“While The Iron is Hot” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Sermon January 21st 2024 – Jonah 3:1–5, 10; 1st Corinthians 7:29–35 & Mark 1:14–20
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 21st 2024: Season of Epiphany / Jonah 3:1–5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29–35; Mark 1:14–20 "While The Iron is Hot"
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.
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. “Strike while the iron is hot.” This is an old phrase that goes back to blacksmithing, the idea is that there is a moment or a short window of time when something can be accomplished and accomplished well. Wait too long when the iron is cooled off and then the hammer blow will not produce the desired effect, strike when the iron is hot and malleable and it will shape under the blows of the hammer into the final product that the blacksmith is aiming to make. Some red hot iron become horseshoes, some become pots and pans and others become hinges for doors and boxes but in every case they become something useful to others.
Our readings today are all about striking when the iron is hot, about life in the moment when the moment is critical, about not letting the common concerns and anxieties of life overtake us. With the people in Nineveh from our Old Testament reading, from the greatest to the least, they are all being called into repentance; the red hot iron of their lives are hit with the hammer of God’s call to repentance delivered by Jonah and they repent, the turn from their ways to lives lived in keeping with the law of God and everything changes. Jesus in our Gospel reading enters into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus, God in the flesh, comes with the hammer of His Word, the kingdom of God is red hot and ready for the hammer and those who hear and believe are changed. The day Jesus calls Simon (Simon who would later be called Saint Peter) and Andrew, James and John the processes begins and they start to shift from being fisher of fish to fishers of men, for three years while the iron is hot Jesus speaks the hammer of His Word into their lives making them into “fishers of men.” If they started out as lumps of iron under the hand of the Lord and His Word they don’t end off being lumps of iron. They are taught what it means to live lives of repentance changing day by day under the forgiveness of the Lord.
It’s interesting that in each of our readings there’s a cost to listening and believing in the Word of God. Jonah had a soft government job as a state sanctioned and funded “prophet” in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and by the time we get to today’s reading you may have noticed that Scripture says, “then the Word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” the first time the Word of the LORD came to Jonah, Jonah ran away. When pointed in the direction of Nineveh Jonah abandoned the security of his state sanctioned and funded “prophet” job in the Northern Kingdom of Israel to run for the hills primarily because he didn’t think that the murderous and wicked Ninevites deserved the Word of God, and knowing the power of the Word of God what he was most worried about was that if they did hear God’s Word and the iron was indeed hot they would be changed, that in repentance they would receive forgiveness and the Ninevites would be new people which Jonah didn’t think was fair. Jonah was making himself the judge of Nineveh not God. You see the reason Jonah was thinking like this was because the people of the city of Ninevah were Assyrians and the Assyrians were enemies of the northern Kingdom of Israel. When it came to the people of Ninevah their success as Assyrians in the ancient world was from warfare and plunder, from robbery at the point of a sword so for them repentance and forgiveness under the Law of the LORD, and living new lives in keeping with that Law, would mean a financial hit as well for they would have to set aside much of what made them a wealthy people.
In our Gospel reading Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and James and John all took suffered financially too, there was likely more money to be had in fishing for fish than there was going to be in fishing men. They walked away from businesses when Jesus said “Follow me.” Hearing the Word of God and believing in it results in changes. It brings repentance into your life, you become aware of the Law of God and your failures in following it and your are driven to repent, to be honest about your sin, to seek forgiveness and to make amends, to live lives differently. Your life becomes a red hot iron under the Word of God and with each blow of the hammer of God’s Word from the Prophets of the Old Testament, to the Saints of the New Testament to Christ Jesus Himself in the Gospels you are formed and fashioned into something new. This is all the work of God, what you most often bring to the table is resistance to the Word of the LORD.
When you are tempted to put other things ahead of the Word of God and your Lord Jesus it becomes a 1st Commandment issues and the 1st Commandment is: “You shall have no other gods.” The Large Catechism teaches that “a god [is what] we … take refuge in [in] all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. I have often said,” says Luther, “that the confidence and faith of the heart alone makes both God and an Idol. If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your faith and trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God [Hebrews 11:6]. Now, I say,” says Luther, “whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.”
If Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John had been men who chose to make other things like their wives and their families and their businesses into their god they would not have listen to God when Jesus stood right in front of them and called them to put down their nets and follow Him. They didn’t stop being husbands and fathers and sons and brothers but yet they heard the call of Christ and followed Jesus and in time, and through experience, the Word of the LORD changed them. Their perspective in life was shifted because God provided them with an Epiphany in His Word.
What about you? Are you more like Jonah who at first ran from the call of the LORD? Or are you like these disciples who immediately set down their nets to follow Jesus? Are you one who anxiously struggles to keep the worldly things of life in perspective even though you know, in Christ, that the present form of this world is passing away? Are you so worried about tomorrow that you can’t see the needs of today? Are you so concerned for tomorrow and what might come that you make your personal security and comfort into a god? When it comes right down to it do you follow Christ Jesus or do you follow yourself? In our Young Adult Bible Study we’ve been reading through the Old Testament Book of Judges and there is a common occurrence that crops up over and over again first you hear how “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” because, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” and not what was right in God’s eyes. Basically they made themselves and their desires into their god and they didn’t follow the LORD when He called them. Eventually when the LORD allowed everything to become suitably awful and terrible they were more receptive to the Word of the LORD and they called out with a spirit of repentance. When the iron had become hot the Word of the LORD struck anew and they became a changed people. Have you always listened to the LORD? Have you been perfect in this regard? No?
Dear ones there is hope for you. Your forgiveness is not found in who well you have listened to the Word of God and kept His commandments, your forgiveness is found in the one who did listen perfectly to God without sin His entire life, one who didn’t put Himself first even though He was in fact without sin, one “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And” Saint Paul teaches, “being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus answered the call of the Father never running away as Jonah at first did, never denying His Father in heaven as Simon Peter did the night in which Jesus was betrayed, Jesus displayed perfect perspective regarding His earthy family. Yes, Saint Paul teaches us how “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,” how “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
When the iron was hot for our salvation God the Father did not hesitate, He struck while the iron was hot sending His Son Jesus for your salvation. During Holy Week with the cross and His passion and death looming large ahead of Him Jesus struck while the iron was hot to ensure your salvation and redemption, the forgiveness of your sin for all your hesitations in faith, all your doubts, all your misplaced trust and self-centeredness and Simon Peter our dear Saint Peter would later write that Jesus paid this price, this ransom “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with [His] precious blood,” blood which Saint Peter describes as blood, “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Jesus conquered the common things of this life that tempt us to run from God, so that we who fall to the temptation to follow these common things can hear the call of Christ Jesus and in faith follow Jesus.
When everything seems red hot with turmoil in your life, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and His call, let your ears ring with the hammering of the Word of God and consider how even in times of distress the LORD is at work forming and shaping you into something useful to others, into a person who will be of use to those who are around you. Dear ones you are works in progress remember what Saint John (one of those men called from his fishing boats) writes “beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when [Christ Jesus] appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies Himself as [Christ Jesus] is pure.” Listen to the voice of Jesus, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ was sent to save you, to redeem you, and in His life, death, resurrection and ascension He has done just that; and now He calls you and fashions you into what He desires most: Men, women and children with repentant hearts forgiven by His shed blood, with ears to hear His Word and lips to speak that life changing Word of light into a world of darkness. 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.
 Mark 1:14-15
 Large Catechism, Part 1, the First Commandment, Book of Concord Pocket Readers Edition, Concordia Publishing House 2009, Page 488.
 Judges 3:12
 Judges 17:6b
 Philippians 2:6–8
 Galatians 4:4–5
 Romans 5:6
 1 Peter 1:18–19
 Hebrews 12:2
 1 John 3:2–3