Sermon on Epiphany 3b- Repentance

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father, and our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Imagine with me a boy on a typical day in High School. His backpack balloons out from his back like a bag of cement. Locker doors are shuddering on their hinges as kids haplessly throw books into their metallic bottoms. It could be lunchtime, and the smell of overmoist bread, mustard, and salami wafts through the air. Now there’s also a particular girl who this boy is pining after. He thinks he’s in love. We’ll call her Jenny. He’s been sitting Jenny’s at lunch table for several weeks in a row. Today he finds out from listening to her conversation, that Jenny really likes this band called Third Eye Blind. It seems to be all that she can talk about, and this song Semi-Charmed Kind of Life is just to die for. Up until that moment, this boy had never heard of Third Eye Blind, nor had it ever crossed his mind that he should have. But immediately, and I mean, there was absolutely no choice one way or the other, no doubt in my mind, but immediately. I knew I was going to become an expert on Third Eye Blind. Just like that, I knew I was going to have all of their CD’s and learn the lyrics to all of their songs. A new thing started to well up in me, I was going to become a 3rd Eye Blind Fan, because Jenny was. No second thoughts. I was repented.
Perhaps we can all relate to this story of how I came to own an embarrassing amount Third Eye Blind music. I believe we all have those moments when we are forever redirected by something, immediately and instantaneously; a new thing comes our way, and we cannot help ourselves but to jump and be made different by it. It starts to work on us, and we constantly become different because of it. It is this immediately-changed kind of moment that we hear of today in our Gospel lesson.
As one commentator put it, “today Jesus walks up and just plain happens to people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Jesus goes up to Simon and his Brother Andrew while they were building a model church for their stewardship campaign out of stones with your names them. Living stones for a spiritual church that we hear about in first Peter. And he says “Come, I will make you living stones for people.” And, immediately, we just KNEW we were going to put on a parade that yearly brings new life- a living stone- out of the larger community of Robesonia. Because now we had this thing that looked like a church float, so what else were we to do with it? A little further on, Jesus sees James and his brother John out in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He calls to them and immediately they leave their father in the boat and go on to become the only Lutheran Church I know that hosts a circus. These are but two of the many repentant moments of this congregation.
What I mean by “a repentant moment” is: God at work changing us forever into something different that we could not be on our own. But it is not just in the big programs that are signs we are changed by Christ’s love. It is in little places too. Every doughnut we share in fellowship. Every smile that spreads from Logan’s face to all those around her. Every time we gather around food, share the peace, come up for communion, go to Sunday School and Bible Study, every time we read God’s Word and proclaim it in the presence of one another. There behind it all, God is making us new and different; we immediately become something we could never have been on our own. We are continually made into a people of faith.
But see, it is not really the parades, the doughnuts or even the smiles themselves that matter. The least important part of today’s Gospel story is that the Disciples drop their nets and follow Jesus. I mean, who really cares that I now own a bunch of Third Eye Blind Cds? There is something else, something more that makes that story worth telling and worth listening to. That story is interesting because love turned my head, and made me into something different. The story we hear of the disciples in Mark today is interesting because Jesus turned their heads and made them into something different.
Simply doing the works (that is, buying Cd’s, hosting a parade, having doughnuts, following Christ away from your fishing boat) does not get us anywhere. It is not even why we tell the Christian story. There are thousands of parades, thousands of doughnuts, thousands of people who smile, thousands who leave their fishing boats. But what makes this parade special, what makes these doughnuts special, is the faith given by the love of God that drives us to them. The most important part of the repentance moment is that we are forever being changed by God’s grace! It is only because of that change that we find ourselves in such a way that we cannot think of anything else BUT to put on a parade. What else could we do? We have no real choice, no second thoughts, because of this great love that God gives. Let us be living stones in a parade!
The important part of the story, is that Jesus walks up and just plain DOES faith to us, so that we can no longer simply sit in our pews, I mean, boats. That is, why do we gather here every Sunday? Because here we hear God’s Word spoken to us, and faith gushes up in our hearts. We are forever and immediately changed by faith. And now we can simply know that we will do good things with the rest of our week! How could we do anything else?
And that’s it. We do nothing but good things with our weeks right? Right? Maybe a couple good things?! Half a good thing? Not so many good things? Okay, so maybe we know all too well how the rest of the story goes: the disciples leave their boats and follow Jesus sure, but they never quite completely get that whole faith thing. They go on to mess up time and again. They deny Christ, they squabble about who is the greatest among them, they betray Christ up to death, they want to know whose chair is whose and where everyone will be sitting…Good thing we don’t resemble those disciples at all. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we may need to hear it like the disciples, about God’s love, every day. We need to hear time and again God’s word, so that we are born again and again. So that our heads continue to be turned to good things.
I hear tell that some people are so Holy and blameless that Christmas and Easter are quite enough times for them to hear God’s good news, and then they’re set for the whole year! They’ve got it covered. But for sinners like me, I need to hear it every moment of every day. Because we ARE made to be different. We ARE made new as people of faith. We ARE refreshed by God’s word to do good works. We DO host a parade that brings life to our community, we DO smile, and eat doughnuts with one another.
But how quickly we forget the love that turned our heads toward those things! I don’t even remember Jenny’s real name for crying out loud. Let alone that God died for me on that cross so that I may live! And so we need to hear it, we are driven back time and again, because back at the foggiest part of our memories, we know something made us buy those CD’s. And something made that story worth telling. That something is the Love of God, continually working new things in us. And we are truly no longer the same. For now we are both sinner and saint. Now we are no longer simply broken people, but we are broken people in God’s loving hands.And even if we hear it proclaimed to us every minute every day, we might never get that whole faith thing. But God Gets us, and that makes all the difference. In God we spill-over with every good work that we do.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus immediately scoops up four fisherman into disciples. God gets them through faith, and they drop everything and follow. God continues to make them into something different, time and again. Even though they continue to mess it up in every single way. In the same way, Jesus immediately gets us, and makes us children of God in our baptisms. Not once and done, but once and begun. God repents us and makes us new. The old me, that did not care a lick about Third Eye Blind, dies away. The old sinner that cared only for MYself, and MY own devices is immediately drowned in God’s ever-living water. And something new grabs us, we are repented. We are turned toward one another, and filled with love to share. Jesus just happens to us over and over, and we constantly changed into something new.
And so the first words Jesus ever says Gospel of Mark are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  In other words, God is here and God gets and holds us, behold the good works that gush forth from you in faith! This is the new thing that God is doing in us: now we are made to be a people of faith.  Now We are made to be living stones for people. Now we are made to be fishers of humans.


  1. Tommy
    Jan 26, 2015

    Once again, I found Karoline Lewis’s “Dear Working Preacher” commentary most useful in preparing for this sermon. She uses the word “Epiphany” the same way I use the word “repentance.” As far as I am concerned they mean the same thing.

  2. Sharon
    Jan 26, 2015

    This is EXCELLENT. What a fine preacher you are turning out to be!

    • Tommy
      Jan 26, 2015

      Much thanks! Internship is doing me lots of good.