Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (January 21, 2024)

(Volunteers putting a new roof on the pavilion at Camp Hope)

The Kingdom of God is at Hand
by Bishop Chris Giesler

 Preaching Text: Mark 1:14-20

To be honest, I was disappointed when I saw the assigned Gospel lesson for this Sunday was about Jesus calling his disciples.  After all, last week’s text from John’s Gospel was all about Jesus calling Philip and Nathaniel. Here in Mark’s Gospel, we have the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. But as often happens when we scratch beneath the surface of a text, we find that God is speaking loudly and boldly with a wealth of Good news for a new Sunday!

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth….”The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  Ponder that for a moment or two!

I served as the Chaplain at Moravian College (now University) for eight years. In that time, I got to know a lot of students.  When working with the first-year students soon after their arrival on campus, I loved asking them questions about their expectations for the next four years. I wanted to know, most especially, what they hoped to accomplish during these formative years.  Here are the top three answers:

  1. I want to graduate in 4 years.
  2. I want to do well enough academically to get the job that I want or be accepted into graduate school.
  3. I want to form deep and abiding friendships with a number of people.

These answers are not surprising, especially for folks embarking on such a transformative phase in their lives. After all, most of them are living outside their homes and taking college-level courses for the first time. It is just our human nature to look out for ourselves first and judge everything by how it affects us.

But this is not the way that Jesus thought.  Quite the opposite, his first thought was always the will of God.  And for Jesus, God’s will was always that he bridge the gap between God’s kingdom and the world.  So, it is no coincidence that the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel of Mark are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

In today’s text, we see these four fishermen doing their work as they did most every day, mending their nets, hauling in fish, making their meager incomes, and caring for their families.  But by hearing Jesus calling their names, they were transformed to think no longer of themselves but to seek the kingdom of God. And even though these disciples would later argue about who was the greatest and who would sit with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven, they began to look at the world differently.

So, what is the kingdom of God? What does the kingdom of God look like? What values make up the essence of what the kingdom of God is?  Here is a short list of what I would call Kingdom Values:

1) To realize that we can’t do this on our own.  This is God’s kingdom, not our kingdom. The best thing we can do is do things that Jesus taught us.  These first disciples depended on their fishing to make a living, provide shelter, and pay the bills, but now they rely solely on God.  Now, I’m not asking anybody to spend the rest of their lives here at the Church or studying the bible 24 hours a day.  But we can come to the place of knowing that all of who we are is in God’s hands, and we depend on God to live our lives faithfully.    

2) To look first for the needs of others. Disciples are called to be broken-hearted when someone is sick, to be broken-hearted when someone is homeless, to be broken-hearted when someone lacks the love of God in their heart.  To be broken-hearted enough that we feel called to do something about it.

3) To give ourselves to God’s Kingdom. This means thinking of what God’s will might be every time we are faced with a decision about our lives, money, time, and future.  The four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee surrendered everything and followed.   Chances are the biggest mistakes we’ve ever made in our lives have come when we did not ask ourselves these questions: Is this God’s intent for me? Is this why I am here?  Does this belong in God’s kingdom?

5) To join with Jesus in being reconciler.  If Jesus’ life and witness were about anything, it was about reconciling us with God and each other.

This isn’t just about hearing our names called or feeling God’s presence. This isn’t just about the peace of mind that comes with knowing we have a place in heaven. It is about transforming our lives with these kingdom values and knowing that the kingdom of God is at hand for us and others.  This is what it means to follow Jesus.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”