Sermon for Epiphany 3, Year B, January 24, 2021

Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Psalm 62:6-14, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-30

          In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “the appointed time has grown short . . . for the present form of this world is passing away.”  At this point in his ministry, Paul believes the second coming is just weeks, if not days, away.  Yet, in our gospel, Jesus proclaims the good news of God and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

          I understand Jesus to be telling the people not to wait for the day when all that is wrong will be made right.  Jesus says, “the time is fulfilled.”  Yes, he calls upon the people to repent and believe.  He calls us to believe in the good news that the kingdom of God is near – not just a hope of a glorious afterlife for the faithful.  The world is, at the time Jesus says this, a world filled with chaos and unrest.  People do not expect justice; they do not expect to be treated fairly. 

          Yet, Jesus says the time is fulfilled and when he calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John to leave behind their nets, to leave behind fishing which is their livelihood, and follow him.  And, they do.  What possesses them to leave behind what is familiar, no matter how bad it may be, and follow Jesus?

          I believe it is hope.  Hope is at the foundation of their belief that God will intervene on their behalf, hope that someone will come and lead them to freedom. 

Suzanne Magouyrk shared a podcast with me this week that aired last Monday.  Kwame Alexander, a poet, tells of Martin Luther King, Jr. telling people the choice they must make is between choosing chaos or community.  Alexander said, “When [King] took to Lincoln Memorial and delivered the ‘I have a dream’ speech he changed the course of our history.”  The nation was, and is today, divided and many people are afraid.  King challenges us to dream of a new world.

Alexander then said, “We can’t just hope it will get better, it’s going to take us dreaming a new world.”  The podcast ended with a challenge for each of us to write a poem or prose that begins with, “I dream a world . . .” then submitted it for him to make all our dreams into one poem.  “We write it and so we believe it,” he said. 

          This is, I thought, how our faith offers us hope – our faith calls upon us to dream of a world where the love of God surrounds us.  If we cannot imagine it, if we cannot dream of a better world, we cannot see it as Peter, Andrew, James, and John does when Jesus calls them to follow him.  Jesus preaches of the kingdom of God, saying it is near.  He calls upon people to repent and believe in the good news of God – and the disciples are able to dream of a world in which God is with them as their teacher and guide to a better life.

If we cannot dream of a world filled with God’s love, we cannot see God who is in the midst of the chaos.  We see only the hate and the divisions that separate us from the love of God and each other. 

          King’s words have changed history because he shared his dream of world filled with equality, justice, freedom, and peace.  His words were rooted in his faith and strike a chord within us today.   His dream is our dream as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  

          When, in listening to the podcast I heard the request to finish the sentence, I dream of world where . . ., I realized this is something we all need to do. If you feel overwhelmed by the pandemic, racial unrest, suffering, and political divisions in our nation today, I call upon you to dream of better world – and share your dream with others.  This exercise is similar to one that makes it’s rounds on Facebook periodically in which people post daily thanksgiving for 30 days.  Dreaming of what may be, giving thanks for the blessings of this life changes our perspectives and offers us hope.  It enables us to choose community over chaos.  It helps us to promote community rather than contribute to the division and chaos that generates fear and dispels hope. 

          I have a dream of a world in which people look for the good in others rather than assume the worst, appreciate rather than fear differences, listen to others in order to understand rather than offer a rebuttal.  I dream of a world in which we work for the common good – we feed the hunger, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, care for the sick, and welcome the stranger.  And yes, I dream of a world free from this pandemic where we can worship together in person, and have potlucks and dinners again.  What is the world you dream of?

Let us pray,

          Lord Jesus, you taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be on earth as it is in heaven.  Help us keep our focus on the present and experience your presence and your love in our midst.  Fill our hearts and minds with dreams and visions of a better world that we might answer your call to see past our differences and work for the common good.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.