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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
January 25, 2009
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
If  you  were  to  close  your  eyes,  you  could  see  it,  in  your  mind.  It  might  look  
something  like  this…   A  large,  familiar  place   where  the  window  is  open  and  a  
warm  breeze  blows  the  curtain  back  into  the  room.  The  wood  floors  are  swept  
clean,  and  early  morning  light  lands  softly  on  the  walls,  across  a  chair,  on  a  
bookshelf.   Outside,  leaves  rustle  in  the  wind;  the  scent  of  recent  rain  lingers  in  
the  air.   Off  to  the  east,  peeking  up  over  rough  and  craggy  hills,  a  red  ball  of  
sun  is  barely  rising  on  the  horizon.   A  bird  begins  to  sing  sharply,  sweetly,  urging  
us-and-all-beings  to  waken  from  our  slumber.      Can  you  see  it --  something  
splendid,  something  wonderful?    It  is  a  new  day…  …utterly  new…   dawning  
across   the  world,  refreshing  creation,  filling  the  earth  and  all  humankind  with  
hope  and  promise.   The  old  is  gone  now,  and  the  new  is  breaking  forth.     

Ahhh….  but  who  has  ever  seen  something  like  that  --  an  actual  “new  day”  
dawning,  a  day  existentially  unlike  all  other  days,  a  day  when  the  world  truly  
starts  over?  Is  that  possible?      Let’s  see  what  happens  in  today’s  gospel  
reading.   Initially  life  was  going-on  as  usual --  people  were  busily  headed  to  work,  
running  errands,  the  streets  were  jammed  so  that  nobody  could  pass  and  folks  
were  irritated.  Seeing  people  trapped  in  one  place,  local  beggars  took  advantage,  
sidling  in  among  stuck  travelers,  crying   “something  for  my  babies,”  showing  a  
crippled  leg,  a  withered  hand.    It  was  a  normal  day.  Children  sat  in  dusty  
courtyards  and  played  with  pebbles,  or  chased  each  other,  teased  the  neighbor’s  
goat.   Women  cooked  and  cleaned  and  watched  the  little  ones,  drew  water  at  the  
well  and  exchanged  news,  bits  of  things  overheard.  Clusters  of  people,  here and
there,  griped  about  politics -  the  Roman  occupation  -  dreamed  of  Israel  gaining  
independence.

Right  in  the  middle  of  their  ordinary,  common-place  life  -  on  this  day  that  was  no  
different  from  any  other  -  Jesus  of  Nazareth  walked  through  town  shouting:  “The  
time  is  fulfilled;  the  kingdom-of-God  is  near;  repent  and  believe  in  the  good  
news.”    What  was  that  all  about?   The  kingdom of  God  is  near?  In  what  way?  
Jesus’  great  announcement   did  not  unclog  the  traffic  jam,  did  not  put  food  in  the  
mouths  of  the  hungry,   did  not  relieve  the  women  of  their  endless  work,  did  not  
change  the  fact  that  Israel  lived  under  the  clenched  fist  of  Rome.   So  what  did  
he  mean  by:  “the  time  is  fulfilled,  the  kingdom  of  God  has  come  near?”   

In  their  most  literal  sense  the  words  meant  that  Jesus,  himself,  had  just  passed  
by.  Because  the  kingdom  of  God  begins  in  Jesus  Christ.  So  if  you  were  able  to  
turn,  to  see  ‘Jesus’  passing-by’  from  a  certain  vantage  point,  from  God’s  
perspective,  and  if  you  could  trust  what  you  saw,  you  would  know  that  much  
more  than  “Jesus  of  Nazareth”  had  brushed  against  you.  In  that  bodily  form,  God’
s  kingdom  itself  had  “drawn  near”  you,  had  come  very  close  in  your  town,  in  your  
life.   

Many  people  who  were  there  and  heard  Jesus  proclaim  those  bold  words  felt,  in  
their  bellies  and  their  bones,  that  something  new  and  different  was  initiated  when  
Jesus  said  those  words.   It  was  as  though  some  old  form  of  life  ended  and  a  
completely  new  way  of  living  began.   Jesus  walked  into  town,  announcing  that  the  
kingdom  of  God  was  near,  and  in  that  instant,  a  whole  new  day  dawned,  a  day  
unlike  any  day ever  known  before  on  earth.         

If  we  close  our  eyes,  we  can  see  it  clearly.  People  packed  into  every  inch  of  
green  space  on  the  enormous   mall  that  stretches  from  the  Lincoln  memorial  to  
the  Washington  monument  and  on  to  our  nation’s  Capitol  building.   Move  closer  in  
and  we  see  thousands  of  American  flags  waving;  still  closer  -  a  sea  of smiling  
faces -  black,  white,  brown;  we  see  former  presidents  being  introduced,  greeting  
the  gathering…  famous  musicians  making  lovely  music;  long  black  cars  driving  
slowly  down  wide  streets.  We  see  our  new  president  and  first  lady  standing,  
solemn  and  reverent,  as  the  peaceful  transition  of  power  takes  place  in  America.   

Last  week  was  quite  a  week  here  in  our  nation.  How  many  times  did  we  hear  
someone  say  “I  never  thought  this  would  happen  in  my  lifetime”   “I  never  thought  
I  would  live  to  see  this  day”?  That  sentiment  was  repeated  over  and  over  again  
at  the  intersection  of  two  momentous  days  -  the  observance  of  Martin  Luther  King’
s  birthday,  what  would  have  been  his  80th,  and  the  inauguration  of  our  44th  
president,  the  first  African-American  president  of  the  United  States  of  America.  
Both  occasions  were  celebrated  in  the  heart  of  our  nation’s  freedom  and  
democracy,  the  place  where  our  government  itself  is  conducted.   Some  two  million  
people  attended  the  inauguration  of  President  Obama,  and  when  he  was  
presented  to  the  crowds,  just  before  he  took  the  oath  of  office,  the  cheers  were  
deafening.  From  what  we  witnessed  at  the  inauguration,  it  appears  that  a  new  
day,  a  new  era  has  dawned  for  the  United  States  of  America.    There  is  hope  in  
the  air,  a  sense  of  possibility,  and  a  feeling  that  real  change  is  beginning  among  
us.

It  is  interesting  to  note  the  similarities  between  these  two  stories  -  between  how  
a  new  day  has  dawned  for  us  in  America  with  the  election  and  inauguration  of  a  
president  -  our  first  African-American  president -  who  inspires  many  people  to  
believe  that  change  for  the  better  will  be  achieved  if  we  all  work  together;  AND  
how  a  new  day  dawned  in  our  gospel  reading  among  the  people  of  Galilee  when  
Jesus  of  Nazareth  walked  by  and  said  “the  time  is  fulfilled,  and  the  kingdom  of  
God  has  come  near;  repent,  and  believe  in  the  good  news.”   There  are  similarities  
-  in  both  cases  some  people  received  the  message,  and the  message-bearer,  with  
hope  and  joy;  some  people  believed  what  they  heard  and  were  willing  to  accept  
the  challenge  that  goes  along  with  believing,  were  willing  to  invest  their  lives  in  
what  they  believed.      However,  there  are  dissimilarities, too.

Not  nearly  as  many  people  initially  believed  Jesus  as  are  fervently  believing  in  
President  Obama  right  now.  Although  some  followed  Jesus,  we  do  not  hear  about  
any  cheering  throngs.   And  Jesus’  message  is  unique;  it  gives  us  what  no  
government  leader,  however  capable,  is  able  to  give.   When  Jesus  says  “the  
kingdom  of  heaven  has  come  near  you,”  Jesus  himself  is  the  bearer  of  that  
kingdom.    When  Jesus  is  with  us,  the  kingdom  of  heaven  is  present  and  opened  
up  to  us.   Where  Jesus  is,  we  become  genuine  sisters  and  brothers  to  one  
another  --  through  him.   Where  Jesus  is,  the  hungry  are  fed.   Where  Jesus  is,  the  
crippled  walk,  the  prisoners  are  free,  and  the  broken-hearted  are  well  and  whole.   
Where  Jesus  is,  there  are  no  second-class  people,  nobody  gets  second-class  
justice,  or  “hand-me-down”  opportunities.   With  Jesus,  everybody  is  beloved,  
everybody  is  worthy  and  honored.   Jesus  brings  this  order  of  life  into  existence  
now.   This  is  how  life  is  in  the  kingdom  of  God.    So  when  Jesus  says  “the  
kingdom  of  God  has  come  near  you”  it  is  more  than  a  nice  thought  or  some  
pleasant  occurrence.   It  is  the  very  power  of  God  present  in  our  world.        This   
is  the  great  difference  --  no  political  leader  fills  our  lives  with  the  power  of  God,  
only  Jesus  does.  

You  and  I  are  doubly  blessed  because  we  live  in  both  of  these  spheres  --  the  
dawning  of  a  new  day  that  our  nation  is  experiencing,  and  the  new  day  that  God  
has  brought  about  in  the  person  of  Jesus.   There  is  a  genuine  “new  day”  in  our  
country  --  something  that  happens  to  a  greater  or  lesser  extent  whenever  we  
have  a  new  president.  With  each  new  president,  some  experience  a  “new  day”  
more  strongly  than  others.  But  for  every  new  president  there  is  a  sense  of  
possibility.  Our  history  under  this  leadership  has  yet  to  be  written;  this  president’s  
potential  has  yet  to  be  tested.  As  citizens  of  the  nation  we  each  have  a  role  to  
play  --  to  get  on  board  and  support  the  president,  his  agenda  and  programs,  
wherever  we  can;  to  be  involved  with  helping  solve  the  issues  facing  our  country  
however  we  can;  and  when  or  where  we  disagree  with  the  president  to  make  our  
criticisms  with  wisdom  and  clarity  of  thought,  for  the  good  of  the  whole  people.   

You  and  I  are  doubly  blessed  because  we  have  seen  and  believe  in  the  new  day  
that  only  God  can  bring  to  pass.   We  have  seen  Jesus  in  our  gatherings,  heard  
Jesus  announce  that  the  kingdom  of  God  has  come  near.  Right  here  in  our  every  
day  lives,  God’s  kingdom  has  brushed  up  against  us.  Nothing  special  was  going  
on,  we  were  simply  here  for  the  Vestry  meeting – trying  to  find  out  where  things  
stood  with  a  new  interim  Rector  or  with  the  Discernment  committee;  we  were  just  
here  making  turkey  dinners  and  distributing  them  around  the  neighborhood;  we  
were  hustling  the  kids  off  to  school  and  trying  not  to  be  late  for  work;  we  were  
trying  not  to  worry  too  much  about  the  economy  and  how  we’re  going  to  pay  the  
bills  this  month.  

Life  is  simply  going  on  as  usual.  On  Sunday  mornings  we  hope  to  steal  a  few  
extra  minutes  of  sleep  and  still  get  to  church  on  time;  we  wonder  how  cold  it  is  
this  morning,  if  there  is  ice  on  the  roads  and  dare  we  risk  getting  out  in  this  
weather;  we  hope  to  pay  attention  in  worship  and  not  think  too  much  about  the  
wonderful  food  that  awaits  us  during  coffee  hour…  when  suddenly,  there  is  
Jesus,  stepping  out  of  the  scripture   into  our  lives  steps,  touching  us,  easing  our  
sorrows,  lifting  our  spirits,  and  saying  “here  is  the  kingdom  of  God,  near  YOU!    
Don’t  turn  away,  but  grab  onto  it,  believe  in  its  presence  and  trust  that  its  
promises  are  true  for  you,  in  this  day  and  time.”   Jesus  announces  the  arrival  of  
God’s  kingdom,  calling  us  to  look  and  see  what  is  happening,  urging  us  to  throw  
off  hesitation  and  believe  the  good  news.  Despite  the  things  we  see  all  around  -  
the  pain,  the  sorrow,  the  conflict,  the  hardship,  the  uncertainty  -  God’s  righteous  
reign  has  entered  our  world,  our  town,  our  lives  and  we  can  entrust  our  whole  
selves,  body  and  soul,  to  God’s  kingdom  without  fear.  

Turn  from  cherishing  other  ways  of  living  and  accept  this  new  day,  this  new  life.  
Turn  and  believe  that  we  have  been  noticed -  all  of  us  from  the  lowliest  to  even  
the  greatest;  that  we  have  been  heard  -  from  those  who  suffer  most  to  those  
who  only  suffer  a  little.     Believe  that  the  kingdom  has  drawn  near  and  now  our  
hunger  is  filled,  in  Jesus;   our  wounds  are  healed,  through  Jesus;    we  are  freed  
from  our  imprisonment  by  Jesus.   The  time  has  come.  Jesus  has  drawn  near.  
Change  is  not  simply  possible,  it  has  already  happened.   We  have  been  changed  
from  forsaken  into  beloved,  from  sinners  into  sons  and  daughters,  from  strangers  
into  friends.       Let  us,  then,  accept  these  gifts  and  live  in  God’s  grace,  rejoicing  
that  we  are  found,   that  we  are  friends  in  Christ,  that  there  is  mercy  and  love  
and  joy  enough  for  all.                        amen.