“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:14-16 (NRSV)
NASA has mercifully informed us that the asteroid that is closing in on Earth, at this moment, will miss us! So it should be whizzing out into the darkness of space having ‘come near’ by next Sunday.
When Mark wrote of the Kingdom coming near, we are tempted to think of it as a past event like our encroaching space boulder. Worse still, we can imagine the Kingdom’s proximity only occurring during Christ’s earthly ministry. In other words, ‘it’s been and gone and went’.
But this isn’t really what was meant. For Jesus, throughout his ministry, suggested that the Kingdom was here but somehow hidden. This intrigued his listeners and still can fascinate us today. For it is a bit like living on a brightly lit stage unaware of the audience beyond the glare of the footlights.
From this perspective then, the Kingdom is within touching distance provided we make an effort to see it and, better still, bring it into the theatre of our lives.
Lord, let us to imagine the Kingdom
Let us see the Kingdom
Let us bring it nearer
And then make it the centre of our lives
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11 (NRSV)
Eric Liddell was a famous runner, Olympic Gold Medalist and Christian missionary. In the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’, he is portrayed as saying – ‘God made me to run fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure’
However, we tend to think that we can never please God. Moreover, it is somewhat wrong even to think we could feel his pleasure. But that is to cast God in the false image of a overbearing father who can never be satisfied by what we achieve or even aspire to.
Our reading today reminds us that God was pleased with Christ. And so, by implication, we too can give him pleasure when we use all that we are to be all we can be. Since, after all, who does not delight in being a proud parent!
Let us pray
Help me be all that I can be
All that Christ wants me to be
and all that you made me
capable of being.
Indeed, let me feel your smile.
A 13th Century Pope wished to commission some works of art for St Peter’s in Rome. To decide who he would employ, he sent a messenger to the most famous Italian artists of the day asking for examples of their craft.
When the emissary reached Giotto in Florence, he received a shock. For on hearing the request, the great artist took a plain sheet of paper and, using his arm as a makeshift compass, drew a perfect circle in red ink. He then handed it over as his only submission. The messenger was indignant – ‘won’t you send in more pictures?’ ‘
No’ – came the reply – ‘just tell your master how I did that’
Needless to say he got the job.
Today some of the most beautiful art in the world, still stands testimony to Giotto’s ability to give something simple.
Lord, let us not despise simple things.
Instead let us treasure them.
For often within the simple
is perfection itself.
I climbed the stairs slowly to the secondhand book store. There sitting in piles of stock sat it’s owner, reading behind a tatty desk. Above him was pinned a notice proclaiming – there is a book here for you! Somehow I doubted it. Yet I searched reasonably diligently in the novels, hobbies and history sections. Even the personal development and spirituality shelves held nothing to whet my appetite of imagination. So I couldn’t resist the temptation to return to the desk and remark – ‘ I can’t find my book.’ The old man smiled and said, ‘it’s there behind you!’ I turned and saw a volume bearing my name. On opening it, I read my early life, my youth and my recent stagnating years. I saw days of success and failure, happiness and sadness, peace and struggle. Finally, I found a paragraph starting – ‘I climbed the stairs slowly…..’ . The remaining pages were blank. In my surprise I turned to the shop owner . He was offering a pen and gesturing that I now write something fresh.
Lord, thanks for the blank pages
Of life yet to come
Many we write on them
Words that are worthy of ourselves
That summers day, the old man looked over the sea but did not see. He noticed, of course, the contrails in the sky of airliners winging their way to Paris or Spain. But he remembered the contrails of older more evil aircraft. For in august 1940, he flew those self same skies in his Spitfire defending what was left of free Europe. The memories came quick and fast. Yellow nosed fighters spitting fire at him. The smell of cordite as he shredded the invading bombers. The claustrophobic cockpit as he fought to bail out over a grasping sea. He was breathless with the sharp clarity of the images. Still he got out. He got picked up. He survived. His friends, room and drinking mates did not. Why him? Had he lived a life that had been worthy of their loss? Did he ever regain something from his lost youth in the misty years that followed?
A tap on the shoulder. It was Marjorie the carer. ‘Time to go home now George’. Time indeed.
May we live in thanks giving
For all who sacrificed for us
May we never take for granted
The cost of being free.
May we never forget
Our lives have been purchased
At a price beyond our forgetful today.