A congregation gathers on a Sunday morning. There has been a lot of preparation. The altar has been set, bulletins have been printed, the heat turned up. The choir has practiced. Worship begins with The Word: Scripture and sermon, hymns and prayers have challenged and inspired. At God's Table, all come to to be reconciled to God and one another through Christ's body and blood. Renewed and strengthened we are Sent to live into our calling as apostles in the world. But first... the fellowship of coffee hour awaits. The Church, St. Paul said, is the body of Christ and each a member. It's true! Never perfect, filled with all sorts and characters and yet, a beautiful living organism of God's grace.
Yr B Epiphany 3 Big Fish (youth sermon) Jonah 3:1-5,10 Mk. 1:14-20
Blessed be you O Lord, “For you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and ready to relent from punishing. (Jonah 4:2) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
[read Jonah and the Big Fish]
God’s heart is filled with compassion meaning God feels moved to help those in need. God saw that the sin-filled city of Ninevah was sick and they needed to learn good from bad. But Jonah’s heart was filled with resentment and he wanted vengeance. He wanted to see God punish the Assyrians for all the harm they had committed against the Israelites who had suffered under war and exile. Jonah didn’t want to share God with ‘others’. Jonah rebelled and didn’t go as God wanted him to do.
Why did you think God chose Jonah? Do you think God saw a chance to teach Jonah how to be compassionate and merciful? Did God really want to punish Ninevah or help them to change their ways and their hearts?How did Jonah respond at first when God told him to go there? Runaway! Was that an obedient response? No. Does God want us to obey? Why should we?
Is it even possible to run away from God? “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” (Ps.139:7-10)What happened on the ship? What happened to the crew? What happened to Jonah?
What does it mean to be ‘in the belly of the whale’? Lost? or Found? Pinocchio finds his ‘creator’ Gepetto and discovers Gepetto has been looking for him. Death? Life? Consider 3 days & 3 nights (death and resurrection).
Read more: This Week's Sermon
Light to ashes to Light
This is the in-between time where the season of light, Epiphany, collides with the season of ash, Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, the feast before the fast, a flame of light ignites the past year’s blessed palms. Flame dims to flickers of light turned to ash. A hushed awareness of our mortality rises with the tendrils of smoke and is confirmed the next day as ash is imposed on forehead with the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
But the bonfire of God’s love is far from extinguished. During the Holy season of Lent, the invitation is for God’s light to enter more deeply into the crevices of our existence. The light of all the heavens bursts into the heart of our soul, penetrating the dim spaces where God’s love can’t grow unless we consent to becoming fertile soil. Lent is the time of opening up to God at work in and through each of us. It is also the time of journeying with Christ towards the cross; suffering with humanity, for we cannot rise with Christ unless we die in Christ.
Many of us seek to become more open to God through different practices. Some find fasting or other dietary discipline helps one become more spiritually mindful. Others may focus on daily devotionals or Biblical studies as a way to walk with Christ, as the saying goes ‘we are what we eat.’ Still some may want to reach out to others as a way of reaching out to Jesus by giving time in service at a soup kitchen, food shelf, homeless shelter, tutoring or an afterschool program and so on – the only limit is one’s imagination!
Whatever practices we try-on for the 40 days of Lent, may it open each up more fully to the light of God growing Christ within. For we do not just remember our mortality but our divinity too. Remember you are born of Holy Light and to the Holy Light of Christ you return.
God’s light and love,Pastor Susan+