Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Ash Wednesday:

Imposition of Ashes 11:00 AM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes 7:00 PM




January 24, 2024 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

EPIPHANY 3/B (01/21/2024): Ps. 62; Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-35; Mark 1:14-20


[T]he time has grown very short … For the form of this world is passing away (vv. 29, 31b).

St. Paul would have the Church keep in mind the coming Last Day. Jonah warned, “Yet in forty days Nineveh is about to be changed” (Jonah 3:4b). After forty days of fasting and hostilities Jesus departed the wilderness beyond the Jordan for Galilee. Jesus’ message, like that of Jonah and Paul warned the “shortness” of this age.

What then is our take-away from today’s Readings, but that time is not static, rather imbued with a religious dynamic a reality that even pagan Ninevites discerned. After forty days in the wilderness Jesus was taking back what Satan claimed by right of “adverse possession”. During Satan’s occupancy “the heavens and the earth” had been soiled. By the power of his word God would “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Jonah delivered God’s ten-word Sermon to the Ninevites. As with Jesus’ proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15a) both Sermons spoke law and gospel that implied urgency. Crises was barreling down on Nineveh; regime change was in the offing to which the Ninevites and their king responded with a flood of repentance such that God relented; what would have been judgment was being bestowed as Divine grace.

Two Sunday’s ago, JB urged, “a baptism of repentance” (Mk. 1:4a) with the result, “all Judea and Jerusalem” came being baptized and confessing sins (v. 5). Last Sunday Nathaniel responded to Philip’s invitation, “If you come, you will see” God’s Messiah (Jn. 1:46b). Nathaniel “saw”, became a disciple gesticulating, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (vv. 48b, 49). The Word is such that long Sermons are unnecessary for conversion; hearts only need be made receptive.

As Bethsaida’s fishing fleet was readying for a nightly catch, Jesus passed by Peter and Andrew, and James and John extending his invitation, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17).

Nineveh, Judea, Jerusalem, Philip, Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, and Zebedee’s two sons, at God’s word, discerned in Jesus’ appearance God’s “appointed time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and the necessity for a whole-hearted Kingdom response. God comes to men for mercy and grace; or if refused, in judgment. By his gracious character He desires our conversion that we choose the Life he offers.

What makes the time for conversion so urgent? It is “a time for war” (v. 8b) with “the kingdom of God … at hand”, a war of kingdoms in the presence of our Captain, the man Jesus; we recognize no place to hide or garner strength except in the fortress pale of the Man and his word.

Between Jesus’ first two exorcisms: Satan expelled from the desert and
the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk. 1:21ff.), Jesus enlisted the first of a fledgling war-council, a militant (cf. Rev. 7 & 14) “band of brothers”. All men are born into sin and bondage. Today, in the “appointed time”, if today you hear his voice, you also are called to transfer allegiance and a different life than offered from a dying world.

Jonah called to the fray but burned his draft card. In God’s war against Satan, one cannot be a pacificist, superior or ambivalent toward the Lord’s salvation bought in blood; one is either for or against God’s reign in Christ, the Crucified. To this end Paul has us keep in mind the Parousia (cf. Mt. 25:31 ff.). Jonah rejected direct orders and for his treason was thrown into the abyss. But God is God of second chances, employing a “great sea-monster” for Jonah’s rescue. After three days inside the fish belly-grave, Jonah arose from baptismal death for new obedience to God’s word.

As with Jonah, Jesus raised his nascent band of brothers out of the sea to be “fishers of men”. God’s word catches us into the Church as our Light in the new creation. These Apostles responded unhesitating. Peter left worldly comfort of home and occupation. Zebedee’s boys urgently left security and business opportunity; but with St. Paul, like Jonah, we engage God’s “second chance Apostle”.

Saul heard from martyred Stephen’s witness of Christ crucified and risen; nevertheless, he rejected it to persecute the Church, and so to re-crucify the body of Christ. On the Damascus Road, Saul bore the same anger toward God as did Jonah for the affrontery of extending salvation for all people in Christ alone.

On the road Jesus, the enfleshed Torah of God, spoke to Saul through heaven’s blinding Light, affording a second chance for Baptism, sight, and apostleship. Whether Jonah’s anger at universal grace remained is unclear; Paul however glorified God as “least” of the brothers and Apostle to the Gentiles (1 Cor. 15:9, Eph. 3:8).

Paul urged the Corinthian’s to remain committed to Christ’s victory even while continuing to suffer attack. Paul would have us understand God’s activity in Christ; his blood, Spirit in water and word for making us new creatures for a new creation. This is the sight to which Christians are called by the Church’s Light.

Paul sheds more light, saying “let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29b). Sinful men and women marry in the world where men are wont to arbitrary dominion, and women desire a husband’s authority. But the Baptized marry “in Christ”, the font of forgiveness in sacrificial love intended for the marital union. Men live with wives, as Christ loves his church; and wives love husbands as the Church loves her Lord having given for her his all.

Paul continues, “[A]nd 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” (vv. 30b, c, 31). It is vanity to rejoice in the things of a dying world being remade. Rather we rejoice in God’s abundant word; and not squander Christian joy toward the world’s passing stuff that merely delights decaying flesh.

You have been plucked from the abyss of Satan’s kingdom that distracts from what God has done for your eternal inheritance in Christ; in that Joy and those riches is your delight and hope. Amen.