Scripture Introductions

Third Sunday after Epiphany January 25. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
Our first reading today is from the book of Jonah. When we think of Jonah, we almost immediately think of the whale, which could deflect us from the main story. God calls Jonah to preach judgment to the city of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire, and thus foreign and a foe. Jonah wants none of it, so he heads in the opposite direction, only to be confronted by a storm, being thrown overboard, meeting a big fish and being spat up on the shore. There is nothing else to do, so Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches, but, all the time, there lurks in his mind the fear that the people might repent and God might forgive them, after all. (While Jonah becomes a real character in the story, little attention is paid to time and place: it sounds as if Jonah is landed near Nineveh, which is far inland! We are, however, reminded of a major purpose of prophesy, not that events be foretold, but that people listen, repent, and live full and moral lives. There have been much speculation and many tales about the big fish, and about Jonah, as well: Could Jonah represent a stubborn religious establishment, the big fish represent the Exile, and the whole story illustrate God's call to love and forgiveness?) (In the story, we are not sure if Jonah really learns anything from God. After general repentance in Nineveh, he sits and sulks on a hill, waiting for the destruction he foretold. God calls him to another point of view, but we are not told if Jonah learns! We are left to ponder!) Let's listen to the message as Jonah proclaims it, and the response of the people, and God's own repentance, in: Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (You may reserve your thanks and praise until after the Gospel, or pause for reflection, or say something like: May we respond when God challenges us. Amen.)
In the Psalm, we are called to put our trust in God. While humans are fragile, God is our Rock and our Refuge. Let us.. Psalm 62:5-12
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses the question of the "End" or "Purpose" of Time. He speaks of the chosen time as almost upon them, and he spells out some of implications, as he sees them - then.[2] If we think of time as only "how long," (or Chronos, in Greek terms), Paul is mistaken; but if we think of time in terms of who we are and what we are about, in terms of "depth," (or Kyros, in Greek), he offers a powerful focus. (In the same vein, I ponder the way we have clocks to measure the quantity of time, but no way to measure or express quality time, which can become very precious, especially when its quantity is threatened.) Let us listen to Paul's view, in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 May we listen carefully and wisely, Amen.
The Gospel reading picks up the "end of time" idea in terms of the end of John the Baptist's public ministry and the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He begins, it seems, with a continuation of the message of John: Repent! Then, as if he has fulfilled his duty to John, he will move on with his own mission and message, recruiting disciples. We hear a hint of Jesus' wonderful wit in his calling Simon and Andrew to become fishers of people! I invite you to see yourself in the story: if Jesus invited you, how would you respond? (Equally, what metaphor might Jesus use for your ministry?) Let us rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in:) Mark 1:14-20 And may we be alert to Jesus' invitation.. Amen. (It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.)
  1. With thanks to EMC.
  2. I wonder about these verses, when Paul seems concerned with holiness, whereas, in other passages, he is more concerned about love! Even so, I don't hear him suggesting a ban on sexual expression, per se. RSC.
(Comments to Stew at