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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver,  B.C.

Diocese of New Westminster

Anglican Church of Canada

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Worship Times

 

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am

 

Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm

 

Centering Prayer

Thursday 2:00 pm

Sermon

February 4th Epiphany 5, 2018                                                  John Marsh

 

Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9: 16-23; Mark 1:29-39¹

 

 

 

 

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood the foundations of the earth? (Isaiah 40:21)

 

The questions probe the depth of the human spirit and the breadth of our experience, testing and teasing the limits of our perceptions...

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?

 

Is it not possible that from the foundations of the earth the holy one, that which we name as god, has been present, active within time, within history, within lives - creating and recreating – tearing down and building up?²

 

Is it not possible that from the foundations of the earth spirit has hovered over deep promise enticing new life from domination’s debris - the timeless one, intertwined, active within story?

 

[The holy one] gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless... (Isaiah 40:29)

 

[The holy one] heals the broken hearted... binds up their wounds... [And] lifts up the downtrodden... (Psalm 147:3, 6)

 

Within the flow of time, so faith’s story asserts, the timeless one stirs compassions’ call arousing awe and hope within heart and soul³

 

So, have you not heard?

 

Have you not understood?

 

It’s time…

 

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance...

(Mark 1:4)

It’s time…

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John...

(Mark 1:9)

It’s time…

 

[Jesus] saw the heavens torn apart and the spirit descending...and a voice [saying]...you are the beloved...

(Mark 1:10-11)

 

It’s time…

 

And the spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness... (Mark 1:12)

 

It’s time…

 

...the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of god has come near... (Mark 1:15)

 

It’s time…

 

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people” and immediately they left...and followed him (Mark 1:17-18)

 

It’s time…

 

And he cured many who were sick and cast out many demons... (Mark 1:34)

 

It’s time…

 

“Let’s go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message...for that is what I came to do.” And he went throughout Galilee. (Mark 1:38-9)

 

Within the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel there is urgency – the immediacy of the ‘kingdom’ pressing in, drawing near, unfolding, inviting change and luring response…

 

As the verses flow by there is a rising crescendo of activity

 

One feels the energy, the movement, the call to repentance and restoration…

 

The kingdom is on the move - Jesus is on the move - spirit is on the move - people are on the move - in hope of healing and restoration, in response to the invitation to ‘let go’, to leave behind that which binds, to leave behind nets which ensnare, to leave behind yesterday, going beyond the limits of other’s definitions, to be ‘raised up’ with new strength to take one’s place in the world in service to creation

 

It’s time…

 

The kingdom of god is in your midst; you cannot remain who or where you were - the story of Jesus bursts beyond Nazareth, beyond the synagogues, beyond Capernaum and beyond Galilee…

 

It’s time…

 

The spirit is moving on - inviting a ‘letting go’: of jobs, sicknesses, ‘sins’, past definitions and limitations, to start fresh in the unknown of a new future…

 

It’s time…

 

It’s time to live, to live anew, to live differently…

 

But in our time, a questions haunts - Is the phrase, ‘it’s time’, merely descriptive of a day gone by?

 

Is god’s reign simply yesterday’s news?

 

Perhaps it’s time to entertain a hope that the reign of God may be more than a literary device to move the story along…

 

Perhaps it’s time to risk faith, to risk moving into the ‘uncertainty of Galilee’, beyond the certainty of past success...

 

Perhaps it’s time to hear afresh the teaching of Jesus:

 

“...no one puts new wine into old wineskins...but one puts new wine into fresh skins”

(Mark 2:22)

 

What if the manner of our prayer, our proclamation of word and song, the content of our work and the rhythm of our relationships is suggestive of new wine needing fresh skins?

 

What if behind, within, our experience of change there is the urgency of the ‘kingdom’ pressing in, drawing near, unfolding, inviting change and luring response… 

 

What if the kingdom is on the move - Jesus is on the move - spirit is on the move - calling us: to ‘let go’, to leave behind that which binds, leave behind ‘nets’ which ensnare, leave behind yesterday and go beyond the limits of our or other’s definitions, to be ‘raised up’ with new strength to take one’s place in the world in service to creation…

 

Do we sense an energy; do we sense movement stirring within call?  

 

Perhaps the reign of god is in our midst; if so, we cannot remain who or where we were, who or where we are; the story of Jesus bursts beyond Nazareth, beyond the synagogues, beyond Capernaum and beyond Galilee...

 

It’s time for us to burst beyond conventions…

 

Spirit is moving on, inviting a ‘letting go’ of past definitions and limitations to start fresh in the unknown of a new future…

 

It’s time for ‘fresh skins’ - the reign of god is pressing in...

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood the foundations of the earth? (Isaiah 40:21)

 

The reign of god is pressing in and I stand in awe and am filled with hope of that timeless, suggestive reign...

 

 

 

¹A brief word about context: both the Isaiah passage and the gospel text are framed by dislocation - the former by the dislocation of exile, the latter by the dislocation of imperial domination. Undergirding both is the matrix of faith and hope dangling the impossibly possible dream of emerging life. The New Testament passage continues the narrative of the dynamic chaos of emerging community while the psalm frames praise within the experience of suffering. All told, a point is made – the sacred does not simply soar above the vagaries of existence but is intertwined within them.

 

² A thought: while the concept of time seems abstract, the experience of time is always personal and entangled with story. Time is always experienced as our time.

 

³ In Psalm 147:11 the translation of the Hebrew word ‘yirah’ by the English word ‘fear’ is problematic given ‘fear’s’ connotations of terror and anxiety as well as the implications of violence. As is obvious from the context of the psalm, the Holy One does not take pleasure in terrorizing. The Hebrew carries more the sense of ‘awe’ – that profound respect which is birthed of identity, awareness and relationship. A contemporary example of such awe would be the example of the Morgan people of Thailand. As fishers they have a profound understanding and respect for the sea; they possess a wisdom borne of their intimate relationship with and gratitude for the ‘deep’. When the Tsunami of 2004 occurred, they understood the signs long before it arrived and with respect for life, they withdrew to higher ground only to return after the event. It was only those without understanding who disappeared in fear.

 

Within the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel, the note of urgency is sounded by the repeated use of the word ‘immediately’. Within the original text it used 14 times in the first two chapters alone – it seems that the drive of divinity and the urgency of response are inherent to the good news of Jesus.

 

The simplicity of the story of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law belies its importance. With reference to her healing, the Greek word ‘egeiro’ is used which suggests that healing is the imparting of new strength to those ‘disabled’ by any number of social or physical conditions. Those healed are ‘raised up’, strengthened and restored to take their place in the world; such ‘resurrection’ echoes the resurrection of Jesus in which the same verb is used concerning his rising from the dead (see Mark 16:6). One further point, the serving of Peter’s mother-in-law makes use of the word (diakoneo) which is the same verb used to describe the essence of the mission of Jesus that ‘he came to serve and not to be served’ (see Mark 10:45).  Peter’s mother-in-law is fulfilling more than a gender role; she is embodying a messianic role expressive God’s reign.

 

Once again the simplicity of the story belies its import. The mission of Jesus establishes itself well in Capernaum and such successful establishment is always rather compelling and alluring. Jesus is quite the draw for, as his companions point out, “everyone is looking for you”. But Jesus chooses something different; he opts for the uncertainty of the unknown in Galilee. Jesus opts for the unknown because the ‘good news’ is for those for whom it is unknown. The way of Jesus leads beyond the comfort of the known. It seems that such is the truth of the Christ and the truth of the Christian.