Whose time? God’s time.

Date: January 21, 2018

To: Saints’ Delight United Church of Christ

Re: Whose time? God’s time.

Hebrew Scripture: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 14-20

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Whose time? God’s time.

Good afternoon, Happy Sunday Church!

On this day, I bring you greetings in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesucristo.  I greet you in the name of our Creator whom I call God. And in the name of God who resides in each of us whom I name Holy Spirit!

My name is Rev. Elivette Mendez Angulo and I serve as Co-Pastor of Manantial de Gracia “Spring of Grace” UCC in West Hartford, CT, alongside The Rev. Dr. Maritza de Gonzalez.

I have the honor of serving as staff Storyteller for The Franklinton Center at Bricks here in North Carolina where I have learned in a physical way what it means to harvest God’s overflowing bounty.

Finally, I bring greetings on behalf of the national setting of the United Church of Christ, where it is my honor to serve on the Justice and Local Church Ministry Team as National Coordinator of Encuentros de Gracia y Bienvenida. Where I have the gift and responsibility of talking about Authentic Welcome as it relates to the intersection of Sexual Orientation and Latinx Identity and how it is through our faith in Christ that we are held up in order to keep that work going!

Did you hear me say Happy Sunday Church!!!! I greet you and thank you for welcoming all of who I am: both the named and the unnamed. This sermon is titled: Whose time? God’s time.

Urgency: Mark

Today’s Gospel Reading, can be found in Mark 1: 14-20 (NIV)

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Who did they follow?

The Bible says they followed Jesus!

In whose time?

God’s time.

Not their own time… the Bible does not say that they went home and changed out of their clothes into something more appropriate or comfortable, it does not say that they grabbed their makeup bag, it definitely does not mentioned them having a couple of farewell parties to celebrate their departure. The Bible simply says, “AT ONCE THEY LEFT AND FOLLOWED HIM.”

They make that sound oh so simple!

I am pairing the Mark passage alongside Jonah 3. These two readings have a similar concern over time, though they differ in their application.

Mark seems to name an urgency to response time. Jesus shows up in Galilee and proclaims the good news that “time is fulfilled… and the kindom is near.” Each person to whom he speaks and calls out to in invitation, there is an urgency, “FOLLOW ME… and immediately they follow. They drop everything and everybody and simply follow.

Time seems to be standing still in anticipation of an urgent response. There is no hesitation. They follow. It is almost as though they have spent generations and lifetimes waiting for the invitation, anticipating their calling, preparing to be called to action. And now, finally it is time…

What has God been preparing you for? I know that there is a call in each of you and I wonder how and if you have been preparing to respond without hesitation.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves!

Hard Heads: Jonah

Let’s look at Jonah 3: 1-10 (NIV)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

It did not happen on the first try. Jonah heard the call to Nineveh more than once. This is the second time God has called him to action and he finally relents and does what God called him to do.

If you read this passage it almost helps you forget that exactly what Jonah feared would happen happened!

Let us remember the story of Jonah in the large fish. Jonah is called to action by God in Jonah 1: “get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgement against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

And God tells him turn left, Jonah turns right… going in the opposite direction Nineveh. The story contends that not only did he go in the opposite direction but he even put his finances into action by finding a ship, buying a ticket, boarding said ship and attempting to escape from God’s time and God’s purpose and as he shared with the sailors, he was running away from God. How many of us can identify with this story?

I remember being a child growing up in church and hearing the whisper of a calling. And I remember that whisper turning into noise that would not stop sounding. And I remember being afraid of it. So afraid that instead of going to Roanoke College to study ministry as I had planned, I joined the military, got married, travelled the world, divorced all while attempting to quite the roar of a storm that was my calling…

And that calling never left me.

Jonah on that boat, running from God, slept through a storm and was awakened by nonbelievers who knew that they were not responsible for the chaotic noise of a brewing storm that threatened their very lives. They tried to save him and themselves! Instead of crying out to the gods of their knowledge they cried out to Jonah’s God pleading with God “don’t hold us responsible for his death…we know you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reason… don’t have us to die for his sin… finally they had no choice but to throw Jonah into the tumultuous waters of a raging sea in the middle of the storm… and then the sailors vowed to serve God! And Jonah landed in a great big fish!

Time is God’s to control. And Jonah sat in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights. No urgency. God simply put Jonah into safekeeping! A timeout if you will… where he could settle back into himself… where he could pray once more. And when Jonah could once more step into his purpose, proclaiming that he would fulfill his vows; “The Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

And Jonah delivered God’s message to Nineveh. And the people believed him. And the people, remembering the ways in which they could be better, did better. And they fasted, turned from their evil ways, and showed their sorrow. And their human king decreed that all would wear mourning garments and pray… trusting that if God chose to, they could yet be spared!

Whose time? God’s time.

And when God saw them do better, God changed the plan. And spared them their lives.

And Jonah, who had been spared by God from a storm by being granted sanctuary inside a giant fish, threw a tantrum. And it was not a holy tantrum for justice but rather it was the tantrum of a man who knew all along God could spare them their lives and was upset because God “was a merciful and compassionate God, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.”

Church, you are making decisions about your future. Walking the soil and planning your new sanctuary… but in this time, remember to stay focused on God. That God’s will be done in this season. That even as you plan for a future that you can’t yet imagine, dream of, or anticipate… This is God’s time. And there is a God plan for the now.

Look to the future, pray for that glimmer of hope needed to help guide you to God’s plan for that future, and in the midst of that, be like Jonah inside the big fish… pray, fast, feel, and do.

Because in a future that you cannot yet imagine, you, your church, your children, your sanctuary will have to live into their own response to God’s call. With urgency. Without delay, leaving everything behind and following Jesucristo, surefootedly towards God’s plan.

Amen.

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