Mother Este's Sermon
Epiphany 2021 (January 24)
After Jesus’ baptism, the heavens open and the Spirit descends. God calls out to Jesus, proclaiming that he is the Son of God, and then Jesus is driven by the spirit into the wilderness. Our Gospel begins just after this 40 day wilderness journey. In the very short version in Mark, only three things happen to Jesus during this time: He is with the wild beasts, he is tested by Satan, and angels minister to him.
And after he has been able to survive the company of wild beasts, and the temptations of the devil, and the angels have shown him the way, he is ready to begin his ministry on Earth.
At the very beginning of our gospel, Jesus comes to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.”
Last week’s story was about a calling, and this week’s story is as well. This is a story of the calling of the Kingdom of God.
Anyone who is a Christian has answered a call. Whatever it may seem like, it is a call to usher in the Kingdom of God, here, now, on this earth.
The Kingdom of God is a state of grace, where peace, prosperity, justice and plenty are manifest everywhere. The time and place of its arrival varies from gospel to gospel. Sometimes Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” And often it is seen as a future state of grace, which Jesus inaugurates with his coming. As he says, “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near.”
We can understand more of what Jesus thought the Kingdom was by the people he says it belongs to. He says it belongs to the little children. In the beatitudes he says it belongs to the poor, or in Matthew, for a more affluent crowd, to the poor in spirit. And he says it belongs to those who are persecuted because of righteousness. He also says, famously, that it is very difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.
So the Kingdom of God belongs to the very innocent- the very humble, but also to the very brave. The innocent have not yet experienced hate or violence. They are already living in the Kingdom of God. The poor have not much to their name but their humility. And those who hold onto innocence and love and justice in the face of persecution- well, they too are living in God’s Reign.
So this is our calling. To be as innocent as children and as brave as martyrs. And if we follow this difficult calling, ours too will be the Kingdom of God.
This, as Jesus’ disciples said, is a difficult teaching. Who can follow it? Well, we can all follow it, but we can only follow it imperfectly. Like the disciples, we follow it clumsily. We will often note that for all our good intentions, we too are sometimes, indeed of little faith.
Jonah the prophet, of our Old Testament reading, was specifically called by God to tell the people of Nineveh to repent. But when the people did repent, and God decided not to punish them, Jonah was so furious that he lay down under a bush and declared that he was angry enough to die. A very imperfect prophet of God. But he was surely called.
The disciples fought amongst themselves for power, and violently threatened to burn up some unwelcoming Samaritans. And, of course, Peter denied Jesus three times. And yet this greatest betrayer was the one Jesus called “my rock.” The very first bishop.
So as you consider your calling, don’t reject it because you will not do it perfectly. Do not reject it, as I initially did, because you feel yourself unworthy. If God did not feel you were worthy enough, she would never have called you, and you would not be a Christian.
Don’t think about it too hard. Just drop your nets and follow.