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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Time to Decide

The Third Sunday of Epiphany

The parabolic narrative of Jonah is a veritable treasure chest from which we will take but a few jewels.
    [from the Book of Jonah 3:1-5, 10]

The closest thing we have to a prophetic message is the scant:
"Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown"
There is an ironic pun here, as the Hebrew haphak which is translated as overthrown, also means to turn around or change ones' self. (This is one of many paradoxical twists and turns in the text.) In the story, it is the Assyrian foreigners who respond correctly to God, in stark contrast to the Jewish prophet. In light of this, another paradox, the unchanging God changes, too

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed His mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

They "turned;" shub  is the Hebrew word, it means turn, but it is also used to describe repentance. "They turned from their evil ways" can also be translated they repented. This triggers a change in God.

The Lord also repents. The Lord is sorry/repents--- nacham  is the same root as Noah and it means comfort, (and also regret, be sorry, comfort oneself, feel pity). This verb appears twice in Genesis 6:6, 6:7 where God tells Noah "I regret having made mankind." The Biblical God enters time in relating to His creation. I do not understand how God does this, but in the Bible we see, again and again, God living within the constraints of time. As such, within creation, God has made His acts contingent on our own. This is why prophets are sent, because God is willing to change, if, that is, we repent first.

[from Paul to Corinth, 1 Cor 7:29-31]
 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short"

systello to draw together, to diminish, to compact; to wrap with bandages. Occurs only Acts 5:6 (in reference to a man dying and being bandaged up and buried). Paul lays out a long argument in Corinthians that we must understand the right relationship between God's Kingdom and our own temporal circumstances. As I have said before, it is all ice sculptures. We must always keep one eye on eternity, because the day draws near, faster then we realize. Do not be caught unprepared.

[from Mark 1:14-20]
Jesus said..."The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news." 

kairos/time refers to the Day of the Lord. It is the day when God acts to establish His salvation. This refers to the end of the world; which was initiated by the incarnation: the ministry of Jesus and His cross, resurrection, enthronement. In light of that we must stay clear on the difference of chronos, the chronological time of earthly realms and kairos, the theologically charged concept of the fullness of time , when all is made one in Christ.
The term "has come near" can be understood as a temporal or spatial reference: engizo is found three times in Mark, here at the beginning of the Gospel, later in 11:1 "drew near Jerusalem," which signals the end of Jesus time on earth and 14:2 in the Garden where the passion begins, "my bertrayer is near." The connection of the cross/death of Jesus with the end of the world is alluded to through the word connecting these three verses.

Three passages from three different books, each reminding us that it is over. God has passed judgment on the sinful world and He calls, invites, even demands that we turn our lives around. Time is a deception. We are led to believe that there is always more time, that we can delay. The truth is, it may not be forty days, as in Jonah, but the time is compressed and the days do grow shorter and the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Very near.

The spiritual disciplines of a repentant Christians, pray, work, study, are our response to God's offer. We may be reluctant prophets like Jonah, but we must be clear that we do not have forever to decide to respond. Eventually, Nineveh was destroyed never to rise again. Jerusalem, too, suffered a similar fate when she failed to recognize Messiah. We are also given the same chance as they, a chance to change. We also have the same burden as the ancient prophets, to pronounce to those around us God's desire and intent.

Right now, God can change, but only if we change. He does not desire the death of the sinner, but that the sinner turn and live, but as history bears out, if the sinner chooses to obstinately stay the course of sin, then death and destruction are the final destination. Do we have forty days? Forty minutes? or forty years? No one knows for sure, but it is foolish to put off for another day what we should have done long ago!

Repent and turn to the Lord in faith.
Call others to the same
That is permanent, everything else is temporary!

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