Anglican Church of Australia Innisfail/Tully
Diocese of North Quieensland


Epiphany 3 2018

The readings for Epiphany 3 have the common theme of turning from the existing path. Turning from the secular to the spiritual. The most drastic of these calls is Paul’s call to the Corinthians.

Paul stresses the shortness of our time to repent, to turn to God. We need, in the short time we have, to set aside the things that we cherish in this life. The people of Corinth, as all the new Christians of that period, were waiting for the immediate return of Christ. The second coming. With so much to look forward to, giving up the things of this world and turning to God was logical. The reward was worth the discomfort.

For the people of Nineveh, the equation was similar. If they did nothing they would be overthrown. Jonah did not give them an option. His prophesy was simple. They would be overthrown.

Jonah was bringing the message which God had given him. The message was not for a specific person it was for the whole population, about 175,000 people. People accepted God’s word without question. They must act.

The message spread throughout the city quickly and all acted in unison. They put aside their normal lives and dress. The people put on sackcloth. This was a course and uncomfortable fabric usually worn at times of mourning. This was a sign to each other that they genuinely regret the way that they lived. It was a sign to God that they repented from their ways.

Even the king did the same. A fast was proclaimed. The king demanded that the people call on God seeking that he relent.

The amazing thing about Jonah’s message was that it spread so rapidly and widely in the community. There was no means of mass communication the message would have been spread only by word of mouth.
One man, Jonah, was able to bring God’s message to a large city and all the people turned to God. It was not through the charismatic nature of the delivery or the super graphical or musical presentation. It was simply God’s message given to one person.

Surely there is a message here for all of us. If the message comes from God and is simply delivered the people will listen.

In addition, God was prepared to listen to the people of Nineveh. God witnessed the people turn to him. He witnessed their demonstration of repentance through fasting and sackcloth. God relented, and the city was saved.

Just as Jonah, the servant of God, was bringing a simply message to the people of Nineveh, Jesus the Son of God brought a simple message to the people of Israel.

‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’

The message has not changed until this day. It is still time for us all to repent and turn to God. God’s message to Nineveh was not for one person, such as the king, it was for the whole city. Jesus’ Good News was addressed to all mankind.

Jesus’ message had three elements. Firstly, that the kingdom of God was near. God’s kingdom is not just in heaven, as we sometimes think. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s kingdom has also been realised on earth.

Secondly, Jesus repeated the call of John the Baptist for all men and women to repent. This must be for all of us the first step in coming to God. Even though Christ died for our sins we must be repentant. In Baptism we are called upon to turn Christ and repent. The people of Nineveh were repentant and turned to God and God relented.

Thirdly, Jesus calls on us to believe the Good News. Jesus words offered to his audience in Israel freedom, justice and hope.

Jesus’ message to Simon and Andrew was also brief and to the point, although they may have not perceived its implications as Jesus walked beside the lake.

Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’

For these disciples this was a life changing call. For them, as Paul told the Corinthians,

For this world in its present form is passing away.

No longer would their days and lives revolve around catching fish on Lake Galilee. They would follow a new master. They would learn what it meant to be disciples of Christ and bring the Good News to the world. They would follow Christ even until death on a cross.

Jesus to this day calls you and I to follow him. There is a difference. We know what it means to be disciples of Christ. We understand what it means to follow Christ forsaking all else. But do we heed the calling? Is there a little of Jonah within us, reluctant to follow God’s call?

Heed the words of JM McIntosh and become fishers of men.

Fishers of men
Have you caught any fish, have you ever tried?
Have you told anyone why Jesus died?
Have you cast your net out on the sea,
Or is it lying crumpled, there at your feet?
Do you cling to the shore, afraid to sail?
Do you refuse to go, afraid you’ll fail?
There’s only one way to be a fisher of men —
Take up your net and go follow Him.
©1996 J M McIntosh

Paul Beasley