“Ask, Seek, Knock”

January 31, 2023

‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

In Matthew 6 Jesus gave a model for praying.  Now he invites the disciples to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.”  I suspect we often treat this like an invitation like to write our wish list for Santa Clause.  It’s not exactly give-me but also we don’t exactly expect to get everything.  We might even attach, “thy will be done” to cover our bases so we are not disappointed.

          What if we were to put a conversational tone to these verbs?  Asking, seeking and knocking are more process words that imply relationship than list words that imply wants.  When we ask questions, we must sit stil and listen to the answer and then ask a follow up question if necessary.  Seeking is not playing peek-a-boo with your fingers, hiding your eyes as with babies, but a process of pondering, researching, and investigating.  Knocking could conote more of a testing out or checking in to a request.  We are impatient people who like our TV episode to finish in a half hour or hour.  Prayer is relating to a God who we are confident is rooting for our best life, for the best solution, who cares not only with us but for all factors involved.  Jesus reminds us that we are not just dealing with a fast food machine but with a God who is on our side.

         Lets spend a few minutes thanking God for the privilege of asking, seeking and knocking.  Our thoughts are being processed and acted on perhaps not on our time line but within God’s wisdom.  Do we truly want our way or God’s way?  Good question to ponder!  Blessings.


January 30, 2023

“7 ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.

 For with the judgement you make you will be judged,

 and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 

Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye,

 but do not notice the log in your own eye? 

 4 Or how can you say to your neighbour,

 “Let me take the speck out of your eye”,

 while the log is in your own eye?

 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,

 and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

         “Discernment” is such a nicer word that “judging.”  We like to think our point of view is right and the other is wrong.  This sounds seriously like what we talk about with the polarization of our cultural thinking these days.  The “other” has gone beyond being different to wrong to evil to acts of rage and violence against innocent children.  We grieve and demand justice.  We want the law to enforce our moral belief system.

         Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount changes the focus from the “other” to ourselves.  Eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth thinking produces a blind and toothless society.  The kingdom of heaven challenges us to look at our own hearts and actions as the starting place.  Only God can make a fair decision and he promises justice (tempered with mercy, I believe).  It is always a good warning sign when we emotionally over react to a situation.  When our sense of injustice erupts into rage, violent language, and threats, we need to stop and decompress – pray.  When we find ourselves sliding down the rabbit hole of reliving, rethinking, and fixating on perceived insults, we need to find a friend and get another’s perspective.  It is hard to admit we have a “log in our own eye,” a blind spot in our thinking but anger is often not logical.  Vengeance disguised as justice will never bring love and compassion.

         Perhaps anger is not a problem for you but I suspect we all get offended and get our feelings hurt.  Let us take a moment today and ponder if there is someone we need to forgive or mend bridges with.  Life is too short and too hard to add an additional burden of anger.  Let God carry it for you!

 4th Sunday after Epiphany 

January 29, 2023

First Reading: Micah 6:1-8

1Hear what the Lord says:
  Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
  and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
  and you enduring foundations of the earth;
 for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
  and he will contend with Israel.

3“O my people, what have I done to you?
  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
  and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
 and I sent before you Moses,
  Aaron, and Miriam.
5O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
  what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
 and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
  that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”

6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  and bow myself before God on high?
 Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
  with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
 Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
  and what does the Lord require of you
 but to do justice, and to love kindness,
  and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm: Psalm 15

1Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
  Who may abide upon your holy hill?
2Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,
  who speak the truth from their heart;
3they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil to their friends;
  they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.
4In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who fear the Lord.
  They have sworn upon their health and do not take back their word.
5They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes against the innocent.
  Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Children’s Sermon:  The Bear and the Bees by Aesop

A Bear roaming the woods happened on a fallen tree in which a swarm of Bees had stored their honey. Just then one of the bees came home. Guessing what the Bear was after, the bee flew at him, stung him sharply and then disappeared into the hollow log. The Bear lost his temper and sprang upon the log to destroy the nest. This brought out the whole swarm. The poor Bear had to take to his heels. He was able to save himself only by diving into a pool of water.

What is the bear in your life?  Who is in your swarm?

Let us pray.  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, My Rock and My Redeemer.


      Today starts the fourth week in Epiphany and we are finally getting to Jesus’ State of the Union Address, the Sermon on the Mount.  It may not be January 20th when our President addressed Congress about the condition of affairs in the United States but Jesus is giving a similar overview of his kingdom. We see Matthew opening this gospel by presenting Jesus, “Son of God” as the great teacher and revealer of truth about how life works best.  Jesus is going to tell us about life in his kingdom.  It will help us clarify whom we are seeking and where we can find him.

      Jesus sees the crowds, the people who are checking him out to see if he is the person John the Baptist was speaking about, the promised Messiah, the one who would “deal with” the Romans and the horrible living conditions in Israel at the time.  I suspect those people longed for life to be like the days of Solomon when silver was so common, no one kept track of it.  Even we long “to be great again.”  Perhaps we don’t call it that but for some of us, memories of our youth when we could do so many things, haunt our present leaving a sour taste in our mouth.  Ah, for the good ole days.  The unknowns of tomorrow can appear to us like that bear sniffing around the log.  And perhaps we feel like that little bee, guarding our little contribution to life.  Jesus opens the scene, not in the forest where we might find a bear but on a mountaintop, that liminal space between heaven and earth.

     According to Matthew, Jesus, in the face of the call to ministry to the needy people following him, first climbs the mountain and teaches his disciples who join him.  It is a scene reminiscent of Moses who went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.  Jesus will go up a mountain for the Transfiguration.  Jesus is crucified on Mount Calvary.  Important things happen on mountains, those liminal spaces between heaven and earth.  Many of us retreat to the lake cabin or some quiet place away from the bustle and confusion of life to sort ourselves out.  Some of us have developed the journaling discipline. Before we start a challenge, before we start tomorrow, we must know what we believe and whom we are facing.  We must know whom we are seeking and where to find him.  It is here on the mountaintop that Jesus gives us a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven that he is ushering in and the sort of God he is.


      The kingdom of Heaven is different than the Kingdom of this World. The kingdom Jesus is telling us about is unlike this world where bears seek to devour our honey.  In this world we are plagued by discouragement (poor in spirit), grief (mourning), pride and arrogance, cruelty, deception, war and persecution.  Do I hear anyone saying, “Amen!” or are we comfortable in our wealth?  The wolf of Little Red Riding Hood may wear Grandma’s clothes and promise her all sorts of goodies if she would use his products for health and beauty, use his investment schemes for wealth and prosperity, buy his insurance products to deal with those hard times or vote his philosophy into government but the solutions the world offers are temporary.  Jesus presents a different perspective. He starts with the truth. Life is hard. Bears are sniffing around the log where we are storing our honey.  But that is not the whole picture?


    Jesus encourages us to look closer and he shares the “bee – attitudes”.  His kingdom confronts the Kingdom of this World with “Bee” “Attitudes”-beatitudes.  He tells us where true blessings are found in this opening section of his sermon. The Kingdom of Heaven is not going to defeat the bear with a gun and war but by the person we will become as we follow Jesus and learn to live in kingdom ways.  We will not defeat the bear by being bigger and stronger.  Like a tiny bee we will be armed with the Spirit of God so that

  • Those times that discourage us and make us feel poor in spirit will become times when actually we are forced to find strength in the kingdom of heaven.  Our problems lead us deeper into God’s love.  Tough times are times of grace.
  • Those times when we mourn and are overcome with grief, the Holy Spirit will draw close and comfort us.  He will wrap his arms around us. And! And we will be comforted by the body of Christ.  Comfort is not found in alcohol, drugs, sex or worldly pleasures. The God we seek is a God that comforts the mourners.
  • Those times when violence reigns, the meekness of the kingdom that loves the enemy and helps the helpless will help us inherit this world, not war.  Hate cannot produce love but love covers a multitude of sins.
  • Those times when we give mercy and forgiveness rather than vengeance, hate and anger, we learn to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God that we need when we blow it.
  • Those times when we are confused by doubt and seek God with our whole heart, he will reveal himself and not be far off and busy in Washington.  We do not climb up to God but he is here with us in our hard times.
  • Those times of war, persecution and misunderstanding, God will not flee from us and we will be known by his presence in our lives.

It is in the midst of the bears of life that seek to destroy us that we build our faith, find our God active and involved, and learn to recognize God actively fighting evil.  It is in hard times that we find the Kingdom of Heaven, grace and a God who cares enough to enter the messes of life with us. Jesus is the Son of God revealing the Kingdom of Heaven to us.

      The beatitudes are not a Christian formula for getting the good life. They are not a new set of laws. The beatitudes tell us that life in the kingdom of this world is hard but there is another reality, another kingdom being built, that is not so apparent. That kingdom defeats the ugliness of this world and that kingdom is a gift of grace from God.  We see glimpses of it in the beauty of sunrises and sunsets.  We see it in the laughter of children.  We experience it in hugs of friends and family.  We cry in relief when we are forgiven as we come to the table of communion.  The bear does not come to create beauty, love, joy and forgiveness. The wolf is wearing Grandma’s clothes only to deceive us. Jesus is not wearing human forms to deceive us but incarnates along side us and lets us know he cares and will rescue us as we turn to him.

12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

      Jesus reminds us that when rough times come, the company of saints experienced our same situations.  We are not alone. We are part of a swarm.  The little bee in our story, all by itself is way out matched by the bear.  The bee has a “swarm” that it is part of and Jesus is ushering in a kingdom of bees to support each other and to remind us of the truth of God when we feel attacked by the bears of life.  Little Red Riding Hood could not fight the wolf by herself but it was as the woodsman came to her rescue that she was saved and able to free her real Grandma.

      So whom are we seeking?  Are we seeking a god who will promise to come in and kill the bear for us and give us the good life or are we seeking a God who walks with us, partners with us, in the midst of the problems of this world, creating a better world and ultimately declaring, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  Enter into your father’s delight.”

      So where do we find the God Jesus is the son of?  We find God in the midst of problems.  He is there with us, enabling us, encouraging us, and involved in his creation.

      The bear runs away and jumps into a pool of water.  Sounds like baptism to me.  As we believe and identify with Jesus in our baptism, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and help us conquer the bears of life.  And we join a body of believers that is world wide, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let the people of God say, “Amen,” may it be so!



“The Beatitudes”

January 28, 2023

Tomorrow our Gospel text will be the beatitudes that open the Sermon on the Mount.  When I searched the Internet for a song that might point us in the right direction, I came upon two I had never heard before.  Let me share them with you.  The first is a kind of country tune and the other is the text set to nice background music.  Enjoy and let the music prepare your hearts for tomorrow whe we step aside and renew your soul.  Just meditating on Scripture and allowing God to set the agenda can be a great blessing.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf0J7uDBz9M


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf0J7uDBz9M .


January 27, 2023

“ 34… ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:24-34)”

This last part of chapter 6 in Matthew, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount talks about worry, specifically about what we wear and how we look.  It ends with the above summary statement.  Don’t worry about tomorrow.  Luke the Evangelist put it this way, “Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.” 

         This verse challenges me.  My doubts and my control issues confront me.  My husband is in a nursing home with a terminal diagnosis and the potential situation I face everyday as I go to visit is often foreboding.  It is easy to ponder what the terminal event will be and when.  There is of course the question of paying bills.  That does not include thoughts of keeping the family informed with their varying relationships with him, with us, with each other and with the grandkids.  Yes, I worry.

         This verse confronts my control issues.  Tomorrow has not happened and I cannot control how this will all unfold.  Likewise I cannot control how God will choose to show himself present.  I forget to factor in the kind aides that happen to find my husband and care for him when he can’t care for himself.  I forget the kind administrators who navigate finances with me.  And I underestimate my family support.  Oh yes, and I have friends loving me.  God is active and present in so many ways that I often forget.

         This verse confirms that yesterday’s mistakes are issues of forgiveness and that rests in God’s hands also.  I must trust that others and God forgive me even as I forgive them when they are weak and perhaps wrong.  Friendship is like that and I forget.  Yesterday is in God’s hands too.

         So as I sit with this verse today, I am reminded that yesterday’s issues have happened and can best be resolved by God’s guidelines and not by my guilt or wishes.  Today is a gift that will unfold as God works with all the moving parts.  Tomorrow is like a shadow of fears that may never materialize and blessings that I cannot anticipate or touch now.

         I do not know what worries you but I do know there is a God who is faithful to walk through our past, present and future with us.  Blessings.


January 26, 2023

“24 ‘No one can serve two masters;

for a slave will either hate the one and love the other,

 or be devoted to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Matthew 6:24

This verse calls me to true confessions.  I am the oldest child and do not have experiences with older siblings ordering me around.  I am not a master gardener.  I pity the plants in my garden.  I would not claim to be the master of any talent.  I cannot see the notes on the paper to master the recorder I have loved since second grade!  Ah, I do have a “masters degree” from University but my kids remind me I went to the senior prom in the last century and times have changed!  Jesus skips all these modern day meanings of master and goes to the core question of what sets the direction of our hearts, God or wealth. 

         Wealth, like masters, takes many forms.  So these verses in some translations of the Bible are connected with the previous paragraph that asks us to ponder where our treasures are kept.  So perhaps the question is what we treasure in our hearts and seek to please by perfecting.  The question, “Whom do I seek to please?” is something I can get my mind around.  As I go through the day, what voices am I answering to in my mind?  Perhaps I am not a “slave” as in olden days but I do answer to those things important to me.  So am I seeking to please God or am I seeking to improve self?

         As we go through today may we be more aware of whom we are seeking to please.  Are the voices in my heart leading me to do well and leading me to God or are they condemning and encouraging my eyes to face the values of culture.  Even as we tune our radio or TV station, may we tune to those voices that come from God today.  Blessings.


January 25, 2023

“22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body.

So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 

23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.

If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

(Matthew 6:22-23)

Many would consider Fanny J. Crosby one of the most prolific hymnists ever.  She wrote over 8,000 hymns.  She became blind at 6 months old!  Surely Jesus does not mean to be talking about our physical ability to see, our physical eyes.  One of the keys to this passage must lie in pondering the nature of “lamps.”  Physical eyes are the lamps to our bodies and our spiritual eyes are the lamps to our soul.  We lived in a famine relief camp in Kenya for five years and one night as we ate dinner by lamplight, I set my young son on the floor to play and did not see the scorpion.  Lesson learned!

         The problem is that we almost always think we are right if the other would just listen to our point of view.  Proverbs 16:2 tells us, “All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”  Unfortunately wars erupt because people see their actions as justified.   Each side sees themselves as right.  Abuse happens because people are right in their own eyes.  We are not good people to evaluate our own actions and our friends that we discuss the issue with, may be bias also because they love us.  “Love is blind.”  The court system is based on “outside eyes” evaluating our case and passing an impartial verdict.

         Where does that leave us today?  God who created us, understands us, understands all the circumstances, understands the other with equal love and he is the only being truly able to see and judge impartially.  He is the best lamp.

         Let us just spend a moment now listening to this song prayer asking God to open our eyes that we might see.


January 24, 2023

“19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 

20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

         One of the movies “trending” on Netflix right now is “Leap Year.”  It is one of my favorites.  A young woman trying so hard to be mature and capable decides to follow her family Irish tradition of following her boy friend to Dublin to propose to him on Leap Year, February 29.  The young local guy who drives her through adventures to get to Dublin, asks her a question.  “If your house was burning and you had 60 seconds, what would you take?”

She can’t answer him because she does not know what her “treasure” is.  At the end of the movie she ends up leaving the cardiologist she wanted to marry and returns to the guy whom she had grown to love because she realized she had everything materially that she wanted but not what she needed, his love.

         Jesus does not specify what treasures we might lay up in heaven.  But he does challenge us to distinguish between temporal treasures and eternal treasures.  He does say that in eternity, those “things” we value cannot be taken from us.  Let us take a moment right now and thank God for some of the things we treasure, perhaps people that warm our heart or experiences that give us a glimpse of eternity.  Let us decide to try to focus this year on that which builds towards eternity. Blessings.

“Secrets, round 3”

January 23, 2023

            “16 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your          Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)”

In elementary school one of the trick questions was to ask if God could create a rock too big for him to lift.  If he couldn’t lift it or couldn’t create it, then he wasn’t God.  When I took calculus in college, the word was “limits.”  Numbers can be infinitely small and infinitely big.  Now we use the word “boundaries.”  People might talk about having the “DTR” talk, defining the relationship boundaries.  Another way to put it, is knowing what is private and what is publicly appropriate. 

God seems to be concerned about boundaries too.  Today’s text that we are thinking about is the third time Jesus talks about making public that which is secret.  He talked about publicly showing off donations that bring self fame v.s. giving in secret because God sees.  He talked about publicly showing off in prayer, using big words and fancy phrases v.s. praying is secret because God hears.  Today’s passage talks about the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Again Jesus impresses on us the need to self reflect on whom we are trying to impress.  Fasting to draw closer to God is between God and the person, not an opportunity to draw the attention of friends or the public.  Jesus continues to point out that the God we are worshiping is not a dictator in the sky who eventually passes out rewards for good behavior but is a God who walks with us and partners with us and knows us…and cares!

Let’s make an acrostic of “secret” today and thank God for aspects of our personal relationship with him that are not up for public debate.

Thank you, Lord, for s______, 

Thank you, Lord for e_______,

Thank you Lord, for c_________,

Thank you Lord, for r_________,

Thank you Lord, for e_______, 

Thank you Lord for t_____________.

3rd Sunday after Epiphany 

January 22, 2023

First Reading: Isaiah 9:1-4

1There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time [the Lord] brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2The people who walked in darkness
  have seen a great light;
 those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
  on them light has shined.
3You have multiplied the nation,
  you have increased its joy;
 they rejoice before you
  as with joy at the harvest,
  as people exult when dividing plunder.
4For the yoke of their burden,
  and the bar across their shoulders,
  the rod of their oppressor,
  you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 4-9

The Lord is my light and my salvation. (Ps. 27:1)

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
4One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek;
  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to

      gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in the temple.
5For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter,
  hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high up-  on a rock.
6Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies who surround

         me.  Therefore I will offer sacrifice in the sanctuary, sacrifices of   rejoicing; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call;
  have mercy on me and answer me.
8My heart speaks your message— “Seek my face.”
  Your face, O Lord, I will seek.
9Hide not your face from me, turn not away from your servant in anger.
  Cast me not away—you have been my helper; forsake me not, O God          of my salvation.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

10Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
  on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16the people who sat in darkness
  have seen a great light,
 and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
  light has dawned.”
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Children’s Sermon:  Turn to your neighbor and share a difference or two between Indianapolis and Greenwood or another smaller city/town you are familiar with..

Let us pray.  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


         Last week we were confronted with two questions in oue gospel reading from John, “Who do you seek?” and “Where can we find him?”  Jesus invited John’s disciples, “Come and see.”  Andrew went and then ran home and told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!”  He took Peter to meet Jesus.  This week we return to the Gospel of Matthew and pick up this narrative.

           We likened the Season of Epiphany to the investigation Little Red Riding Hood went through to decide if the person in the bed was truly her grandmother.  She looked closely and asked questions.  During Epiphany this year, we will be pondering if Jesus is truly the Son of God as reported at his baptism or just another self appointed Messiah or deliverer.  Epiphany is a time when we dig deeper to understand who our God is.  Next week we will start looking at the Sermon on the Mount, called by some Jesus’ “State of the Union Address” where he describes the kingdom he represents and is in-fact ushering in.  In our daily devotions we will dwell more on how he “walked the talk” after he finished his address.  That’s the overview.  The overarching quest is discovering what sort of God this Jesus is and where do we find him in our down to earth lives.  So let’s start.

         Today’s Gospel reading opens with John the Baptist being imprisoned.  His time on the stage of life is coming to a close and Jesus is stepping into the lime-light.  Jesus becomes the focus of our questions.  Of note is that Jesus does not stay in his childhood town of Nazareth but travels about 50 km or 30 miles NE to the town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee and this becomes his “central command base.” 

         This was a strategic move for several reasons.  It fulfilled prophecy as stated in our text by Isaiah during the Assryian Exile. Zebulun and Naphtali will see “a great light.”  These areas often referred to as Galilee, and were multicultural, multilingual areas under the Romans and not in Jerusalem’s backyard. Jesus goes to Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee to set up shop in northern Israel.

         Jerusalem, the city of David, was central to the Jewish faith and is fought over even today by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  All claim sacred events in Jerusalem.  But it would seem a new center of spiritual events is forming in a much more secular setting, a setting like our lives today.  Our faith is lived out in the kingdom of this world and we represent the kingdom of God.  We probably identify more with Caperaum than Jerusalem.  A major spiritual shift is beginning to occur.  God is stepping into our world in a new way!

17From that time Jesus began to proclaim,

 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

         These words of Jesus sound terribly familiar.  In chapter 3, Matthew reports John the Baptist saying at the Jordon, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. (v.2)”`  The scenery and messenger have shifted but the message is the same.  Our journey to finding the God we are seeking starts with “repent.”  Let me put this in our Little Red Riding Hood example.  To know if the person is Grandma, Little Red Riding Hood first asks questions or we could say she takes a closer look.  She puts on her glasses.  As we hear about the kingdom of heaven, it will sound not quite right.  Like Grandma’s eyes that are too big and ears too long and teeth too sharp.  Being told to love our enemies or turn the other cheek or go the extra mile for someone who has offended us feels counter intuitive.  God’s way is not the world’s way and we must decide if we want Grandma or the wolf.  We must ask questions to decide if we are seeing the world and chasing its values or are we looking with eyes that focus on pleasing God as we experience him in Jesus. 

         When we repent, we “come clean,” admit that we have done things in a backward way that has not gotten us closer to God or our neighbor.  We’ve been wrong.  We call it sin.  We admit it.  We realize that we cannot get things right all the time.  Our glasses are dirty!  For some people that sounds like a huge emotional event where a person goes to pieces in guilt.  For some it is a daily process of admitting need to clean our glasses and daily checking in with God to make sure we are on the right track.  Communion is a time when we kneel at the altar and yet again confess we need our glasses cleaned by God.  We want to see life his way.  We repent of our self-centeredness and turn to him.  Baptism is a sacrament when we present our children or ourselves and acknowledge that they are in the kingdom of this world and ask the Holy Spirit to live in them and help them to see life clearly and make godly decisions with their lives.  Sponsors and congregations pledge to be truthful mirrors to the baptized, reflecting God’s way to the others and journeying with them.

         The kingdom of heaven is near but life is not perfected yet. Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven but it has not totally arrived.  Our journey starts with repentance and is a journey.  So we are back to our question, “Who are you looking for?”  Step one, make sure you have the right glasses on that help you focus on the Kingdom of Heaven. 

20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

         Jesus then calls Andrew and Peter, James and John to follow him.  Unlike today, Rabbis invited students to follow them.  People did not apply to be disciples or followers.  Disciples were called.  When called, their task changed from fishing for self-gratification, fish to eat, to focus on the other person and not on self, be fishers of men.  Those four men left fishing for food to fish for men.  Not all of us are evangelists, though. So, choose an idiom that works for you.  I am no longer a teacher of a math curriculum but a discipler of young minds.  I am no longer someone who keeps house but I am building a home, a haven for my children and grandchildren and friends.  When our glasses are clean and we are clear about who we are following, our vision “immediately” changes from self to other.

         “Where do we find you?” broadens our vision to the whole setting of our lives.   We find Jesus all around us in our secular everyday lives.  God speaks and acts into our lives daily.  We no longer labor alone but join a journey with Jesus.  We are still in this Kingdom of the World but as we repent and put on God’s glasses, we are more able to see the Kingdom of Heaven he is ushering in.  That enemy who offends us is also his child and deserves to be treated respectfully.  That mistake we made needs to be followed with making things right.  Those goods we have been blessed with can be shared with those in need.  We no longer need to go to Jerusalem to offer our sacrifices and to get right with God.  We begin to see him active in our secular world and understand how we can use our talents to be his representative.

“…proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and

curing every disease and every sickness among the people”

         So, “Where do we find him?”  Where do we find Jesus?  Must we travel to Jerusalem or do we find him here in secular life, walking along side us, calling to us to follow, and enabeling us to help him build a kingdom.  Our Gospel tells us that we are invited to folllow Jesus. We follow a God who cares enough about us to incarnate, to proclaim good news and to cure disease and illness

         Often we use the logo “good news” as short hand for our belief in full forgiveness for our sins by believing in Jesus, the Savior, who died on the cross.  We point to that pivotal moment in history.  That is true good news but the text doesn’t stop at “good news.”  It continues to say “good news of the kingdom.”  Jesus did die for sin to bridge the gap between God and his creation.  But I think he is talking about more than our separation from God and each other.  He is talking about a kingdom that unlike the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood who sought to devour the little girl, is a kingdom where we are all invited to be disciples and follow him.  It is a kingdom where illness and disease are cured.  It is different from the kingdom of this world.

         This is where we put on our spiritual glasses.  We look at our world and see problems, a wolf disguising himself as Grandma.  People still die.  Poverty, mental illness, addictions and evil still cripple us.  There is war in Ukraine.  There is political debate in Washington.  Environmental catastrophies affect many.  That is the kingdom of this world that is passing away.  Evil will not win.

         Jesus calls disciples to partner with him.  His kingdom is not dictated and ruled from a power above but is an invitation to join.  In the 60s we spent a lot of time and energy presenting theories on just how this kingdom would arrive, “end times.”  I suspect those details are not for us to micromanage.  Our call is to follow Jesus.  And where do we find Jesus?   We find him active in Capernaum, our everyday life.  He’s calling to you and to me today to follow him.   Are we listening?

         Who is it that we are seeking?

           A God who works in Caperaum, our secular, eveyday lives.

         Who is it that we are seeking?

            A God who calls and partners with disciples to build a kingdom.

         Where do we find this God?

            In Capernaum, everyday places, walking with us.

         Where do we find this God?

            Proclaiming good news.

            Curing diseases and every sickness!

Lord, help me wear your glasses and see through your eyes this week!

Let the people of God say “Amen.”