Do any of you know the name of the inventor of dynamite?
It might sound familiar once you hear it, it’s Alfred Nobel.
In 1867, Nobel, Alfred Nobel, who was a Swedish chemist invented a new high explosive which he named “dynamite.”
Some hoped his invention would make war so horrible that it would never happen again because it would become so awful, so terrible, that no one in their right mind would be willing to inflict that kind of terror on somebody else…
…sadly, they were wrong.
Instead of ending wars, dynamite made them more devastating and wide-ranging than they had ever been before.
Nobel continued making explosives and he made a fortune doing it.
And then something interesting happened.
One morning, around the turn of the century, he awoke to read, and get this, his own obituary, it read:
“Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before.
He died a very rich man.”
The newspaper had made a mistake-- Alfred’s older brother was the one who died.
But, as you could probably imagine, the obituary had a profound effect on him.
He realized he didn’t want to be known primarily as the person who developed the most effective killing machine of his generation and amassed a fortune doing it…that sounds more like the villain to a story than the good-guy, right?
So, what did Alfred Nobel do…well, he founded the Nobel Prize—an award for scientists and writers who work toward peace.
Nobel said, “Every [person] ought to have the chance to correct his [or her] epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”
What had happened?
Alfred Nobel was given a chance to make a change.
He was given the chance to make a big turn, repentance in his life.
To choose forces of good over evil, and ultimately, when he did pass away, he would be known not just for creating dynamite, but for creating the most well-known peace prize in the entire world.
After His baptism and having survived the temptations in the desert, Jesus arrives in Galilee, in our Gospel Lesson for this morning, to announce that God’s “time has come. The Kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”
To come near means to join one thing to another.
Heaven and earth are about to be joined together.
Everything is about to change.
It’s about to change for people who are hungry for it.
It’s about to change for people who are desperate for it.
Repent and believe the good news!
Repent means, quite literally to turn around.
Think about it, when you are alone and walking down a dark and scary road, turning around is not a bad idea.
When you are heading for a disaster, it is best to turn as quick as you can and run in the opposite direction.
This is a good thing.
It is a welcome thing for those who are not satisfied with what this world has to offer.
Have you ever felt as if you didn’t belong…like something wasn’t quite right?
Have you ever been to a party and felt out of place?
Have you ever felt alone in a group of people?
Have you ever thought that there is something wrong with the way things are moving?
Have you ever felt like your life could be so much more than it is…
…so much more fulfilling…
…so much more meaningful…
…so much more useful?
Have you ever wanted to stop the train and get off?
I’m not talking about giving up.
I’m not talking about ending it.
I’m talking about the exact opposite.
I’m talking about moving from death to life.
From darkness to light.
From the way of the world to the way of the Kingdom.
I know I have shared this before, but when I was 18 years old I felt very lost.
And I came to a point in time where heaven and earth were about to be joined together.
It’s kind of like Jesus’ call to Simon, Andrew and James and John…
…I was doing my own thing…
…but not satisfied with it.
I knew there was more to life than where I was headed.
And when Jesus called me, I saw a choice: I could continue following Satan…
…or I could follow Christ.
I could keep going the way I was going or I could turn around and go in the opposite direction.
I made the decision to listen to Jesus and turn around.
And my life has never been the same.
I would say, even today, some 34 years later, that was the most important decision I have made in my life and will probably ever make.
It was after that decision that everything began to change and, indeed, I had become a new creature in Christ.
But, that is not the end of the story, just like of Simon, Andrew, James and John’s decisions to follow Christ, over 2,000 years ago, was not the end of their stories.
It was just the beginning.
Ahead for them and for all of us who decide to follow Christ, there is much to learn, much stumbling, misunderstanding, and backsliding.
Becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ takes both a moment and a lifetime.
I’ve still got a long way to go; how about you?
But, by the sheer grace of God as Paul tells us in Romans 11:29, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
When we feel the most like ending our own discipleship, we remember the call.
And we remember, that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
And we have a new home, it is the Kingdom of God, and we have been there and we know the love that exists there.
And so, even when we turn back, we remember…
…life is truly never the same again, once we have repented and given our lives to God in Jesus Christ.
You know, repentance really means “going home.”
Repent is part of the poetry of exile; it’s something the Israelites knew a lot about.
Repenting, when in exile, meant going home.
And so, when Jesus restores the original image of God in us, when we become new creatures in Christ, when “old things have passed away;” and “all things become new” as Paul puts it in 1st Corinthians 5:17, we are learning how to be the original human beings God made us to be in the first place.
We are returning home.
And Jesus telling us that we can go home, and that God will welcome us back, and throw His arms around us is such good news.
And, that is what Jesus tells us to believe.
“The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Christianity is always both for now and for the long haul; both for a moment and a lifetime.
Since “repent” is in the present tense, it tells us that it is a continuous action…
…just as believing is a continuous action.
We don’t just repent once and then we are done with it.
It would be nice if it worked that way, but, as the old saying goes, “Christians are forgiven, not perfect.”
The Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.
We make so many mistakes.
We allow pride to delude us…
…we allow sin to take up residence in our hearts, minds, bodies…
…we are members of the Kingdom of God, but we so often go our own way and like the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, before we know it we are feeding pigs and longing to eat what we feed them.
But, God’s call is still there.
And if we come to our senses, like the younger son in that parable, we will, Lord willing, turn around and come home.
Repentance carries with it the understanding that we have some changing to do, some new directions to take…
…and its primary orientation is toward God’s future rather than our past.
Jesus’ call to repentance is an invitation to trust in a future made possible by the grace of God.
It’s an invitation to do more than rerun the past.
That is the gospel, the good news toward which Jesus invites us to stop, turn or turn again, and hold on to for dear life.
“Repent,” says Jesus: “Things don’t have to stay the way they are now!”
In fact, to follow Jesus means that things can’t stay the way they are.
Just ask Peter, James, Andrew and John.
Just ask Peter’s mother-in-law, whose fever went away when Jesus touched her, or the leper whose life was no longer defined by his disease after he met with Jesus.
Just ask those friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof, or the man whose withered hand caught more of Jesus’ attention than obeying some Sabbath regulations.
What things in your life have changed because you heeded the Call of Christ to Repent and Believe the Good News?
What things still need to change; what things do you keep clinging onto that you know you should let go?
Repent means that every old way of living is going to change, every wall of resistance to God’s will is going to fall, including the wall of sin.
That’s why Jesus not only tells the paralytic to pick up his mat and walk, but says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
In those four words, Jesus announces what every human being needs to know: sin is real.
Sin often gets the best of us, reduces us, demeans us, and makes us less than what God intends for our lives.
Let’s face it.
The devil is good at making what is wrong look right.
He is good at making what is ugly and mean and selfish and disgusting seem just fine and dandy, attractive even.
But in the Kingdom of God which is the Kingdom of Reality—Sin is not attractive.
Sin is what it is—it is ugly, mean, selfish, and disgusting.
It is ridiculous and petty.
It is sad.
It is rotten.
It is not the way things were meant to be.
It is not the way we are meant to be or to live.
And when we are blindly living in sin, there is something BIG missing from our lives.
We are broken.
We are lost.
We are blind.
And we can’t find our way home.
And so, God sends His Son.
And His Son calls Peter, Andrew, James, John, You, Me and everyone else…
…and He says: “The time has come.
The Kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”
And then, He says, “Come, follow me.”
It is time; it is time to come home.
Have you heard Jesus calling?
Have you taken Him up on His invitation?
Are you a new creature in Christ?
Is your home the Kingdom of God?
If not, listen to Jesus: “The time has come.
The Kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”