It’s About Time

It’s about time we stop blaming. It’s about time we stop blaming others and blaming God for what happens in this world. I love a good theological discussion anytime, I also value the time giving pastoral care. However, Jesus is doing neither of these in this passage from the Bible. For Jesus, it’s about time.
The question posed by some who come to Jesus is an age old question. It can be put this way, “What did those people do to deserve their suffering”? This time it was men killed while going about their religious duties. Jesus brings up another incident when a tower fell killing people just going about their life. Another time it is two towers in New York brought down by terrorists. Or other more natural disasters a tsunami in the South Pacific, in Japan, drought in East Africa. Again the unnatural–shootings– children in a classroom in Connecticut, worshippers in Oak Creek, or as Chief Flynn said “slow-motion mass murder” in our neighborhoods.Did I miss any? I sure did, awful things are happening all the time. A child with a debilitating and deadly disease, a father in an accident, families torn apart by betrayal and abuse. Intense and unwavering loneliness, addiction, and mental illness. I don’t really need to go on, do I? We all know of the suffering all around us all the time.
It would be nice to be able to assign blame, and sometimes we can. We can name a perpetrator. We also can name the forces and influences that allow someone to get a gun, that keep the world from taking the undeniable scientifically climate change and our human influence on climate seriously. There’s plenty of blame to go around. We don’t need to be pointing the finger at God. And that’s about all Jesus says on this matter.

I know it may make us feel powerless, but you cannot look at events in the world, in your life and point to them as punishments from God. Suffering is natural consequences of evil, of negligence, of bad decisions or pure chance. We don’t and can’t point fingers and blame God–it’s about time.
That is what Jesus is talking about in these verses. Time to repent and timing is everything. And today’s timing is perfect. The movie Lincoln was popular and nominated for awards. This year, is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, February was Black History month, and March is Women’s history month, and I have been slowly making my way through, reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel which helped fuel the abolitionist, anti-slavery movement before the civil War.
Timing is everything. As I said a few moments ago, I haven’t finished that book yet,but just about half way through the story we are introduced to Augustine St.Clare, who buys Tom–the title character Uncle Tom. St. Clare,as he is referred to, is a reluctant slave holder. He sees the evil of the system and how it corrupts both the slave (people of African descent) and the slave holders (including the white society extending beyond those who own slaves). Eventually, St. Clare after making a promise to his dying daughter, decides it’s about time to actually do something. St. Clare begins the process of emancipating (of freeing Tom). St. Clare also decides to ensure that when he dies all of his other slaves are freed and not sold. With this intention in his heart, he leaves his home, only to be mortally wounded as he tries to break up a fight in a bar.
Timing is everything and in this case as is true so many times in fiction and in real life, opportunities are missed, tragedies interrupt plans. With his untimely death, all the slaves of the St. Clare household are promptly sold, including Tom whose paperwork had never been completed.
It’s about time, Jesus tells us. And, there’s no better time than the present. Right now. Don’t put off till tomorrow, don’t wait, take every chance every opportunity to bear fruit. Now the fruit that we’re talking about isn’t really figs; it’s repentance.
The thing about repentance is that it is not just feeling sorry for our sin, for the bad that we’ve done or said. St. Clare felt bad, he despised his participation in the system of subjugating and oppressing others. He hated how slavery tore apart families. He disagreed with how others especially religious preachers justified slavery. Oh, he felt bad, but that’s about all he did. He felt, he didn’t do, he didn’t act. And now for a more contemporary allusion as wise old Yoda says to young Luke “only do or not do, there is no try”.
Jesus in this passage calls us to do, to bear the fruit of God’s kingdom. So, you’ve been thinking about forgiving someone, there’s no better day than today, you’ve been praying about giving up the hate you feel toward a brother or sister, now’s not just as good a time as any. Now’s the best time. You been praying to stop smoking, drinking, gambling, stealing, fighting, blaming, complaining, it’s about time! Thinking about putting a little more in the offering plate, calling that person, neighbor, friend up to see how they are doing, or to inviting them to come to worship with you on Sunday morning or Wednesday night, or to come to Community night and sit and listen to someone you’ve never met before, now’s the time. Repentance is about God loving us, loving you so much you don’t have allow fear or failure slow you or stop you. Procrastination is not a spiritual gift. Do it now; it’s about time. Amen.

I Want One – Forever Lazy

I want one!
Forever Lazy. It’s a soft fleece lie around, lounge around, full-body lazy wear. This thing looks soo warm and comfortable. It’s just the thing for me. I want it. No, I NEED this.
Isn’t the goal in life to be more comfortable? At least that’s what merchandisers and some politicians preach. We are told we shouldn’t have to go without the latest gadgets and gizmos. We are told we shouldn’t be concerned with the common good and instead focus on our own wants, our own desires, our own comforts.
Compare that message with the words we hear from Mark’s Gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Advent:
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed words that made people wince. He named their sin—out loud.
John’s message of repentance is not about being or feeling comfortable. Repentance is turning away from our sin and brokenness. This is usually uncomfortably hard work. It is easier just to ignore our shortcomings, our weakness. It’s easier to ignore the evils at work in our economic systems. It’s easier to go with the flow, but that is not God’s intention for us and this world. God is loving us into being the people God intends us to be. That is why noted preacher and faith leader William Sloan Coffin is quoted as saying, “I’m not OK, you’re not Ok, and that’s OK”. Sin is not OK, but God’s love is more than OK.

Prayer: God who is beyond forever. Through your love, give me the strength to see myself honestly. Open my eyes not only to my own faults, those of others and those of our world, but to your presence in me and in the world. Help me to feel your forgiveness; help me to forgive. Amen.

Suggested Action: This week practice forgiveness. Look deeply and honestly at yourself. Spend time thinking and praying about your words, your thoughts, your actions. Pick one thing; name it, and write it down. Accept God’s forgiveness; forgive yourself, and take real steps to change.