Time in God’s Hands / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 24th 2021 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / January 24th 2021, Sunday Services, 3rd Sunday After The Epiphany, Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-35; and Mark 1:14-20 “Time in God’s Hands”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Time is never exactly what it seems. Like many things in this world we believe that we have some mastery over time. In our cleverness we devised daylight savings time, we build watches with gears, we make atomic clocks, we measure all manner of things by time, we have railway and military time, we march double time, we take our time, we have analogue and digital time, and yet time slips through our fingers, like sand through an hourglass. When we are young time moves slow, as we age time speeds up, yet we are told that seconds and minutes and hours and days are universally the same length everywhere on earth and that any differences we may feel are differences in perception of time.
At certain points in our lives we believe that we have all the time in the world and then there is an unexpected heart attach, a stroke, an unplanned accident and time suddenly grows short. Then there are times when everything seems to grind to a halt, when our world becomes locked down, when everything becomes a challenge and we are weary and exhausted by life as can be the case during the plague of a pandemic. At other times we become worried because we believe that we don’t have enough time, we worry because time is too short. Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Or, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”
How do you deal with time?
Are you a go-getter, are you a procrastinator, or are you a free spirit who lets time find you?
Old Testament Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The people of Nineveh were not believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph: They were not believers in the God of the Hebrew people. If they knew of God they likely didn’t consider Him to be all that important, they had their own gods and ideas and they had no time for Him. Even still God had clearly taken the time to prepare them for a future time where they would know Him and believe His word.
Jonah, the prophet of God, very reluctantly went to Nineveh. God didn’t say to Jonah, “When you have the time, if you could fit it into your busy schedule, then go when it’s most convenient, and tell the Ninevites about My righteous anger over their sin and their impending doom and punishment.” No, God says this to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” Disregarding the urgency of God’s command Jonah runs from God and God’s command to him, Jonah puts one foot in front of the other in the very opposite direction of Nineveh and yet God steps in and very strongly persuades Jonah back in the right direction: God sends a storm to upset the boat that Jonah was attempting to escape on, and being thrown overboard by the fearful crew of the boat God sends a large fish to swallow up Jonah – and for three days Jonah was persuaded to reconsider the will of God in the belly of the fish. Jonah likely couldn’t imagine how long three days could be as he prayed in the belly of the great fish or how quickly that time lost its length and heavy weight when he was spit out onto the shore alive.
Jonah is changed from a man who when called to serve the LORD displayed his lack of time for God to a man conformed to God’s time. Basically Jonah can no longer put off the call of the LORD and Jonah then starts to work on God’s clock and not on his own time. This is the point that Jonah is at in our Old Testament Reading today when Jonah finally finds himself standing in the city of Nineveh and saying to the people “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Forty days, God gives the people of Nineveh forty days – that doesn’t seem that long in the grand picture of things, yet sometimes forty days does feel like forever especially if you are waiting for something important like the results of a test or the start of something exciting. How do the people there react to this warning? Are they procrastinators? Does the King of Nineveh wait until the 39th day on the 11th hour with minutes to spare before repenting of his wickedness and the wickedness of his people? No, they spring into action immediately. “The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
One moment the king is sitting on his throne, in his royal robes, he seems to have all the time in the world – then given forty days to live – he is off his throne, out of his robes, covered in something like a potato sack and sitting in ashes. From a throne to ashes, from fine robes to potato sacks, from wickedness to repentance, from self worship to worship of God, from concern for his time to respect of God’s time.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:14-20
When John the Baptiser was put in prison Jesus didn’t wait to see how the trial would go before taking up the task of telling everyone what John had been preaching. Jesus didn’t wait to see if John would be released from prison before telling everyone that, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus goes about His task of telling with urgency. When He calls His disciples Simon and Andrew, Jesus says, ‘“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Jesus doesn’t call out, “Do you have a minute? Can I ask you a question? If it isn’t inconvenient for you would you like to follow me?” Andrew and Simon (Who would be called Peter) they could have stayed in their boats and not followed Jesus, they could have been selfish with their own time, but by the power of the Holy Spirit they left their boats and followed Jesus, putting their time into the hand of God.
One moment they were sitting in their boat holding their fishing nets, counting their catch, planning their day – then all of a sudden at the Word of God, at the invitation from the mouth of Christ Jesus they find themselves wet and walking onto the beach, their calloused hands no longer pulling nets, their feet leaving footprints next to Jesus’ footprints as the walk with Jesus into an unknown future.
These two brothers had no idea what was ahead for them, they didn’t know what time would bring, they would never have expected that Jesus would stoop down and wash their dirty feet on the night in which He was betrayed; and they couldn’t have seen a time where the feet that brought them out of the water to Jesus would one day run away from Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was being arrested, or a time where the feet of Jesus would end up nailed to a wooden cross. Or that by Jesus’ crucifixion they would see the fulfilment of God’s promise to save His people, to bring forgiveness not only to them but to all people by His Holy Blood, shed innocently for all. They likely couldn’t imagine how long three days could be as they grieved Jesus’ death or how quickly that time lost its length and heavy weight when they saw the risen Jesus on that first Easter. Suddenly time hardly mattered at all and yet every second counted as they set out to tell the world about the Good News of what had happened.
We, like they, don’t know all the details of what will happen in the time we have been given. But Jesus does, God the Father does, the Holy Spirit does: time for God is like inches or millilitres, or PSI or some other form of measurement. God made all of it, He made what scientists call physics, He made what philosophers call beauty, He made it all, time included. Time is in His hands, your time, my time, your days, my days. St. Paul tells us, that, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” so that they might become the children of God.
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-35
In our Epistle lesson from today St. Paul says, that, “the appointed time has grown very short.” And then he gives some council as to how to live, his advice is striking because it hits so close to home. Literally at home: Paul talks about husbands and wives and our relationships. But what does Paul mean? Are we to disregard our wives, disregard our husbands? Are we to abandon them to do the work of the Lord? Consider likewise the advice of Jesus and not be anxious about anything. Take a step back and consider your priorities: are you so wrapped up in your relationship with your spouse that you have no time for the work of the Lord? So wrapped up in mourning the dead, so wrapped up in rejoicing, so wrapped up in buying or selling things that you have no time for the Lord, no time for the work of Jesus. Have your interests between God and House become divided? Seek harmony in these matters not division; Balance and contentment – in a Christian home the head of the family is still a child of God. Remember Saint Paul gives this advice, “for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
When we are honest with ourselves we can see how difficult it is to leave our throne, take off the royal robe we have made for ourselves, and sit down in the ashes. When we examine our hearts we see how difficult it is to leave our boat, to stop counting our catch, to leave our nets behind and follow Jesus. Our sinful nature wants to hold onto to the crummy plywood throne we built for ourselves when God the Father has for us an everlasting crown of gold. Our sinful nature, proud of our calluses, proud of our hard work, wants keep our catch of rotting dead fish when Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. When he calls us to reach out and bring others to Him.
The time is short, we never truly know how much time we really have, therefore don’t be anxious about anything, focus not on the Worldly things that distract and divide your interests. Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, turn to Jesus and you will be forgiven for everything you have done that is evil and sinful: Hold fast to the promises of God, and when you do the length of days will matter not, time will lose its hold on you and you will be living in God’s time. When you fail and find yourselves obsessed with time, worried about time, tormented by time: pray to Jesus, fix your eyes on Him, and walk with Jesus placing one foot in front of the other in the grace of His love and forgiveness. Time is only a measurement and on The Last Day the Christian won’t be measured by time, Christians will be welcomed as children into their Father’s heavenly home because they have become Jesus’ brothers and sisters in Faith, in Baptism, in the Breaking of Bread together. At just the right time God brought you into His family and as Christians we now stand at the foot of the cross prepared to walk with Jesus no matter what the hour, no matter where the destination, no matter what time it is. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 Matthew 6:34
 Luke 12:25-26
 Jonah 1:2
 Jonah 3:5-9
 Mark 1:15
 Mark 1:17-18
 John 13:1-20
 Mark 14:43-52
 Ephesians 1:7
 Matthew 27:4
 John 20:19-23
 Psalm 138:16
 Pound Per Square Inch
 Galatians 4:4-5
 1 Corinthians 7:35
Photo Credits: Hand with Watch in Water Main Photo by Alex Perez; Analogue Clock on Train by Tristan Gassert; Detail of Calendar on Phone by Priscilla Du Preez; Detail of Stormy Sea by Nathan Roser; Throne by William Krause; Detail of Fishing Boat by Alexander Kluge; Detail footprints in Sand by Stella Blomfield; Detail of Sea of Galilee by Yoav Aziz; Detail of Inside the Clock Face by Erik Witsoe All Photos in this Post from Unsplash.