A sermon, based on Mark 1.14-20, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, January 21, 2018
“The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God has come near.” I prefer the Revised Standard Version’s wonderfully fleshy image: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Either way, this is the essence of the preaching of Jesus. Jesus, God-in-flesh, in his life and ministry brought, brings God’s kingdom that close!
Jesus doesn’t tell us what the kingdom is. For the people of his day, God’s kingdom was central, crucial to their historical and theological self-understanding. No explanation was needed. For us, some definition is helpful.
God’s kingdom, a complex concept, at its simplest is God’s reign or realm. Not an earthly or heavenly domain, but rather a state of being. God’s reign is less about the dominion of almighty God and more about the nature of the life of God. An existence characterized by love and justice, unconditional benevolence and equality for all and at all times.
God’s reign, therefore, implies, demands the existence of a community of love and justice. For God’s reign is not about one being, even God, who is loving and just, but rather a community in which love and justice are embraced, indeed, embodied.
So, it is that Jesus called disciples to follow him, to be in community with him.
So, it is that Jesus repeated that call in sending his disciples out to do likewise, to gather community.
So, it is that the Christian church, generally, and, specifically, we, Epiphany, Laurens, in responding “Yes!” to Jesus’ call, “Follow me”, are to be a community of love and justice today. Here. Now.
Even more, especially more, we are an epiphany! A visible, physical revelation of the realization of Jesus’ proclamation: “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand.”
Still more, the kingdom is in our hands. As Jesus called his first disciples to follow him, and then sent them out, so Jesus sends us out into the world of our families and friends and strangers, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods, and where’er we travel near and far to share with the words of our lips and the works of our lives his love and justice or, according to our Collect, to “proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation.”
Yes, you, I, we, in the eyes of Jesus, we’re all that!
The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew (Vocation De Saint Pierre et Saint André), James Tissot (1836-1902)
Jesus sends out his disciples, James Tissot (1836-1902)