We’ve been on holiday, God hasn’t.

Signpost for 25 January, 2015, Third Ordinary Sunday; Third Sunday in the Season of Epiphany: Jonah 3:1 – 5, 10; Psalm 62:5 – 12; I Corinthians 7:29 – 31; Mark 1:14 – 20.

This Sunday is not one that we usually had a Signpost for in the days of the Kamo-Hikurangi Local Shared Ministry Unit. It is one of the Ordinary Sundays, nothing special about it. And some of us thought God was on holiday too, and we eased off the routine a bit.

But this Sunday is quite an important one to those who were involved in that LSM. It marks the twelfth anniversary of the ordination of Betty Fyfe and Thelma Connor at St Isaac’s Church, Whakapara. It was also the day of the unveiling of the headstone of Queenie (Queen Esther Davis), mother of Thelma. What I remember best about that day is that Auntie Emma read the Epistle, and was brought forward to do so by the two candidates for the priesthood. Auntie Emma was in her late nineties then.

Whatever you make of the readings for today, you can really only do so in your equivalent of the worship that day at Whakapara. We might take off one Sunday from our usual place over the holidays and worship where our daughter usually worships, as I did last Sunday. But we need to go back to our church family and practice, among that familiar weird mob, the important things we share. And today’s important thing is repentance. And that must result in forgiveness, and that is quite a can of worms.

In Babylon in the sixth century before Christ lived, one of the exiles of Israel wrote the little satirical novella about Jonah. They were a busy people of faith. They were laying the foundations of the idea of the Synagogue. They were collating the stories they had brought with them, and writing them down on scrolls. We connect our worship to this because Jonah is read on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and we read it in the season of Epiphany. Jonah is not at all comfortable with his Epiphany!

So God finds it easier to bring the (non-Israelite) people of Nineveh to repentance than to bring Jonah the Israelite to obedience. And Jonah is called to trust God as the Psalmist does in today’s selection.

Paul is writing when most of the church expects the end of the world in their life-time. We sometimes act as if the end of our world is too far off to spend much time thinking about. But we must live with the reality of death, hard though that may be. That is a constant reality in the professional ministry. And in my extended family there have been two sudden deaths and a discovery of terminal cancer in the last six months.

In Mark, Jesus takes up the task of the arrested John and preaches repentance. I imagine Jesus loves and respects (his cousin?) John and is inspired by him. What sort of spur do we need to get on with our Christian duty? Is it the arrest or death of an iconic figure in our lives, or the threat of imminent death by ship-wreck?

A happy and thoughtful New Year to us all.

Andrew Brown

P.S. Happy New Year everyone. Here is the first Signpost of the year from Andrew. Lots of things have happened since last year and the good news for Signpost readers is that there are now four of us on the writing team. Welcome George Blanchard, who joins Sheila, Andrew and myself. A bit more variety for your delectation this year, then.
Blessings,
Paul

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