Saturday, January 24, 2015

Follow Jesus RIGHT NOW

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Mark 1:14-20

Last week, we talked about how God calls us to use our gifts and talents for God and God’s people. We all are called by God, and we are called to be like God in the way we treat other people every moment of our lives. This is how we follow Jesus.
Today’s stories tell us that not only are we called but we are called to follow RIGHT NOW! The Greek word translated as “immediately” is used at least 40 times in Mark’s Gospel. The disciples leave their boats and their nets and follow Jesus immediately. This great sense of urgency drives us on as we read Mark, and its intent is to drive us to following Jesus RIGHT NOW in our lives.
The story of Jonah has this same sense of RIGHT NOW. Most people are familiar with the story. God tells Jonah to go to east to ________ (Nineveh) to tell them to repent. And he says to himself, there is no way I’m going to help to save those people; they are my sworn enemies. So, he gets on a boat headed west to _______ (Tarshish). Because he has disobeyed God, a great storm arises, and he gets tossed off the boat, gets swallowed by a _________________ (big fish) and three days later ____________ (is vomited out onto the shore).
God is not finished with him, and sends him again to Nineveh. Go, RIGHT NOW, to Nineveh. Give them this message: repent RIGHT NOW or your city will be destroyed. They get the message, and do repent RIGHT NOW. And God changes God’s mind and does not destroy the city. Jonah, we remember is not happy, and sits under to broom tree, wishing he could die RIGHT NOW.
… The ministry of Jesus begins with an announcement: there is good news. The kingdom/reign of God is here RIGHT NOW! Repent RIGHT NOW and believe in it.
When the time is right, Jesus calls the first four disciples. I believe Jesus lived in Capernaum for a number of years, and got to know the people there. He told them of the mission to announce the good news to everyone. Some people believed him, some laughed at him, some promised to follow and help him. When Jesus is ready, Jesus gathers Simon and Andrew, then John and James. They leave their boats and nets and go with Jesus RIGHT NOW.
Last week, we considered how we hesitate to follow Jesus RIGHT NOW. We have responsibilities to see to and comforts we would miss. We can’t just go; we have to get ready to go first. In fairness, I believe Jesus had prepared the disciples to follow him, and they had prepared their families.
The region is 30 miles wide and 40 miles long, so about 1,200 square miles, larger than Citrus County, smaller than Marion County. They likely took trips of two or three, maybe four, days around Galilee, and were home often enough to take care of their families.  As the Jesus and the first four disciples traveled, they gathered more disciples, who often decided RIGHT NOW to follow Jesus.
 They shared a simple message. There is good news: Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah. Repent and believe, and do it RIGHT NOW! To reinforce the message, Jesus heals the sick, casts out demons, raises the dead. Those he heals do not have to wait; their healing is immediate, RIGHT NOW.
In America, we have become accustomed to wanting what we want RIGHT NOW. We rarely go to restaurants where we spend hours enjoying a meal. We want our food hot, properly priced, and delivered RIGHT NOW so we can get on to the next item on our daily agenda.
We order from the internet instead of shopping in person, because it saves us time, unless we need something RIGHT NOW. Then, we go to the store after we check to see it is in stock.
On the TV show Shark Tank, applicants have the opportunity to convince wealthy men and women to invest in their businesses. If the offers are not what the hopeful wanted, or if they take too long to make a decision, the investors withdraw their offers or pull out. Business owners must make decisions RIGHT NOW.
This desire for things to be done RIGHT NOW has changed life in America. We have to be reminded to slow down, linger over a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea, enjoy the company of our friends, get to know new people.
It’s when we slow down that we can also remember the need to follow Jesus RIGHT NOW. We can remember that we have good news to share, RIGHT NOW.
We are not waiting for the kingdom/reign of God, it is here RIGHT NOW. It is true that the reign of God is not complete, but some aspects of it are already present. Already people are healed, many work for God’s justice for all, many seek to lift the poor from poverty. RIGHT NOW we are assured of God’s grace, God’s undeserved love and forgiveness. RIGHT NOW we know we are God’s beloved children.
… Many of you have heard Mike talk about the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. He has recently become a volunteer host at the park, and a passionate advocate for the park. Mike shares his stories of the park and its inhabitants with anyone who will listen. He tells about Bill who talks with Lu the Hippo and Yuma the bobcat. He shows the photos he has taken of the alligator in front of the “no swimming” sign, and of the brand new pelican chick. Mike volunteers to go with you and show you whatever you want to see, and he will take your photo while you are there. If you show any interest at all, Mike invites you to go RIGHT NOW.
Mike is passionate about the park. We, too, are often passionate about our faith in Jesus, but we are reluctant to share the stories.
We fear rejection, that the person we are talking with doesn’t want to hear our stories.
We know that some Christians are really pushy and we don’t want to be pushy.
We are afraid we don’t know enough about the Bible and will be embarrassed if they ask a question or challenge us with an interpretation we don’t agree with. (I have a solution for that: come regularly to a Bible study class!)
Mostly, we don’t trust that God will put words in our mouths and faith in the hearts of our listeners. Especially, we don’t trust that God will do that RIGHT NOW.
Hear this. With Jonah’s simple message, God changed the hearts of the Ninevites and they repented RIGHT NOW!
Do you not believe that God can reach someone through you? Do you not believe that God wants to use you to reach the people you know with a message of love and forgiveness? When your heart beats faster and a story or an invitation pops into your head, open your mouth and let the words out RIGHT NOW.  
This week, allow God to use you in some way to reach someone. Say “God bless you” to someone – and not just in response to a sneeze. Tell someone in need that you will pray for them. Tell someone in pain that God loves and cares about them. Promise God’s forgiveness and acceptance to someone who dwells in guilt. Don’t wait. Be on the lookout for an opportunity to announce God’s kingdom/reign RIGHT NOW.

Please pray with me. God, we ask for your presence in our lives RIGHT NOW. We ask you to put the words in our mouths this week. Make of us passionate followers who can’t wait to invite someone to join us in worship and service among this community of faith we call Hope Lutheran Evangelical Church. Help us to follow you and live for you RIGHT NOW. Amen