A forest fire devastates a vast area of land, destroying everything in its path. Afterward, remarkably, new life emerges, and over time, restoration reverses the devastation. The Word of God is like a fire that destroys and like medicine that heals. The Psalmist praises the Lord for His loving discipline and mercy. “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). God’s Word accomplishes what He desires (Isaiah 55:11) which is the salvation of all, the restoration of the erring, the recreation of His damaged creation.
God so loved the world He sent His beloved Son to heal our wounds and give us a fresh start. The lessons from Scripture show Jonah, a regurgitated prophet, preaching powerfully to a responsive Nineveh, converting a populous city to the Lord (Jonah 3:1-5, 10). The Lord relents of His judgment on people who fear and love Him for His mercy. “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). God’s plan for Nineveh was not death but life. His Word, like fire, burned the sins of wickedness, and humbled, the gospel-grace of the Lord prevailed to grant life and restoration.
In this world of sin and darkness, the Light of God’s love in Christ is made manifest during Epiphany. Christ becomes the sin-bearer by baptism, inaugurating His saving ministry. He emerges the “beloved” of God the Father, empowered by the Spirit of God. The Trinity embark on course for our salvation. The Gospel of Mark succinctly states Christ’s urgent message and appeal: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Now is the time to consider a new career. This New Year affords us an opportunity to see the bigger picture of our Lord’s coming to save us. It’s like the story of the mother who is busy washing dirty dishes and is asked: “Don’t you want something else to do with your life?” And she wisely responds, “I’m washing dishes, to be sure, but I’m also building a home for my family.”
Jesus comes to take on the dirty work of cleaning up our act, to instill in us a reason for hope, by His atoning death and justifying resurrection. We are pardoned for Jesus’ sake. He averted the fiery judgment of destruction our sins deserved. As our substitute and living Lord, He bestowed new life upon us by His grace, and calls us to a new career, as redeemed children of God.
Since our Lord’s incarnation, the time of His grace remains, yet urgency replaces complacency. In football, there is the “two minute drill.” Teams hustle to get the job done, to win the game. St. Paul encourages His Corinthian friends, and you and I, to do everything in life in such a way that keeps one eye on everlasting life (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). We’re strangers and pilgrims on earth. Marriage, the sorrows of life, the joys of life, even our vocations, are only temporary, gifts of God our Creator. We live with a certain spiritual detachment and do all we can, as Jesus taught, to be the “salt” and “light” He has made us by His grace (Matthew 5), people who possess new careers as Christian men and women. We’re in the world, not of the world.
God makes winners of losers, and calls commercial fishermen to new careers as “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). There is no time for procrastination. The disciples Jesus called “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:18). Jesus will eventually proclaim the gospel on the cross, opening the way for all to come to Him in faith and receive new opportunities for growth in His grace. Repentance, like fire, brings changes for the better, like a new career. God’s powerful Word changes everything (2 Cor. 8:9).