Lessons for Epiphany III, January 21, 2018

Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

Mention of the book of Jonah invariably brings forth the imaginative story of the whale and Jonah’s disappearance into its inner sanctum.  But the book of this prophet is concerned much more with the “scandal of God’s mercy”, of Jonah’s refusal to accept God’s love for a repentant people.  Jonah is a prophet on the run from God.  In the series of events that this book covers, Jonah tries his best to avoid God.   Told first to go to Nineveh, he takes passage instead on a ship to Tarshish.  God responds with a huge storm, throwing Jonah into the sea and into the famous fish which God provided. With Jonah back on land, God for the second time demands that Jonah to go to Nineveh to pronounce its destruction. But Nineveh responds with repentance so God changes his mind ; Nineveh will not be destroyed.  But Jonah is angry with God; God’s decision to pardon the city means to Jonah his prophetic role is a failure.  Jonah is unconvinced, but we who read this yarn should see in it the witness of God’s mercy.

I Corinthians 7: 29 -31

Paul’s reasoning for these few verses is certainly not clear from the text itself.  Commentaries give several possible reasons for his opinion.  Paul is writing primarily to engaged couples, the young women betrothed to older men.  When he writes, “The appointed time has grown short”, he may be referring to the immanent return of Christ, expected any day now.  Or, at the time of Paul’s letter, Corinth may be experiencing a serious famine.  In either case, Paul is recommending couples not to proceed to marry and others to concentrate on what they have and not on what they desire.

Mark 1: 14-20

Continuing Jesus’ call to men of Galilee to join him. today’s Gospel tells us of four fishermen working on the sea, casting their nets and repairing them; “Come, leave your work, your families and follow me”, Jesus says.  It was a simple command yet one that would drastically change their lives and, later, those of the world.    Jesus asks Simon, Andrew, James and John to come fish for people instead of the residents of the sea.  These men were not volunteers; they were conscripted to the service of God on earth and later to the founding of the Christian faith.