Time to Repent
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
A sermon based upon Jonah 3: 1-5,10; Psalm 62 and Mark 1:14-20
We read Mark’s account of Jesus calling upon the first disciples and is similar to what we read in John’s Gospel last week. Yet let us focus upon verses 14 and 15.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God and saying “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”
There are some juicy bits in these verses. First, this talks about how John was arrested, this is a point in the life of Jesus. A time that cannot be undone and perhaps a defining moment. This is the time for Jesus.
I can think of times in my life when something happened that made me change the way I was thinking and doing. When we go through life knowing things aren’t the way we would like, things seem stale, or people get away with too many things. Then there is that moment when something happens when we can no longer ignore or kick the can down the road. It is a moment when we have to stop, recognize and really consider our next step.
To give you an example, I was always getting involved with organizations around Eastern Iowa as a volunteer worker and board member. Then there was a call for help with the Pride Festival in Iowa City. People showed up to the meeting at a coffeehouse, and there was plenty of debate of what to do and how to do it. Arguments were rising. Then, there was this question of who wants to lead this. There seemed like a collective step backwards, and I must not have got the cue in my sip of coffee. I looked around, saw the mountain of work and said ok let’s do this.
Suddenly, I was the coordinator with only a few months to put this together.
We gathered into common effort and divided tasks among us. With plenty of leg work with colleagues and friends, we successfully pulled it together. There were snafus as always, but it was an experience going from relative obscure backbench to full visible leader – (that year and the next).
It is times like these that define us. Times where we can go back, remain stale or remain relatively obscure; or we can recognize, change direction, and take the step forward.
Addicts might relate to this as “moments of clarity” because in moments of test and darkness, we see a light - a truth where we see what has been and can no longer be. Time to change, time to turn, time to repent.
I think that is measure of what happens in these lines because Jesus’s good friend and cousin, John has just been arrested for speaking truth to power (against Herod). Jesus knows this is the time - the time to fulfill. Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is near, to “repent and believe in the good news.”
This is a reckoning – “enough is enough” moment (as Prof Skinner says) – but it is more than just enough of what has been – but recognizing what can be and my part in it. This is the time - the time to repent – to change.
Repent is often used negatively with connotations of personal punishment, confessions of sin, admittance of guilt, but also in that is a recognition – a recognition of our sin that separates us from the divine and from our sacred duty to neighbors. There is a recognition that we have let materials and complacency distract us. This is a recognition of a better way and to turn towards the light, turn towards the promise of God.
We have been preparing for this time all for a long time - for this time all of our lives. This is the time to repent. This is the time to fish for something greater than ourselves.
This is the time we recognize God is calling us to get busy, to turn away from complacency, to turn away from material weights, to turn way from the accustomed distractions, and to say “enough.” (Time we cannot sit on the backbench.)
This is time to turn towards God, to turn towards Truth, and to turn towards God’s way and justice. We don’t have to wait for another time because we have right now- right here- when God’s kingdom is near.
Thus we are called not only personally but as a community into loving, prayerful and courageous action. For the world needs us; our community needs us; and our church needs us! We need us, in this moment, with no more ignoring or neglect. This is our time!
So repent isn’t just about my personal failings and building anew but also revelation - what we can do together recognizing were we have collectively failed; were we ought to improve; and what we do.
The time is fulfilled when we take that personal step and that collective step because we recognize that kingdom we seek is among us. We ought to change our hearts and lives so that we might truly hear the good news.
Turn around, step forward, take hold of something better in your life, in our lives. Let’s do this. The moment is here, that is part of the power of Epiphany and revelation. The moment is here whether you grieve and hurt or success and joy. There is something for you in this moment.
Through repentance our perspective changes from being frail, broken or tired into seeing the possible, the opportunity, and the promise of God. It is our time to roll up sleeves; it is time to get to work. Lean into the good news today and let it open your hearts into the possible – into the presence of God.
We know people that don't see and wont change destructive words or ways. We can do our best to influence them. Ultimately, that is not up to us - but them and their relationship with God. For ourselves, we won’t ever get it perfectly, but be not discouraged, for God is here among us. God’s peace is accessible right here. When we recognize God is among us, we have taken the first steps away from obscurity, hard times, dark places, and misery. When we recognize God is among us, when you open your mind to this possibility, your mind will be blown with God’s reality and God’s peace is available to you.
So believe in the good news, let your mind be blown and let the kingdom break forth into our midst to overcome hate, grief and injustice. Let the good news set you free.
Then in our community, we collectively reveal that presence so evident there is no mistake that God’s promise is here – the peace, the liberation, and love is here – even in the midst of chaos.
So turn today towards God’s presence together, see your neighbors, see God’s Beloved, see all God’s children. See the truth and possibility in each of us.
We have been in this past year of continuous waiting for something: vaccine, justice, and calmer living. We can have that calm today. “Trust in God, trust all times, O people. Pour out your heart” for God is our refuge. “That Power belongs to God” and God’s steadfast love is for you.
Maybe that is why Amanda Gorman’s poem is so powerful,
“When day come, we step out of the shade,
Aflame and afraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light
If only we’ re brave enough to see it
If only we’ re brave enough to be it.”
The time is fulfilled, the time to change is now, the good news is here.
Are you brave enough to see it,
Are you brave enough to be it?
Thanks be to God.