Weekly Reflection on the Lectionary: Public Repentance

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Psalm 62:5-12

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

In next week’s Gospel Jesus begins his preaching with an overview of his Gospel message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

The in-breaking of the Kingdom of God is the central message of the synoptic Gospels. And from the very beginning we are clued in to its political nature. It is after the arrest of John the baptist that Jesus began his preaching. John had preached repentance and the coming of Jesus. Jesus preached repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Later on, the apostle Paul preached repentance and the second coming of God. In all three cases we are told that Something is coming to shake up the established order; and that we are to respond by changing our lives in order to prepare for it.

The early Christian communities expected a radical and sudden transformation, but that has not happened. It can be difficult to believe that the time is fulfilled when we can easily see God’s will being violated and we do not know how long we will have to wait for a final deliverance.  But this weeks scriptures are empty unless we can recapture that sense of anticipation. Ruthanna B. Hooke notes in Feasting on the Word, “Although we may not expect the return of Christ to happen in our lifetimes, as Paul did, as Christians we nonetheless do not simply resign ourselves to the givenness of the world, for we have planted within us the great hope that God’s kingdom will come on earth as in heaven.”

This week’s lessons serve as a reminder to live in anticipation of God’s coming Kingdom, and to repent, to turn away from our former lives, because of that anticipation. The change to our lives is not merely a private change, it demands active involvement in the public sphere. The disciples are called not merely to prayer but to follow Jesus. With Jesus they will feed thousands, heal those in need of healing, proclaim good news to the poor and marginalized and break down the barriers between God and humans. In following Jesus they become a part of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. And, like Jesus, they were persecuted by the Roman empire for suggesting  that there might be another way to live.

We, too, can be a part of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. Amen.

 

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