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The News-Nothing But The News

Jonah 3:15, 10; Mark 1:14-20
Good morning! Welcome to the most watched news station in the mid-east, Station WTVEAST, broadcast from the heart of Old City, Jerusalem. It's 11:00 in the morning, the fourth Sabbath of the first month, 30 AD, the year. WTVEAST, the station where you get all the news that's fit to be broadcast. The news, nothing but the news, but the news, and we do have a plateful for you this morning. As always on the Sabbath morning we will be switching later in the broadcast to our Religion in a Box Correspondent to reflect on our lead stories, but first, these headline stories.
We begin our news this morning with an amazing report that comes out of Nineveh.1 Ah, but this is not the usual story out of that city known for its wild and evil ways…no, this is indeed, NEWS! Our on the scene reporter tells us that the entire city, animals included, have fasted for the last three days and covered themselves in sackcloth in response to the warnings of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah, the son of Amittai. We hope to have some live coverage on our evening newscast of these startling developments. First reports out of that large metropolis indicate that the king of Nineveh has taken this prophet Jonah's warnings seriously that "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" and the king ordered that "everyone great and small put on sackcloth." From a city known for its wicked and licentious living, this is an astounding development; but it does come from one of our most reliable reporters, and we will be bringing you live video later in the day, as well as a special interview on our weekly series, In Their Own Words.
Other news today comes out of Galilee, on the economic front: unconfirmed reports, at this time, state that James and John, sons of Zebedee, the largest fishing enterprise in that region, have left their father's business to follow an itinerant Jewish teacher. It is far too early to tell what impact this may have on the economy in that region. This is the largest fishing business in that area, and we don't know what the ramifications of this will be or whether this kind of action will set a precedent for other family splits.
Oh I see it's time now to switch to our Religion in a Box Correspondent to give her insightful analysis of the headline stories and the significance they may hold for your lives: Religion in a box: Is God getting too close for comfort? Now to our Religion-in-a-Box Correspondent, are you there? Can you hear me? Yes? Then you're on. [Changed position from lectern in front to pulpit.]
Thank you, Don Brokaw, in Jerusalem. Good morning, WTVEAST viewers! Religion-in-a-box: Don't mess with my life! The news, nothing but the news, but the news. I'm sure many of you expect me to talk just about the happenings in Nineveh today, but amazing as they may sound, I do want to give you additional background information on what is going on in Galilee these days, because something big is brewing there.
But first Nineveh. We do not know much about this latest prophet to appear in Nineveh. Our investigative reporters are looking into his family roots and past history even as I speak, but there are unconfirmed reports that this was the second call of God to this prophet to warn the Ninevites about their impending destruction. The first time, and let me emphasize that these reports are unconfirmed at the present time, Jonah refused the call of his God and set sail to Tarshish to escape that call. Further we have been told by reliable sources that there was a storm at sea, Jonah was thrown overboard by the ship's crew, and survived three days before being washed ashore. He claims to have spent those three days in the belly of a whale. Upon his return to dry land he began a three day trek through the city of Nineveh in response to a second call from God, shouting, Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. The King of Nineveh heard his warning and ordered the entire city, everyone great and small, to clothe themselves with sackcloth and ashes, to fast, and to turn from evil and violence. It is reported that when Jonah's God saw what the Ninevites did, that they had in fact turned from their evil ways, this God changed his mind about the calamity that he had planned to bring on them! He did not do it.
And now a special Religion-in-a-Box reflection: Is God getting too close for comfort? This God of Jonah's sounds quite unlike any other god we have ever heard of. Jonah claims there is only one God, and that this God is merciful. I must say, if this report is true (that we have just heard out of Nineveh), this is a God who gives second chances; not only to the people of Nineveh, but it looks like this prophet, Jonah, was given a second chance. Sources close to the prophet say that he was indeed, trying to run away from his God and that was the reason he had boarded the ship to Tarshish. It also looks like this one God is everywhere!…here on the land, out at sea, and deep under the oceans. There is no hiding from this God! That can be alarming news for those who would like to keep God in a box.
While I could easily focus on this first story, certainly the most exciting and colorful of today's headlines, I do want to turn our focus to Galilee; because unless I am mistaken, and I've been doing news for a long time and I have a nose for news by now, it is the story out of Galilee that we had best pay attention to. Something big is in the making there, but it's not clear yet what that is. I do not think the main significance of the Galilean story this morning is the economic impact of Zebedee's sons leaving their father's business. This story is actually related to one we broadcast several months ago about a preacher in Judea referred to by the local people as "John the baptizer."
If you were tuned in to WTVEAST for that broadcast, you will recall that we had been hearing reports for some time about an unusual prophet in the wilderness of that region. People from the whole Judean countryside had been flocking to hear him at the Jordan River, and to receive a baptism of repentance. The latebreaking development at that time was that the person that John the baptizer was preaching about had supposedly arrived. In an unusual turn of events, John the baptizer was reported to have baptized one Jesus of Nazareth and pointed to him as the one to whom he was referring when he said, The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me…I have baptized you with water but he will baptize with the holy spirit. John then pointed to this Jesus of Nazareth and is quoted as saying, "This is the Lamb of God" and even encouraged several of his followers to go with him.
Our investigative reporters are continuing to work in the Galilean countryside and the city of Bethlehem to follow up on reports of unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of this Jesus of Nazareth, but that is a brief recap of our previous broadcast to bring you up-to-date.
Some of you may be wondering what all this has to do with the sons of Zebedee and why this is big news. My dear WTVEAST viewers, this is not only big news but unsettling news. The preaching of this Jesus of Nazareth threatens the very fabric of our society. When children leave their parents and economic livelihood to follow a spiritual leader, when people commit themselves to follow a person or God without regard to territorial boundaries or personal security, there should be concern on the part of those who believe "religion is OK in its place." Remember the WTVEAST motto is Religion-inabox: don't mess with my life!
It is one thing for the rabbis and teachers in the synagogues to talk about God and debate their religious laws, but this Jesus is traveling throughout the region talking to average working people. As unbelievable as this may sound, he is drawing the likes of fishermen—and you know what an earthy lot they are! He is asking people like them and you and me to make a decision—to be a part of the kingdom of God which has come near…he says "the time is fulfilled." This Jesus of Nazareth tells them to turn around and believe the good news. As evidence of this turning around, he has asked several of these people to follow him, fishermen mind you! The only thing more amazing than his asking them, is that they are doing it!! Simon and Andrew last week; James and John this week, the sons of Zebedee. Where will this end? Family life disrupted! Business futures placed in question! What is he up to? What kind of God is this? And what kind of demands might this God make on you and me? Do we want our lives in God's hands, or our own?
Those who have heard this Jesus of Nazareth say he speaks with such authority that many are astounded by his teaching. And, my dear WTVEAST viewers, may I remind you that Jesus speaks of the same god that Jonah of Amittai spoke of: the merciful one, from whom there is no running away. This God is even willing to forgive the most evil things—look at the Ninevites!—and he gives second chances: even to those who run from him!
But perhaps what is most startling in all this is that this God, if our information is correct, cares about average, working people. And not just them, also reportedly, the very young and old, the ill and the weak, the unemployed and the dying…this God wants all of them in his kingdom!
As I said, this is a radical message without precedent for our times, coming from this rather unknown itinerant rabbi. Our reporters in that region will continue to keep us updated on his preaching and activities, but in the meantime; you may find yourselves confronted with the likes of his command, "Follow me!" What will you do?
Our time is up this morning, WTVEAST viewers. The views expressed on Religion-in-a-Box are not necessarily those of the speaker and liability for this broadcast will not be borne by WTVEAST.
Thank you for watching this morning. Tune in once again next week to Religion-in-a-Box if you are worried that God may be getting "too close for comfort" to you. The news! Nothing but the news, but the news!
Barbara Ann Hedin Pineville, WV
NOTES
1. The time has been intentionally collapsed between the Old and New Testament events in order to be able to preach this type of sermon.