Benediction Online

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mark 1:14-20

Repent and Believe the Good news!

Last week and again today we see Jesus calling his disciples. Assembling the core group of people who would be formed into the beginnings of the Church and through whom Jesus would be formed into the person he became. Because Jesus was as human as he was divine and we humans are formed in our relationships. It is in relationship that we become ourselves. The people we spend time with influence how we behave and who we become just as we influence who they become. So Jesus called a group of people not only in order to teach them but also because in the community they created he would be formed and supported in his ministry.

God is fundamentally relational. The Trinity is not static, like a never changing divine seating arrangement but is in constant motion, constant relationship. As the Maker pours out love to the Word so the Word pours out self-giving love to the Maker and the movement of their mutual love is the very nature of the Holy Spirit. Since we are made in God’s image, we too are made and called to be relational not only with each other but with God.

This is more than ‘having a relationship’ with a God who is separate from us. We, and the whole of creation, are part of God’s love. It is as though we are the result of the loving words that pass between the persons of the Trinity. In the Genesis account of creation we hear that God spoke and through God’s speech the world came into being. Jesus is the Word of God, and John’s gospel tells us that through him all things came into being. So it was through the loving Word of the Maker that the whole of creation is brought into being.

This isn’t a process that happened in the past and then God went off to do something else… but a process that is still happening. Creation is still happening. The world is still being brought into being by God’s loving Word. God’s love is the source of all that has existence. But the way God makes things is different from the way we make things because God gives creation its own life. God does not make a dragonfly and then have to make its wings flap very hard so that it will fly; God’s Word gives it its own life so that it can fly for itself.

God gives us life too; life that we can choose how to use. Since we are created through the word of love which the Maker is always whispering, then the closer we choose to live to that same resonance, the more we chose to love then the more fulfilled we become… the more we become the people we were created to be. But of course our tendency is not to do that. Our tendency is to be self-centered and sinful. The more sinful we become the less clearly we are able to hear God’s words of love.

Jesus’ initial message in today’s gospel reading was simple, “Repent and believe in the Good News.” In order to know our participation in the ongoing relationship of Love which is the life of creation we need to repent - to repent of our tendency to put ourselves first, our tendency not to want to hear, our tendency to get caught up in distortions of greed, power and laziness.

Repentance is not the same as confession. Most Sundays we say the Confession together, we confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness which is freely given. But that is only one step. Repentance involves three steps. It involves a change of heart, confession and a change in behavior, which may be actual physical behavior or a change in the way we think. ‘Repent and believe the Good News’ suggests changing our minds so that we no longer believe that we are separate from God but realize that we are part of God’s self-giving love, an expression of that loving Word.

When we know ourselves as an expression of God’s love, so we can be Word-bearers to each other, we can live in such a way that God’s love is expressed through us and others can experience the Word in and through us. This happens in practical expressions of love, but we also experience love not in what people do but in the quality of who they are.

This is especially important for those of us who are aging and finding we don’t have the energy we used to have. We can express the loving Word of God through working in the Abundance Shop, playing with the grandchildren or collecting food for the food bank. It can also be expressed through writing letters and sending emails in support of social justice issues or talking to your friends about your experience of God’s love. But just as God’s self-giving love is the expression of who God is, so our goal is to make Love the expression of who we are.

God does not have to do anything to be in a relationship of love. That is the essential nature of the Trinity. When we are in our ‘natural’ state we too are able to express loving relationship by the very quality of our being. Unfortunately we are not in our ‘natural’ state. It is something we have to work towards. Becoming Word-bearers for each other takes hard work and discipline. But the wonderful things is that it IS our natural state – it is the way we were made to be, so the closer we get to it, the more ourselves we feel and the more we experience life bubbling up inside us.

But we have developed a distorted idea of what ‘natural’ means. So reclaiming our natural state means letting go of many of the things that seem natural. It means letting go of grudges. It means forgiving other people and ourselves, not holding on to guilt. It means noticing when we gossip or when we make unkind judgments about other people and changing our behavior. It means noticing when we get grumpy and irritable, and working to let go of the things that keep us getting angry and bad-tempered.

As we allow ourselves to trust God’s love we are able to let go of the fears and the idols, that things that help us to feel secure but obscure the Spirit’s invitation to us to be real persons. In our world loving has become a dangerous thing. We know what happened to Jesus. Self-giving love seems to go against self-preservation. But God’s love emboldens us, it enables us to free ourselves from all the things that hold us back from living fully.

Repentance is the first step. Repentance is not something that happens once in a lifetime or even once a week. It is a daily, even an hour by hour process of change, which enables us to become clearer and clearer in ourselves so that we can hear God’s loving Word and we can be bearers of the Word to each other.

Let us today repent and believe the Good News!


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