The Time is Ripe

Mark 1:14-20

Pepleirotai ho Kairos.  “The time is fulfilled,” says Jesus as he begins his ministry in Galilee.  The word for time here in Mark’s original Greek text is kairos, the word you would use to say the time is right.  It’s the right moment.  Kairos.  It’s the word used to say that a fruit is ripe or that someone arrived just in the nick of time.  There’s another Greek word for time: chronos.  Think chronology.  That’s the word we use to say that the time will be  six o’clock in the morning when the alarm goes off.  But the word here in Mark 1:15 is kairos.  The time is fulfilled, says Jesus to the people of the Galilee.  The time is full.  The time is ripe.

Who are these people he’s speaking to as he moves through Galilee?  The Galilee was one of the richest areas in Palestine.  It was the breadbasket of the region, rich in wheat and barley and oats, and also with olive groves, vineyards, and orchards.  Dried fish from the Sea of Galilee provided the primary source of protein for the region and helped to feed both Caesar’s and Herod’s armies.  But for all this, the majority of the people were poor.  A system of high rents paid to wealthy absentee landowners, heavy taxes paid to Herod or Rome, and heavy tithes paid to the religious system of the temple guaranteed that most of the people lived in a perpetual cycle of poverty.  These were people who had lived for generations under someone else’s heavy hand.

Pepleirotai ho Kairos.  “The time is fulfilled,” proclaims Jesus to these people and to people of every time and place who have lived or are living under systems that hold them down, push them to the margins, pick their pockets, and crush their hopes and dreams.  The time is fulfilled.  You’ve waited long enough.  Enough is enough.  The time is ripe.   

 “The kin-dom of God has come near,” he tells them.  It is arriving.  It is in reach.  It is imminent.  It is doable.  And then he says this: “Repent and believe the good news.”

Do you remember what I said about “repent” a few weeks ago?  

Repentance.  In English it’s a smudged and leaden word filled with regret and contrition. Repentance is a stinging backside, bruised knees and hunched shoulders.  I suggest we ban it and replace it with the Greek word: Metanoia.  Metanoia is climbing out of a dank hole into the sunlight.  Metanoia is being freed from the nasty habits that ruin your health and suck the life out of your wallet.  Metanoia is putting on new glasses with the right prescription and realizing that you had only been seeing a third of the details and half the colors in the world.  Metanoia  is shoes that fit right, have cushy insoles, perfect arch support, and take the cramp out of your lower back.  Metanoia is thinking new thoughts and behaving in new ways.  Metanoia is a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of life, a new direction.  

“Metanoiete!” Jesus says.  He says it in the imperative, as a command.  Put on those new glasses and those better shoes.  See the world in a better, clearer way.  Walk into the world in a new way that doesn’t cause pain for you or anyone around you.  Think about the world in a new way.  Think about yourself in a new way.  Think about your neighbor in a new way.  Think about who might be your neighbor in a new way.

“And believe the good news!”  Pisteuete! Another imperative.  Another command.  Believe!  It’s not a request to accept the idea, to consider it thoughtfully, to mull it over.  It’s a command to believe it, to trust it, to act on it, to base your life on the good news that the kin-dom of God, the reign of God is within reach.

That, according to Jesus, is the gospel.  That is the good news.  The kin-dom of God is immanent.  The kin-dom of God is arriving on earth as it is in heaven.

And notice this:  He doesn’t say a word here about receiving him into your heart and making him your personal Lord and Savior.  He doesn’t say anything here about being saved.  He doesn’t say anything here about forgiveness or atonement.  There is nothing spiritual in his language here at all.  When he says “Believe the good news!” it is a call to action.

“Believe” in Mark’s gospel is not a sit-and-think word.  “Believe” is a get-up-and-do word. 

In this gospel Jesus is on the move and calls others to move with him.  As he passes along the seashore he calls Peter and Andrew and James and John and they drop their nets to follow him.  He teaches as he moves.  

He calls us where we are and in the same imperative voice says, “Come!  Follow me and I’ll teach you how to bring others along!”  

He calls us to travel with him.  To work with him.  There is so much to be done.  There is an old world to dismantle and a new world to build.  The kin-dom of God is within reach.  The kin-dom of God is arriving.  

If we can see him with eyes refocused by metanoia, if we can hear him with ears opened by metanoia, if we can be freed from our preconceived ideas and learn to believe him with a trust and faith transformed by a metanoia of heart and mind, then we can begin to see the kin-dom take root and grow like a garden spreading across the desert.  

And this isn’t just “me” work that Jesus is calling us to do.  This isn’t just about saving your own soul, although, “the one who endures to the end will be saved,” said Jesus.[1]  But there’s a lot to do before we get there.  

This is “us” work.  Building the kin-dom of God requires all hands on deck.  It requires unity.  As President Biden said in his Inaugural address, “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity. Unity. Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.”

He was talking about healing our country of the divisions that have been tearing us apart, but the same thing applies to making the kin-dom of God a reality on earth as it is in heaven, something we pray for every time we pray the prayer Jesus taught us. 

“History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity,” said President Biden. “We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace — only bitterness and fury. No progress — only exhausting outrage.”

At the founding of this country our founders gave us a vision to strive for: “We, the people…in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity…”  That has always sounded to me a lot like the kin-dom of God.  It’s collective.  We the people—all of us want to form a more perfect union.  That’s ongoing work.  All of us want to establish justice.  That’s ongoing work.  All of us want to ensure domestic tranquility.  Is this not merely the country, but the world we all want to live in?  A world where everyone’s well-being is secured by the solemn word and promise of everyone else?  A world in conformity with God’s own vision of equity and justice?

This is the collective work we are called to, the work of the kin-dom, the work of taking care of each other, the work of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

“So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us,” said Amanda Gorman, our inspiring, young poet laureate.  

“We close the divide because we know to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside. 

We lay down our arms 

so we can reach out our arms to one another, 

we seek harm to none 

and harmony for all.

we will raise this wounded world 

into a wondrous one,

We’ve braved the belly of the beast, 

we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace 

and the norms and notions of what just is, 

isn’t always justice.

We will not march back to what was 

but move to what shall be

we will not be turned around 

or interrupted by intimidation 

because we know our inaction and inertia 

will be the inheritance of the next generation, 

our blunders become their burden. 

But one thing is certain: 

if we merge mercy with might and might with right, 

then love becomes our legacy 

and change our children’s birthright.

There is always light 

if only we’re brave enough to see it, 

if only we’re brave enough to be it.”[2]

Pepleirotai ho Kairos. The time is ripe. The kin-dom of God is in reach.  It always has been.  Metanoiete.  Change direction, and believe the good news.  In Jesus’ name.


[1] Mark 13:13

[2] The Hill We Climb (edited) Amanda Gorman, from President Biden’s Inauguration

2 thoughts on “The Time is Ripe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.