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Homily by Margaret Vazey

Epiphany 3, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
January 22, 2012

Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Time is short’

Prioritise Act rightly Do not Delay You never know when life will change so that you are not able to do the right thing”

When Jesus started his ministry he was in a hurry. He was in a ‘holy haste’. This was often noted by the Gospel writers. First of all without delay he called the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, then James and John, to be his disciples, (Mark 1:14-20), and shortly after that, the other 8 disciples.

There was a ‘holy urgency’ about Him.

Examples from the Gospels:

Lk 9:60: Jesus: ‘Let the dead bury the dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

Lk 12: 13-21: Jesus’ Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed: a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.’(Followed by the parable of the barns)

Lk 12:22-32: Jesus: ‘...do not worry about your life...what you will eat...what you will wear...consider the ravens...consider the lilies of the field......but seek His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well...’

Lk 19: 5-9 v.8: Zaccheus the tax collector acted straight away to fix his injustices “...now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody...I will pay back 4 times the amount’. Jesus: ‘...Today salvation has come to this house...’

Matt 13: 45-46: The pearl of great price. Jesus: ‘....the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.’

Matt.25: 1-13: The parable of the 10 virgins and their oil lamps Jesus: ‘keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour’

Matt. 25: 14-30: The parable of the 10 talents. Jesus: ‘....you wicked lazy servant....’

Mk 13:32-35: Jesus: ‘When you see the abomination that causes desolation..flee...do not go back to get anything....Be on guard..... Be alert..You do not know when that time will come.....keep watch.

Paul: 1 Corinthians 7: 17-31:

 1. Don’t concern yourself with trivia, don’t base your identity on things which are not important such as whether someone is circumcised or not, which suggests that you should not worry if someone is a Jew or not, which suggests that you should not worry about which race or ethnic group you belong to.

 2. Do not worry about your status as a slave or not.

 3. Do not be indecisive about being married or not if you need to be married, then be married, do the right thing by your partner but if you can be unmarried then be unmarried it is better for you will have more time for what is the most important task.

 4. Which is: keeping God’s commands. That is what counts, (v. 19b).

 5. Time is short

We can all think of examples of terrible unexpected changes which could turn our lives upside down: earthquakes, tsunamis, civil war, tragic accidents, illness, and so on. It is keeping God’s commands through thick and thin, through good and bad, which is what counts.

Two recent examples:

 1. The film “The Descendants”, with George Clooney in the main role. Suddenly, unexpectedly, he has to review his priorities. He has to put his family first. This is very difficult, as like many men, he has devoted himself so completely to his job that they have been neglected. He did not mean to neglect them, but he has. Now he has a terrible choice to make. He must quickly decide what is right, and do it. (It is a great movie).

 2. A book I have just reviewed for the paper, concerning the Rwandan genocide in 1994. A young woman, Leah Chishugi, was an eye-witness, and a survivor of this terrible event. Almost without time to think, she had to decide what was the right thing to do, if she and her baby were to survive, and what she should do to help other people in need as well.

Here is some of Leah Chishugi's story:

One day, Leah Chishugi and her baby son were driving to the Kigali Airport, in Rwanda, to meet her husband after he had finished work. It was an ordinary, lovely Rwandan day. There were road-blocks as the President of Rwanda was due to arrive at Kigali that evening. As she and her friends sat in the cafe near the airport, watching the landing of the president’s plane, there was a loud explosion, and it crashed in flames.

Almost immediately, the killing of the minority race (to which she belonged) started. This was totally unexpected by her people, but it had been well organised: neighbours killed neighbours; husbands in mixed marriages killed their wives and children; good people of the majority race were tortured if they did not join in the killing. Altogether, over 800,000 people died. Although United Nations soldiers were there, they were not allowed to intervene, as genocide had not been declared.

This is her story of how she and her child managed to survive this dreadful time, escape Rwanda, flee across borders to reach South Africa, and, eventually, reach England.

It is also the story of how she came to terms with being a survivor of such a terrible situation: how to deal with the guilt of being one of the people who was still alive, and how to try to forgive the perpetrators of these crimes.

This required that she gain an insight into the social situation which allowed gangs of young people, particularly boys and young men, to sit around doing nothing, thinking nothing, resenting their situation, allowing themselves to be organised by self-serving political persons, who knew, (and still know), just how to unleash terrible passions.

These two examples remind us that when we are in trouble, we must try to carry out of Jesus’ injunction: “You go and proclaim the kingdom of God”; and remind ourselves of Paul’s words “Keeping God’s commands is what counts”.

Margaret Vazey