If today’s scripture were a meal, it would be so short that all you would be able to see is the eating part, and you wouldn’t be able to see all of the preparation that came before. But I urge you now to recall the larger story in today’s scripture. And then — remember how the characters are initially resistant to change.
In our Old Testament reading, the Lord asks Jonah to prophecy for a second time. Which of course means that the Lord has asked Jonah to prophesy on His behalf once before. As most of us remember from our Sunday school teachings, Jonah ran away from God’s the first time. Instead, Jonah went to Joppa, and there he boarded a ship to Tarshish. The ship was caught in a storm. When the crew threw Jonah overboard, the storm subsided.
Through the experience of being thrown overboard at sea, Jonah’s world view had to change. He learned that no matter where you go on this earth, you cannot outrun God.
Do we know of anyone who feels like they and their point of view has been tossed overboard into the sea, only to be consumed by a large fish? Perhaps you do. Let’s hold that thought for a moment as we think about today’s Epistle.
In our Epistle reading, Paul exhorts his listeners, that the present form of this world is passing away. Paul’s writing is not lightweight. Rather, it is backed by his personal experience of having been blinded, and now he sees.
Because of Paul’s personal experience, he could write with conviction that times are changing; that his world view was changing, and his listeners should prepare for change by freeing themselves from their past. Do you know anyone who feels like they have been blinded by recent events, either personal or global? Perhaps. Let’s continue with today’s Gospel.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus Christ says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” At the time these words were spoken, Jesus is a grown man, and his cousin John has been arrested. Yet, given our liturgical calendar, only a month ago, you and I were talking about a baby, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and was sleeping in a manger.
I could very easily be one of those distant relatives who looks at a grown child for the first time in a while and says, “My how you have grown!” And that would often be followed by, “Where has the time gone?”
Change is indeed coming. Paul’s words, “… that the present form of this world is passing away,…” have never seemed more appropriate. As those in our scripture reading today have learned, change cannot be avoided. Some of our neighbors may be upset about this. As Christians, one way we can love our neighbor is to listen to them grieve about the constant change in our lives.
Before you hear them out, remind yourself that you are there to listen for understanding, and not to argue. If you are asked for your input, and that is a critical conversational inflection point, then you may add whatever helps you center yourself. You could certainly use the lessons from today’s scripture. Or, you could add other contemporary authors too, from Kübler-Ross to Stephen Covey, from Cherie Carter-Scott to Gene Roddenberry.
And in all cases, reassure that Good News is indeed coming, that your neighbor need not be blinded in order to eventually see, and that no, we’re not going to throw anybody overboard. Your efforts can make a difference and happy endings are possible. Jonah’s warnings to the people of Nineveh were heeded and that city avoided God’s wrath. Paul’s teachings in Corinth founded a church that lasted over three hundred years. And Jesus’ message of the Good News continues two centuries later. On a smaller scale, we can do this too. By listening to just one person, we can make a difference.
- – Amen