God needed to get ready to go with God.  But on the road to the future, the obstacles in the literal wilderness weren’t the only obstacles that God would have to overcome.  God would have to overcome the obstacles in the people’s hearts.  What was in God’s way?  Try stubbornly held beliefs, attitudes, fears, and just plain old habits.  Try exhaustion.

Sometimes people don’t want to take the risk of hope.  Why get their hopes up?  I can hear them right now raising objections to Isaiah’s vision of a new journey to the Promised Land:  “Isaiah, this is too far-fetched.  What if we fail?  Isaiah, we don’t want to get disappointed again.  No, thank you.”

Somewhere in the back of their minds they knew that if God wasn’t through with them, then God could still ask, expect, even demand something from them, something that would cost them.  Daring to hope opens you up to pain all over again.  You might have to drink the cup of suffering.

Some of the exiles found comfortable lives in Babylon.  Why put that at risk?  Others wanted to go home, but were afraid to make the journey.

To get the exiles moving, God had many obstacles to overcome.  “Prepare the way of the Lord,” Isaiah cried.  “Cut a road!  Open out a way!  Make room for God!  Push over the mountains!  Raise up the valleys!  Smooth out the rough places!”  And that includes those in your hearts.  To put it bluntly, prepare the way of the Lord also means get out of the way of the Lord.  Get out of the way and let God lead.  Set aside whatever gets in God’s way and let God have God’s own way.

It was a lesson that God’s people had to learn again and again.  Even the great apostles Peter and Paul had to learn to get out of God’s way.  (more…)

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