Sermon for Epiphany 3A
A New Start
I left Arizona in the fall of 1989 to go to school in Bronxville, NY. I kissed my Mom good bye, picked up my two suitcases and my pillow, and I boarded a plane for a new life. I didn't know what was ahead of me. I didn't really even know how to get from the airport to the college, and no one was waiting to pick me up. I did know, however, that I would never go back to Arizona. Oh, I went back to visit, but I didn’t have a home there anymore. I had moved on to something new, and I knew, I trusted, that God was leading me, guiding me, making a way for me.
After I got on that plane, my life changed forever. Everything that happened in my life can trace its roots back to that one decisive moment. Geography is destiny. Change our geography, and change our life.
This story from Matthew 4 begins with Jesus making a move. It goes by quickly. You may miss it as simply a detail of set up and set up for the action that follows. After John is put in prison, Jesus returns to Galilee, and he leaves his hometown of Nazareth. He moves to Capernaum by the Sea. A passing detail, but so important. That move means Jesus is not going to follow Joseph in the family business. He’s going to be about his heavenly Father's business. That move, Matthew tells us, was God's way of turning on the light. God's kingdom is arriving in Galilee. Jesus shines in the darkness, and that light starts to draw people in, lighting up and changing their lives. Jesus is preaching just that — repentance, change.
We have to assume that in a small town like Capernaum -- population of about 1,000 -- that Peter and Andrew, James and John know something about Jesus and his ministry, but there's something about this particular day, when Jesus calls them, when Jesus bids, “Follow me,” that changes their lives forever. Immediately, they leave everything behind and strike out into a future God only knows, God’s coming kingdom. They follow Jesus, and from now on they will be his constant companion in preaching, teaching, touching, healing, shining the light of God. God is turning the world around, and God has changed everything for these two fishing families. The call Jesus extends shakes their world and invites them to participate in this new thing God is doing. They still have families — wives and in-laws and moms and dads — and they will fish again and use their boat to ferry Jesus back and forth across the lake, but somehow it will all be different. It was, I think for them, like a light went on, and they saw the world for first time as God sees it.
I wonder if that is how it is for us too? Few of us have left everything, like St. Anthony who sold all his possessions and went to live in a cave or like St Francis who renounced everything in order to live a life of poverty and service in Jesus' name. Instead, like these first disciples, Jesus' call to follow shakes us up, changes our heart and mind and the way we look at and relate to everything, family, jobs, our own self, our identity and sense of worth. Jesus' call invites us into the coming kingdom of God. We participate in God's mission with Jesus, alongside Jesus. Peter and Andrew, James and John, receive a new calling, a new purpose for life. So do we. Jesus gives us purpose, mission, and makes these lives of ours a holy place where the light of Christ shines and illumines the darkness around us.
Can you tell of a time when the good news of God suddenly, or even subtly, struck you to the heart? When was it like God had turned on the light and everything was different? You knew Jesus had called you . you, just as you are here today. You are a disciple. You are God's child. Jesus died for you, and he rose again from the dead for you. Jesus promises, gives and sustains you in a new and eternal life with him. Was there a time when that finally made sensee to you? Maybe it's right now.
For me, I remember sitting in a class on the Book of Romans in college. See that move, that plane trip, and how God was at work, changing my destiny. So, in the course of this class we go through the Paul’s exposition of the Gospel Jesus Christ, how Jesus by his death and resurrection, makes us part of God’s household and God's kingdom. It suddenly hit me. Jesus died for me! Jesus loves me! I'm studying and crying, and it like the lights went on in my mind and soul. Everything changed. Just a word, an invitation from Jesus, “Follow me.” Immediately, it’s a new start, a fresh start. I am a follower of Jesus, a disciple. Amen.
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