January 26, 2003
Repent and Believe in
(Mark 1: 14-20)
Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C. and spoke in front of the U.S.
Capitol at the national march against the war to over 200,000 people.
It was very exciting. I felt like Jonah in the first reading, calling
the people of Ninevah to repent, saying that we should repent of the sin
of war, welcome God's kindom of peace and love our enemies, as Jesus says,
not bomb them. I hope and pray that like the people of Ninevah, we will
all turn from our evil war making ways and seek the peace of God.
Today, we hear the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, how Jesus picks
up where John the Baptist left off, after John's arrest, so I'd like to
look at what Jesus says and does and see what it means for us today.
We're told that Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming "the Gospel of
God." We're so use to that word "Gospel," that it's lost its original
meaning. But in those days, when the Roman empire went off and conquered
another land in the name of their god Caesar, and killed all the men,
raped all the women, and destroyed all the homes, the soldiers would come
back parading through the land announcing "the Gospel according to Caesar," the
Good News of the latest victory of Caesar, that another land has been
conquered for their god Caesar, and that Caesar's enemies have been killed.
Here Mark writes that Jesus dares announce that "the Gospel of God," in
direct violation of the Roman empire, in direct contrast to the Gospel
of Caesar. Mark says that the story of this itinerant preacher, this peaceful
revolutionary, executed by the Roman soldiers, is the real Gospel, the
real good news, the real victory. That would have been shocking to the
original hearers of the Gospel.
Then, Mark explains that Jesus has a basic keynote speech with four specific
messages: "The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent
and believe in the Gospel."
The New Testament, as you know was written in Greek, and it has two words
for time, chronos, meaning "chronological time," and kairos, meaning, "the
urgent, present moment, the time beyond time, the time of fulfillment,
the end time, the time of God." Christ always speaks of the kairos moment. "The
Kairos is here," he announces. We are no longer living in chronos time
but kairos time, the time of God. It's very dramatic.
Then, he says, "The kingdom of God is at hand." Throughout the Gospels,
Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. I think we can never think and talk
about it enough. What does the kingdom of God mean for you? How do you
imagine God's kingdom? What do you think it will be like? Do you want
the kingdom of God to be at hand? For Jesus, the kingdom of God means
God is at the center of life, which means we are filled with God's love,
that we walk in the light and love of God, which means we love everyone,
we serve everyone, forgive everyone, live in perfect nonviolence and peace
with everyone. And this nonviolent kingdom is here, right now this very
minute. It's as close as your hand, which you use to reach out to serve
others, to greet others with the sign of peace, to receive Jesus in the
Then, Jesus starts saying exactly what John the Baptist commanded, "Repent." Repentance
comes from the Greek word "Metanoia," which means, "turn around, stop
what you are doing and go in the other direction, change the direction
of your life." Jonah called the people of Ninevah to repent and they did.
Jesus calls us to repent, too, to stop rejecting God, to stop hurting
one another, to stop supporting the Gospel of empire, to stop supporting
the war making culture and to welcome God's kingdom of love.
Finally, Jesus says, "Believe in the Gospel." We are supposed to believe
what Jesus says. I think part of us believes the Gospel and part of us
does not believe the Gospel. Part of us does not trust God, does not want
to forgive those who hurt us or love our enemies or take up the cross
of resistance to injustice, but Jesus wants us to believe it completely,
to make it come true, to dedicate our lives to his Gospel.
Then Jesus calls the fishermen, saying, "Come after me and I will make
you fishers of men and women." They drop everything, leave their work,
and follow him.
Today, Jesus says to us: "Drop everything and come after me. Walk in
my footsteps and welcome God's kingdom of love on earth."
So I invite you to reflect on the kingdom of God, the command to repent
and the call to discipleship, to ask yourselves, "When did Jesus call
me to follow him? When did I drop my nets, leave my boat and start following
Jesus? What do I like about Jesus that enables me to leave everything
and follow him? How can I repent and take another step forward on my discipleship
journey to the nonviolent Christ?"
I hope and pray that we will all repent from the social sin of violence
and destruction like the people of Ninevah, that we will drop everything
to follow Jesus like those fishermen and welcome God's kingdom of nonviolent
love in our hearts and in our world.
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