III Epiphany

January 21, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

One of the recent new stories that caught our attention was that of the false alarm in Hawaii.  As most of you know, I am sure, that someone who worked in the center which sends out early warning messages clicked on the wrong button, and instead of sending a message about a drill, sent the message of an incoming ballistic missile.

Quite naturally, this sent panic throughout the islands of Hawaii.  People were scrambling to get to shelter.  Pictures of a man trying to get his daughter to go into a manhole, people going into World War II era bomb shelters in their homes.  Other making phone calls to loved ones to say that they loved them.

Comedians speculated about all kinds of things that people might have chosen to do.  But, I wondered what I might do?  What about you?  What would you choose to do if you were told that there was the chance that you had less than a half an hour to live?

The romantic in me thought about quickly running to the Church to celebrate the Eucharist, or receive communion from the reserved sacrament.  Perhaps seeking out a priest to make a last confession.  The truth is that I might have simply huddled in my house with my son and cats and waited for the worst to happen.

It was all a false alarm.  But these sorts of things make you think.  One of the thoughts that I had was that as twenty-first century Christians, we have lost the immediacy of our calling and faith.  We have been waiting for Jesus’ return for nearly two thousand years.

Much like the story of the boy who cried wolf, we have become immune to the immediacy of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  How many of us know things that we should be doing in our lives to live a better life in Christ, or practices that might draw us closer to Him, and we put them off?

And yet, as Christians, the reality is that we believe that we live in the end times.  Because we have been waiting for so long, we tend to forget that.  But the truth is that the first Christians believed that Jesus would come again in their life time.

Examples of this are found in the way in which St. Mark writes his gospel and St. Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians.  Let’s look for a moment at these lessons again.  St. Paul writes:

“I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.”

When St. Paul wrote his first letters, you can see that he thought that Jesus return was imminent.  He wrote with immediacy.  Later on, he wrote differently, as he realized that Jesus was not returning as quickly as he thought.

And then there is St. Mark’s Gospel.  Scholars believe it to be the oldest of the Gospels we have in the Bible.  St. Mark writes:

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.’  And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.’
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.”

When I studied the Gospels in seminary, it was pointed out to us that St. Mark uses the word “immediately” quite often.  This is because he thought that Jesus’ return would be soon and there was an immediacy to sharing the Good News.  The disciples leave what they are doing immediately, and follow Jesus.  They do not go home and make arrangements.  They do not say to Jesus, “Where will you be next week, so I can catch up with you?”  They leave immediately.

Yes, we have been waiting for nearly two thousand years for Jesus’ return.  Yes, there have been many generations of Christians.  But there is still an immediacy to our message of hope.  The world still needs Jesus, and they need Him now – not next week, not next month, not when we get around to it – now.  I know that I need to be reminded of this, how about you?  And being reminded, what will we do about it?  AMEN.