Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  January 24, 2021

Scripture Readings:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

The Lord’s word came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” 3 And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.)
4 Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant.
10 God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.

Mark 1:14-20

14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”
16 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19 After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

I.      Mark’s gospel barely starts and already John the Baptist is in jail!  He preached a little, and baptized Jesus — then he’s gone!  He told people that when they repent of their sins — ask forgiveness — they are forgiven.    But we only see him for just five verses, and he’s arrested and Jesus is tempted by Satan and starts his ministry.  Saying pretty much the same message as John — repent and believe the good news!

II.     But let’s back up a little— why was John arrested?  Mark doesn’t seem to care — doesn’t say a word about it.  Matthew gives a reason in his gospel — John condemned the marriage of Herod Antipas, who divorced his wife and married the divorced wife of his half-brother Phillip. 
        But Mark just keeps the focus on Jesus. He says, “John came and did this a little while.  And then Jesus came and took over.    And in the same verse where John goes to prison —Jesus says, “Good News!”  As if that’s a part of the good news, God’s plan.  Jesus said “The Kingdom of God Has Come Near!”  Is John’s arrest part of that Kingdom?

III.    By now you all know I don’t like watching weather reports on TV.  We are trained to see things as either/or. Either the sun is out and it's a good day, or it rains or snows and that’s bad.  As Joe Biden would say, “Come on man — give me a break!”  Please don’t tell me that if it rains my day is bad!!!!
        John did his work for four verses and that’s all God wanted him to do.  We have different missions here.  Some of us are done quickly, some of us have to stay around longer.  And it’s all the kingdom of heaven, God’s plan.
        John baptized, then was gone.  Then Jesus takes over.  So the Kingdom of Heaven continues — unfolding all around us.  Maybe we think prison is bad — like a rainy day.  Not in the gospel of Mark — even prison is part of God’s plan, heaven unfolding.  John was arrested, Jesus said,
 “Good News!  Heaven is near!  LOOK!  HERE IT IS!”

IV.     When we read the Bible — we see a different world, where being arrested and going to prison can be good news. If he hadn’t been arrested and put in prison, Martin Luther King Jr wouldn’t have written his letter from the Birmingham Jail, which inspired millions of people to follow King in making God’s will manifest on earth as it is in heaven.   
        Like John the Baptist did God’s work by preaching and baptizing, King did God’s work as a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.  His letter from jail has inspired millions of people to also seek justice and equality, peacefully —  Like Colin Kaepernick.  And all Kaepernick had to do was sit down.  No marching, no getting torn up by dogs, no rocks hitting his head.  All he had to do was sit down one day in July, 2016, during the National Anthem at a pre-season football game.  He sat down because he said America was not living up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.  And he was willing to sacrifice his money and career to stand by people like George Floyd who were denied dignity and justice.
         When Kaepernick protested  the whole football stadium became the kingdom of heaven.  Angels were singing —you couldn’t hear them, the booing was so loud — but the angels had a celebration!

V.      Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is here, right where you are and I are — now.  It’s here all the time — no need to wait till we die, no need to recite any special, magical words, no need even to say “I believe this…”. Or “I believe that…" 
        It’s already here.  And only one thing keeps us out of heaven — a heart that doesn’t love.  And that’s why Jesus came here — to show us how to love, and to convince us TO SAY YES to God’s grace which opens our hearts to love.  The kingdom of heaven —
          “LOOK!”  Says Jesus, “HERE IT COMES!”