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.”