“A Lifetime of Moments” Mark 1:14-20 ~
Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Northwood United ~
January 31, 2020
So many moments that comprise a lifetime: that moment the sun rises over the crest of the hill and you see light; that moment the tea kettle whistles; that moment of cheering celebration; that moment a tear wells us and cascades down one’s cheek; that moment when we take our first breath…and that moment when we take our last. Our life is threaded together by a series of…moments: some of moments profoundly memorable, others not so much, and most…somewhere in the middle. Before us unfolds a lifetime of moments.
There is a juxtaposition of odd liminal moments in this morning’s gospel text which Kathleen read for us. Here we are at the very commencement of Jesus’ public ministry…the moment when it first begins. And Jesus’ words at this beginning moment in time are “the time is fulfilled”. THIS is the moment. We are already here. What our ears query? As hearers of the story, we are baffled. How can the beginning moment of the gospel story also be the moment when the fulness of time arrives? How can THIS moment be THAT moment for which we have always awaited. The gospel story is just getting started. No disciples have yet been called. No miracles performed. No teachings offered. No healings performed. Yet, THIS is THAT moment…“the time is fulfilled”. I think we discover this morning what an odd spiritual teacher Jesus is as we gain insights into the moments in life: how we are to are to live fully in each one; how we are to find within them; and how we might an unfolding of grace as we glimpse the moments to come.
Treat each moment like it is important…because it is
So, how might we live with the moments we are given? Treat each moment like it is important…because it is. Through the season of Epiphany, we have been considering some of the moments God’s light shone upon God’s people…calling them forth. The moment the wise men chose to follow a star, the moment Jonah chose to follow a call that he really didn’t want to, the moment Samuel followed a call that he ill equipped. Moments of God’s light shining and God’s people responding. This morning’s passage contains the call of the first disciples: two sets of brothers…Simon and Andrew, James and John. They were faithfully attending to their day in / day out profession as fishers. These were already important moments as their work provided for their families, people depended upon them, other employees depended on them. Yet this was more than just an everyday moment at the family seaside business. This was THE moment when they received the calling to their next vocation. It was the moment when they became Jesus’ disciples. We have no information telling us that they were called for their extraordinary talents or charismatic gifts. We can only see this as an ordinary moment in one’s life made extraordinary by Jesus’ call! John Calvin, the great theologian from the 16th Century referred to these first disciples as “rough mechanics” whom God called in order to show that none of them were called by virtue of their talents or excellence. They were not outstanding before their calls, they were extraordinary because God’s call extended to them in their humanness. In fact, later in the story, they will question Jesus, fail their callings and betray him, AND will slowly be further transformed into followers over time. This is the moment we realize that God’s call is universally extended to all God’s followers…for God needs us one and all.
I know that we ALL have profound moments when God’s call breaks into the ordinariness of life calling us in new direction. These moments are offered…if we listen. Poignant moments sitting at the seashore of our lives and we feel the divine whisper breaking into the moment…“follow me”. Moments of call that change everything: your career path…your next life’s decision…the way you live within your family…within your community…within your world…what you choose buy…how you choose to treat the earth. And into those seaside moments when you are going about the day to day business of mending your nets and preparing for a days fishing…that poignant moment a whisper is offered: “follow me.” What are those call moments you have received? How has God spoken in those moments throughout the course of your life? As we go about our day to day, we are well advised to treat each moment as sacred, being ready in the moment, because each moment can be one when God’s whisper is offered to you!
Take heart…each moment is not the only moment
There is a consideration that arises from examining those liminal moments that we receive throughout our lives. And this consideration brings great comfort and relieves a lot of stress. Each of these liminal moments when God calls will NOT be the last that God will take to speak. God will continue to speak, to shape, and to persist in the holy moments that will continue in your life’s journey. Reading ahead, we learn that these 4 disciples may say “yes” today at the seashore, but they don’t do a very good job of following through. Jesus’ rag tag band of disciples constantly underwhelm and underperform. They misunderstand what Jesus says, they backslide on their instructions, they stumble, they fall, and in Jesus’ moment of need…they deny him. Do you ever think for a moment that Jesus pondered on trading up and getting a new set of 12? Do you ever think that Jesus had a quiet conversation with God ~ ‘God give me some disciples that are truly worthy!’ The gospels offer no such thought! Jesus calls them, equips them, supports them, and NEVER gives up on them. The life of the disciples is a living reminder that these liminal moments are not the only moments God chooses to speak. God’s encouraging voice continues…when they stumble and fall…it continues. When they get confused and disorientated…it continues. When they get depressed and lost…God continues to speak. We can take heart that God never stays silent. We don’t get one chance to hear God’s voice; we get many!
As I think about it, faith is made up both of those moments that we say “yes”…AND…also of those moments when we didn’t. Faith is shaped in the “yes” moments and in the “no” moments as well. Paul, in his letter to Rome, puts it this way: “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). You can’t give God’s whispering call back and God won’t take it back either. These moments continue on…and on…and on in our lives. There is good advice counselling us to be gentle with ourselves here. We, like the disciples, will not always hear God’s call the first time. But it will come around again. We, like the disciples, will mess things up royally. And we will find in our God the grace in forgiveness, the hope in persistence, and the committed love in a patient Creator who yearns to birth the Kingdom through each of us.
Take heart…in each moment there is hope to be found
Finally, there is a source of deep pastoral comfort that yearns to be released from this text. Perhaps, in consideration of the current pandemic situation, the entire sermon should have focused on this reality. That comfort is that in each moment…in each and every moment, there is an oasis of hope to be found for our struggles. When Jesus announces that “the time is fulfilled”, he is collapsing the past, the present and the future into that one moment ~ “the time is fulfilled”. In the mystery of God’s time the future hopes are realized, the past brokenness is healed, the present becomes this divine gift from our God who is hope
Isn’t this the gift of God that we find when we truly and fully connect with God? In those uncertain moments in our lives…when we fully connect with God, there is a moment of hope. In our moments of uncertainty, when we let God ‘in’ and God is fully here, we have the capacity for a deep knowing that ‘all will be well’. These are moments of true knowing…of true hope. When the fullness of time, the depth of hope, the full presence of God is around you and within you and you somehow know that all will be will…for God is here. Have you ever experienced those moments? What were they for you? Maybe there were moments spent in the hospital, gathered around bedside and a feeling that ‘all will be well’. Whatever happens…all will be well. Or perhaps other times? At the ending of a relationship….at the ending of a life…as a child leaves the nest….in those moments of transition…In all these times that as the heart breaks and life gets so difficult…that…even then…in the fullness of this moment with God’s presence…‘all will be well’. It is put so perfectly in that hymn we love to sing: “in our end is our beginning…in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity
Pastorally, we comfort the distressed with assurances that the divine help they hope for is already present. In the mystery of this moment, the past, present and future collapse and God is fully here “the time is fulfilled” and ‘all will be well’.
Your life is a tapestry of moments to be lived and savoured. Liminal moments of God’s whispering call “follow me”. Persistent moments that continue throughout your life’s journey guiding you through the ebbs and flows of this difficult life we live. Comforting moments in the struggles of life are encountered, when God is fully present, and you somehow know that all will be well.
Thanks be to God for the moments which, pieced together, comprise a well-lived life. Amen.