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A Call to Action:  Jonah 3:1-10  &  Mark 1:14-20

On the 13th of May, 1940, a new Prime Minister stood up to speak in the Palace of Westminster.   It was his first speech to the House of Commons, having replaced the previous leader of the government three days earlier.   As the United Kingdom prepared to enter perhaps the most dangerous period of the war, this is part of what he said:

“I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terror — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”

The response to this call to action, and others like it, is part of what we remember today.  The response by ordinary people, a response of strength and courage.  A response that took the call to action seriously, and did something about it.   People responded by shedding blood, tears and sweat.   And in the end that response did lead to victory.

There was a call to action.  There was a response.  There was a victory.

In our readings today we heard about other calls to action and the responses that they provoked.  

Jonah was sent to Nineveh with a call to action.   We know the story well, how he responded to the call to action that God originally gave him, he responded by running the other way.   Now, having been delivered to the shore of Nineveh, he is doing as he was instructed and delivering a warning to the people of this great city.   This was the message he had, “God is angry with you because of your sin and you are going to be destroyed.”  

It doesn’t sound like a very inspiring call to action.  It sounds like an invitation to get beaten up.  Sometimes calls to action can be very unpopular.   The same man who spoke those rousing words in the House of Parliament had for years before that been issuing calls to action that had been ignored and despised.   Nevertheless, the people of Nineveh responded.  They acted.  They turned from their evil ways, they stopped doing what they had been doing, and they asked God to forgive them.   And God did.   The city was saved from destruction.  

There was a call to action.  There was a response.  There was a victory.

In the good news of Jesus’ story that Mark writes for us, we hear Jesus issuing a call to action.  He is walking by the sea of Galilee.  He sees some of the local lads, fishermen, and calls out to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”   And the response is immediate.  They drop what they are doing and they follow him.   In that moment their lives are changed forever.  They will never be ordinary fishermen again.  

In this snapshot, we hear an invitation to follow, but not the details of what that will mean.   We hear the echo of victory, “fishers of men” but not what that victory will cost.   As we follow these men through the next three years, we find out the details.   Jesus lays out the cost of following him, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.  And then Jesus shows us what it means to take up a cross.  It means blood, toil, sweat and tears.  We see them all at Calvary, we remember them at the communion table.  And then we see the victory.  We see the risen Lord, we see the disciples telling others about Jesus.  We see the Holy Spirit coming in power.  We see the Kingdom of God breaking out, changing lives forever.

There was a call to action.  There was a response.  There was a victory.

So what about us today, here in Shelton, in Etruria, and in the other places that we live.   Are we ready to hear the call to action, are we ready to share the call to action.   We live in a battle zone.   There is a war going on around us.  People are dying everyday who do not know the saving victory of Jesus.   There is injustice and oppression in the economic systems that we live and work in.  There is hatred and racism in our communities.  

As followers of Jesus we are called to action, we are called to challenge the darkness that surrounds us with the light of Jesus.   As the people of God we are to call others to repentance, to warn those we live amongst of the consequences of continuing to live apart from God.

None of this is easy.   We have already heard that Jesus made it very clear that following him was no easy life.   But we are not alone, and we can trust God.   When Churchill made that speech he spoke of victory as an aim, as an aim that the nation could not afford to miss, but he could not guarantee that it would be achieved.  

But in the case of the battle that we are fighting in, we are assured of victory.   We know that in the end all evil will be defeated, and that God’s perfect government of peace and love will come and take over.   We know this because Jesus did rise from the dead.  Death has been defeated, and has no ultimate hold on those who know Jesus as Lord.   We know this because the Holy Spirit lives in us and is the guarantee of our safety in God’s hands.  

So, as the battle rages on around us, as Jesus’ call to action sounds in our ears.  As we see his victory lighting up the sky, what is our response going to be?   Are we willing to step out in faith, to take risks with our relationships, to be bold in sharing the hope that we have, to change the way that we live, the way that we spend our money and our time?   Will we engage in prayer in a way that takes seriously the war that is being fought for human souls.  

There is a call to action.  There is a victory.  What is your response?


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