8/11/15 3 Before Advent/Remembrance Mark 1:14-20

Hebrews 9.24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Mark 1:14 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 is 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 make you fishers of men." 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.

On 8 May 1945 people celebrated VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). Crowds packed the streets, cheering, singing and dancing. There were fireworks and bonfires, speeches and Church services, parades and street parties. In London crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace where the royal family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared on the balcony before cheering crowds. In August 1945 Japan stopped fighting. On 2 September, the Allies officially celebrated VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day). World War 2 was over. Celebrations were held around the world. It was good news.

John the Baptist was in prison. He had come to prepare the way for Jesus. Something new was happening. Jesus was coming to the fore. Jesus was telling people about good news from God. Freedom from captivity and from the fear of death. Peace between people and God. A new start for people. The free and undeserved gift of forgiveness, a close relationship with God, acceptance, unconditional love.

This new way is reflected in our Epistle reading, which tell of the new covenant that Jesus would bring in through his once and for all sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world which has opened the way to heaven. It also refers to the coming Kingdom that Christ will bring in over the whole of creation when he returns to earth to bring salvation to those who follow Him.

When Jesus talks about the “kingdom or rule of God” in our gospel this referred to the way that the rule of God would be coming into people's hearts. The kingdom of God can have different elements, depending upon the context. Here it is followed by the response Jesus invites, “Repent and believe the good news”

 600 years before the prophet Jeremiah 31.33 looked forward to this. “This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. “

The word for repent, metanoia refers to a change of mind and direction. A U-turn from following our own desires to following God's ways. For many Jews at the time this meant turning from immoral behaviour to live better lives. For the Pharisees and religious leaders it meant turning from their pride, their reliance on good deeds and the Old Testament law and their ancestry to put them right with God. For all of them it would have meant a turning away from what they expected of the King who would bring in this kingdom. They expected Him to come, defeat the Romans and establish a prosperous earthly kingdom like the one built up by his ancestor King David. Yet, this was not the way of Jesus.

The Greek word pistyou-o translated believe is a trusting word. It is not an intellectual assent that someone exists. It is relying upon them.

Repent and believe calls for successive actions, but the action is really one act that involves two steps taken almost simultaneously. Repenting involves turning from something, and believing involves trusting in something else. For example, a drowning man who is clinging to a piece of wood needs to do two things when a lifeguard reaches him. He needs to release the wood and entrust himself to the lifeguard.

When John the Baptist called the Jews to repent, he urged them to abandon their former hope of salvation because the Lifeguard was there to save them.

We read how two groups of fishermen trusted in Jesus. They had met him before and they now immediately left everything, their jobs, homes, families, security, income, when Jesus invited them to follow Him. He promised them transformation. They wouldn't have been able to comprehend what this would mean, even when he promised that they would fish for people.

Jesus chose fishermen to be his first disciples. The rest would not have impressed a selection panel. Throughout the Bible, God followed a pattern in choosing His prophets. Seldom, if ever, did He choose an important, well known, or famous man. He always made His servants great, but at their beginning, they were nothing! Abraham was the son of a man who worshipped false gods in Ur of the Chaldees. Joseph was an insignificant boy despised by members of his own family who sold him into slavery. Saul was a farm-hand ploughing with oxen. David was an unimpressive boy who lived with his flocks. Amos was a herdsman. Saul of Tarsus was a terrorist! Why did God always choose insignificant people? So that God may be glorified and not His agents.

On 5th July we looked at 2 Corinthians 12 and how God allowed Paul to have a thorn in his flesh so Paul would rely upon God's grace, and Gods power be seen in Paul's weakness.

The Lord Jesus obviously needed assistants to carry His message throughout the land—the entire nation lay before Him. There were many educated and good men who it seems might have been better equipped for the tasks ahead. Yet Christ went to the seashore to find uneducated fishermen, and these He called to be His first disciples. They brought little but devotion and eagerness to serve, and these insignificant men He turned into giants through the gift of His Spirit!

That same Spirit is still at work today. He has been working here for 100 years/ nearly 900 St Mary's! He gives people the power to repent and believe in Jesus. He gives believers fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. The Holy Spirit gives people gifts to serve God and build up His Kingdom. Jesus' disciples had various gifts including the gift of evangelism, fishing for people. God gives gifts to His people today. He calls us, however inadequate we may feel. He can transform us. From trusting in ourselves to trusting in Him. From thinking that we can earn our way to heaven to knowing that Jesus has done everything we need to put us right with God.

God loves you and everyone. So much so that He became a human being, in order that we might be able to have a relationship with Him. To enter His wonderful Kingdom we just have to make Jesus our King. To put Him in front of everything and everyone else. We can experience transformation as we let His Spirit have His way within us. Our lives should be a continuing cycle of repentance and trusting in Jesus.

At the start of my talk I mentioned the celebrations that accompanied the end of the Second World War. On Remembrance Sunday we remember with gratitude those who sacrificed themselves to secure our peace, and we look to do all that we can to see that peace continues. Yet war, violence, hatred and hostility continue throughout the world. Central African Republic, Dr of Congo, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma-Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Israel-Gaza.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the spirit.

Violence and war will never win. Only through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus can people know true peace, that is to be found in their hearts. That peace with God is deep, high and wide. It brings security, knowing we are forgiven, loved and accepted. It brings a sense of purpose, we can live for God and not temporary things that will not endure or truly satisfy. It gives a secure future, knowing that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in heaven, verse John14.2f.

We can celebrate the peace that is ours, in Jesus, every day.

We can look to share this peace with others who do not yet know the peace of God in their hearts.

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