Healing the Divide

 

Epiphany 3B’21

24 January 2021

Mark 1.14-20

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

 

          “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent,

               and believe in the good news.” – Mark 1.15

In the midst of all earth’s bad news God has brought Good News, such wonderful Good News, and here’s the best part - we have been invited to join God in spreading the word of a Kingdom that’s literally “out of this world.”  

In the first century the Church was born during one of most brutal regimes the world has ever known, the Roman Empire – with Caesar the people had no vote – there was only his “divine decree.” According to the empire, Caesar wasn’t just a narcissist but a god! As we know it was during this time that many lost their lives in the coliseum of Rome. The stakes were never higher but the light was never brighter, and this drew thousands upon ten thousands to become followers of Christ.

Throughout history we can see where the Kingdom of God broke into the kingdoms of this world and manifested the Light and Love of God in the midst of the darkness and hatred of humanity. Throughout history, the Church, Christ’s living body consisting of all the true followers of Christ, has continued to do what it does best, entering the scenarios of darkness and bringing the Light and Love of the Good News in the midst of all the bad news, During the recent attack on the Capitol, right in the middle of the mob, there was a yellow sign that read, “Jesus Saves.” Regardless of the motives of the person carrying the sign, it asserts the Truth: In every divide within our own souls, our nation, and the world there is a God who is sent to save us, who can make a Way where there is no way, and can lead us all from death to Life! 

During the period of reconstruction following the Civil War an African American spiritual was written pointing to the Good News of reconciliation that was so desperately needed and still is today:

In Christ there is no East or West,

In him no South or North;                                                                          

but one great fellowship of love,

throughout the whole wide earth.[1]

On the cover of today’s order of service there is an image specifically chosen to illustrate what God calls us, and all those who long for better days to do. The biblical word is “Repent,” metanoia in Greek, to describe the call to turn around, to make an about face. With Peter and Andrew, James and John we see in today’s gospel, Christ’s call to repent, to turn around and leave the old familiar and well-worn path of dog eat dog, and to follow him in the Way of Love.

I love the way Fr. Thomas Keating defined Repentance: Repentance means “changing the direction in which you are looking for happiness.”[2] As an old saint who had weathered many trials and was close to death once said, “It took me a long time to realize how many ways there are to be unhappy in this life. May it not take you nearly as long to find it out!” Fr. Thomas Keating described these unhappy pathways as the “false programs for happiness” based on our legitimate needs but corrupted by the darkness around us, and by our own egos. He placed these programs into the following categories: 1) the need for security and survival 2) the need for affection and esteem and 3) the need for power and control.

These days are not so different from many that have come before it, human nature is predictable: bad things continue to happen to good people, wars and rumors of war continue, natural disasters continue, humans continue to split into opposing tribes and demonize all those who are from different tribes.

But the God of Love calls us to repent - to change the direction where we are looking for happiness: Our own security and survival, our own affection and esteem, and our own power and control, and to turn toward Christ and toward others and to accept his call to follow and to “fish for people” – this is our calling and this is our mission, to bring the Good News of God’s kingdom that isn’t about our own power, control, esteem, or our own survival but about “the one great fellowship of love, throughout the whole wide earth.”

I will give Amanda Gorman, the last word, she is the Youth Poet Laureate, who shared her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration:

“There is always light, if only we’re

 brave enough to see it.

 If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

 



[1] Oxenham, John, The Hymnal 1982 (Church Publishing: New York) #529

[2] www.contemplativeview.com

 

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