Sunday, January 24
This past week, I heard a leader from our previous administration say that America is not multicultural---that multiculturalism is not who we are as America. Beloved, you may agree with that statement or disagree; there does seem to be different understandings of who we are as a nation and as a people. I, personally disagree with this leader; I was taught that we are indeed a nation of many cultures, different faiths and many peoples, but Beloved, here’s the thing: for we who follow the Christ---this Way of Love personified in a person—then our truth of who we are doesn’t come from the definition of a nation. It comes from this Holy One who is Creator of all things---and therefore, we do recognize ourselves to be multicultural because multicultural is surely who God is. If humankind is made in God’s image, then there is no denying that God’s image is one of many languages, many colors, many cultures.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul declares that he expects the Christ to come back soon----so soon, in fact, that Paul advises people not to make their own long-term plans because the time for Jesus is upon us. And Paul knows, and declares, that when the Christ, this Way of Love, breaks back in---then the present form of the world passes away. The present form of this world passes away….
Oh! Beloved! What good news. I long for the present form of this world to pass away---this animosity and anger that paints our landscape, this division and vitriol of humanity that weakens us, this poverty, this injustice of racism, this silencing of the voices of women and the LGBTQ community, this diminishment of refugees and immigrants, this desecration of Creation----oh how I long for it all to pass away….
And Beloved, the passing away of a world only happens when those who inhabit that world change (or as we often translate the Greek of Scripture, when there is repentance—a metanoia---a turning around). When we change our ways, our priorities, our views. When we turn from one way of being to another way of being, of another way living, another way of loving.
Like the people of Ninevah we hear in today’s reading. Of course, our friend Jonah wanted nothing to do with helping the Ninevites since they inhabited a world, this capital city of Ninevah, that was the center of the oppressive state (Assyria) which oppressed Jonah’s people, the Israelites. Jonah had no desire to help them or see them or speak to them. In fact, he ran the other direction. But God would have none of Jonah’s avoidance. Nor will God have ours.
And when, reluctantly and begrudgingly, Jonah decided to do as God asks, well then the Ninevites---they turned, they repented. They believed God. In fact, this translation of the Greek that we hear today as “believed” is too small for what this word really means. They didn’t just believe; they trusted. They trusted God---these non-believers, these misinformed, these non-followers. They believed and trusted God. They trusted there is another way to live, to choose, to share, to be in relationship with God and with neighbors—friend or foe.
Thanks to the work of this reluctant Jonah. The oppressors turned, repented, and then, Beloved, then the consequences that had once followed their oppressive, evil ways----these consequences were set aside, ended, because there was no oxygen to breathe life into the evil and oppression that once had been. And a wave of repentance led to a great reversal. A wave of repentance, turning around, led to a great reversal. Because, as the poet Amanda Gorman put it, we are not broken, simply unfinished.
When we, as individuals, but perhaps more importantly as a people, when we turn from evil ways: name-calling, finger pointing, placing more value on some rather than on all, when we turn from the evil of spreading misinformation, when we turn from demanding what is best for us and turn toward demanding what is best for all, when we step from the chains of self-centeredness that imprison us and turn toward the bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood that are central to God’s dream---then the world turns---turns from upside-down to right side up, turns toward God’s Kingdom come.
An old world passes away and a new world rises up. A world where all have enough because God has provided enough for everyone---as long as we learn to live together rightly and justly, when we recognize that none of this is mine, but all of it is ours, thanks be to God.
Last week’s Gospel told us that Jesus decided to go to Galilee and today, Mark puts it like this: Jesus came to Galilee. Galilee: where Jesus teaches and heals, where Jesus connects to all people, especially the disenfranchised, where Jesus feeds the hungry and quenches the thirsty, where Jesus levels the playing field and liberates the oppressed, where Jesus builds relationships and restores hope. Galilee where the Good News is proclaimed.
Beloved, the appointed time has grown short, the time for Jesus is upon us and God’s Kingdom is near. Turn. Turn, Beloved, toward the way of love. Love of God, love of neighbor, love of self. Turn and choose life. Come to Galilee.
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.