Here, these are the first words Jesus says in Mark’s gospel. So we know these are important words. What does Jesus say first?
"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him." - Mark 1:14-20
Did you hear what Jesus just said there? The Kingdom of God has come near... We know this is important. What would you say he means by that? What is the Kingdom of God? Do you have an answer for that? (Hands) If you don't then you probably don't remember that I've already asked you this question (and given an answer) back in August. Ahahaha! And I know Pastors Katy and Mike have talked about it too in the last few months.
But do not fret! I know for me, after growing up in the church and even having four years of seminary, I didn't know how to answer that question without fumbling around. What is the Kingdom of God? Well – maybe you are like me where understanding does not come just through listening (even to brilliant sermons). But instead – I need to live it.
I learned about the Kingdom of God through lived experience with other people. Particularly some incredible people who were part of the church and community I served in Walnut Creek, California. People who had more mature faith than I had – I had gone to seminary, but faith is more than just head knowledge, right? These were folks who had years of prayer under their belt, reading Scripture, who had been formed in the crucible of pain and grief and loss, people who lived with an openness and expectancy about God showing up in their lives, people who lived generously – all because they had over and over again stepped into the moments (and did not avoided) the moments where God's world intersected their world.
Jesus says here that the Kingdom of God has come near. Another way this translates is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, literally, within arm's reach. We can touch it, it's here.
And this is what I have learned from these incredible friends – that we will continue to connect with the Kingdom of God – we'll see it, we'll have the chance to step into it, too.
Have you known someone like this who has taught you how to see the Kingdom of God?
So – what is the Kingdom of God? It is what God dreams of for our world. It is described by the prophets and by Jesus in Scripture. It's the way Jesus and the early Christians lived. A way of love and life and sacrifice and generosity. What do you picture when you think of what God longs for for us and this world? No more war, or injustice. Everyone has enough to eat, a place to live, a community to belong to. Grief and suffering are no more. ...Cancer is no more. No addiction, unemployment, debt, anxiety. Broken bodies and broken spirits are healed. Where even parents of young children get a full night of sleep. What do you see when you envision the Kingdom of God?
When have you seen the Kingdom of God come near to you? When have you seen those moments? Sometimes they are big, movements of God. And other times they are quiet almost imperceptible signs of God. Getting that phone call right when you needed it. We have opportunities to see God's world intersecting our world – and it is awesome.
When these intersections with God's world happen sometimes it's not that we're seeing the full picture of God's Kingdom, but sometimes something triggers us, gets our attention. We're going about our day and we're stopped in our tracks – and invited to stop and pay notice. We call these moments a kairos moment. (Can you say Kairos?). Kairos is a Greek word for time. Not tick-tock, chronological time, but an important moment in time, a defining moment. Kairos moments are those moments when the Kingdom of God is at hand. God gets our attention.
A woman from our church shared with me recently that she had a moment like this a few years ago that became a defining moment for her. This was one of those big deal ones. She had hit rock bottom, so to speak. Financial issues so severe that she and her husband might lose their house. Issues with both her kids – questions of ADHD, problems in school. A very broken relationship with her mother. Looking in the mirror she was hitting that trauma – I am getting old! All of the things that had grounded her – a home and financial stability, strong family, good health – they were crumbling away. And she was overcome with despair. She stopped and was paying attention. But in that despair she heard God say: I'm here. I'm with you. I'm your Father who never goes away. That moment completely turned her around. Though her circumstances did not change, her heart was changed.
I had a kairos moment at our daughter's 2nd birthday party. Friends of ours had arrived for the kitty-cat-themed birthday party – a husband, wife and two kids. As they came in the door he said, “Hey, haven't seen you guys in a while – how're you doing?” And I said, “Oh, good, you know things are pretty crazy busy, but we're good.” He replied, “So – busy like you both work full time and have a kid, busy? Or is something going on?” And I said, “No – just we both work full-time and have a kid busy.” And I realized in that moment that I had been living in that place where I always felt like there was too much going on and I wasn't doing a good job. And in the Kingdom of God, we don't live with constant busyness and anxiety – God had my attention helping me realize this disparity between where I was living and the kind of fullness of life God offers us. Here was an invitation from God to pay attention to my life and listen to Him. In that moment I put on my kitty ears and had a 2yo birthday party. But in the weeks that followed, I worked through that kairos moment.
A kairos moment. When God gets your attention. And what do we do in response? We do just what Jesus suggests in our text: repent and believe! And what the heck does that mean?
When we hear the word Repent! Like me, you may conjure up a lot a finger wagging and guilt, or someone on the street with a blow horn and a t-shirt that says, “Turn or Burn.” But we've heard it here at Holy Spirit that repent actually means to turn around. Change direction – also a change of heart. Open ourselves up to a new way of thinking.
To actually live “repentance” out I have found it so helpful to break it down into this question: What is God saying to me? When we have a defining moment – which can be a positive or negative kind of experience, though usually not a neutral experience – we live with the question: what is God saying to me? (And we could spend the rest of the day just talking about how to listen for God in our lives – but that's for another day). Repenting is this process of paying attention, stepping into this kairos moment, this event that has brought us in touch with the Kingdom of God, and opening ourselves up to live the question: God, what are you saying in this?
We repent, and then we believe. So – believe what does that mean? We associate as something involving voluntary brain power pointing in a particular direction. But belief is not just mind work – it is action. Once we've stepped into this kairos moment and asked this question of what God is saying – which leads to a new way of thinking and feeling THEN believing is what we do. Belief is action. The question that goes with this is: What am I going to do about it? How will I respond? With what I have heard from God and as I've reflected on this and talked it out with friends – what action will I take? Believe.
These two questions are how we repent and believe. God, what are you saying? And how am I going to respond?
So what about you? As you think back on your week or the last month – is there anything that has caused you to stop in your tracks? A moment of insight or heartbreak or elation. Has something significant changed in your life? And it may not be a single moment, but a situation you notice in your family, a friendship, at work. I happen to think we encounter kairos moments everyday – so I bet there's something. What might God be saying to you?
And HSLC, what about the big fat kairos moment that has happened here for this church that we’ve been living through for the past year? What do you do when someone gives you a church building? You stop and say – holy cow this is the Kingdom of God! Kairos! Right? And then you ask, God what are you saying in this? God, what should we do? Which is what happened here, and what we're doing with this encounter of the Kingdom of God is launching Salt House.
Because – the Kingdom of God is a place where those who are absent, neglected, missing, where they are welcomed in and things are done on their terms. Young adults are all but absent from the church – and to me, it's not about getting people to church but it is helping people connect to life of Jesus. And no one can really do that on their own. We need community. Just like I needed those incredible folks to embody and show me what the kingdom of God is and how it can be experienced. There are things we can't learn on our own – especially when it comes to our faith and living a life with God following Jesus.
The Salt House building renovation will be complete next week. The new patio will be poured on February 1st. But in order for Salt House – the community of young adults engaging with God, each other and the world – in order for Salt House to actually be built we need scaffolding around us. People to come around us to provide the structure and encouragement and to do the work of creating a place where young people can come.
I want to extend an invitation to you to consider whether God is saying that Salt House could be a place of mission and ministry for you. Already we have come as far as we have come not because of my efforts, but because there are so many of you who have stepped up to spear-headed the renovation, the call committee, the janitorial responsibilities, overseeing our budget, the maintenance of the grounds, hosting young adults in your home, making food for our gatherings, food and decorations for our open house today, donating time and money and the use of trucks to make things happen. We have come this far because of the willingness of many of you to say YES to the Kingdom of God as it has come near. And for that I say thank you! Because I am also trying to live into my YES to this call and to what God has said to me and my family in moving here to take this incredibly risky and beautiful adventure of Salt House.
You may be someone who has cheered this on or been involved since the decision was made to focus the Rose Hill ministry on young adults. Or you may have not really considered it or maybe you don't think it's the right thing.
Well much like Jonah's call to go to Nineveh – whether or not you want it, that call and opportunity is here. You, too, have been swallowed up by this fish!
And so today I ask you consider – from the belly of this giant fish – whether you might be scaffolding for Salt House.
There are many, many ways to be scaffolding. For these final three minutes of this sermon I need you to really pay attention, because I’m going to give you lots of information. Ready? In your hands you have a piece of paper with an obnoxiously large number of possible ways to serve – and I know this isn’t all of them. You'll see on the inside that surrounding that Salt House logo is scaffolding – there is an inner circle – three boxes that really are for folks who commit to being a part of worship at Salt House on Sundays. But all of those things listed in the wider circle can be done by anyone, whether physically present for worship on Sundays, or not. You can circle options on this form and turn it in to the office here at HSLC. Also know that an easier list is on the Salt House website: salthousechurch.org/scaffolding. You can click on boxes, write a few comments if you want and hit send. But these are tools for you to use to let me know how you might want to be scaffolding.
I'm also thrilled to share with you that we are on the verge of starting worship at Salt House – we've decided to have service on Sunday evenings at 5:30pm. Here is how the unfolding plan will go...
First, if you think you might want to step forward as part of the scaffolding community, to see Salt House as a place of mission for you – then join us for a “Scaffolding Invitation Worship Service.” A chance to hear more and make a decision. It will be Sunday February 15th at 5:30pm at Salt House. All this info is on the sheet you received.
Then, for all of us who decide YES I want to serve at Salt House! We will worship together for the season of Lent. So the scaffolding community – we'll use Sunday evenings as a time of worship, and also to teach and cast vision for what we'll do at Salt House. We'll form ministry teams and share a meal after worship to then begin doing the work of ministry on those teams. Even if you don't worship for Lent at Salt House, you can still sign up to be involved.
Then: our first official open up the doors and let everyone in worship service will be March 29th, Palm Sunday.
Bam. Does that make sense? Are you as stinkin excited as I am? Then get ready. For yes, the Kingdom of God has come near and together we listen for God and respond – and I'm so thrilled to see where this is going to take us. Thanks be to God. Amen.