Text: Matt 4:12-25
18 While walking 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
We are in the Epiphany season. What does Epiphany mean? For those in the world it means Jesus Christ being made manifest or being made known. The Messiah had been long expected by Israel. For the Jews in our day he is still looked for and expected. When will he come they wonder?
For many in the world this season means playoff football and clearance sales. For you and me it also means tax season and paying what you owe or possibly getting a refund - time to think … time to gather … time to prepare your tax statements and W-2 forms.
For some it is time for a vacation. It’s cold out, let’s pack up and go someplace warm!
For those in the church it may be some of these things or all of the above.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes into Galilee, to Capernaum by the sea so that the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
What does it mean to follow Christ?
In a sense it means:
16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,
It is God, working in the world and through his means of making himself known.
In Jesus’ day … he walked by the Sea of Galilee and called two brothers who were fisherman, Andrew and Simon, saying:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Their response was to follow him … immediately!
So to with James and John his brother a short time later, 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Not all who saw the light of Christ followed.
Why some and not others is the age old divine question? Why are some brought to faith and believe while others resist and reject? Only God knows but John does shed light on the will of those in darkness in Chapter 3:
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
And so too our epistle lesson confirms:
18 For the word of the cross is folly [or foolishness] to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
So it is God’s power to save and man’s will to flee light and love darkness.
The inherent will to sin is strong in all of us. We all fall short of God’s expectations and for some, our sin calls us back to the darkness of inequity that we love. Why some and not others?
It’s been said:
Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.
The Gospel is really good news but let us not forget Christ’s call:
17 … “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The turning from our sinfulness is first – necessary - before the gift of forgiveness is received.
When we are brought to faith God gives us his Spirit and calls us to follow him.
For many of us God’s call came in the waters of Holy Baptism when we were washed and called to a life of holiness.
For some it came later in life as God’s word took seed in their heart bringing them to faith and belief in Christ’s finished work for their redemption.
Each begins with God’s work that is received, but it is our faith and it is our belief none the less.
I went outside last Monday. The sun was out and shinning down. It was still cold but when the sun broke forth from the clouds it warmed me.
I did nothing … I simply received the warmth. I had nothing to do with the sun shining but it was really me who was warmed, it was my joy, it was my smile on my face but it was still cold! Man! 12 degrees is cold in the middle of January Sunny of not!
So, if the faith we have is a gift, and the belief we share brings us the joy of forgiveness, why do so many love the cold darkness of sin and keep heading in that direction?
Last weekend a bird flew into my picture window. It was a morning dove. It hit pretty hard and was laying on my hose real. A small hawk looked like it was chasing it. It was alive and I was able to bring it in the house, placed it in a laundry basket with a lid and let it rest a few hours to see if it might get its senses back. After a few hours Monica and I took the basket outside and it flew a short distance. I thought I might pick it up and place it back in the basket a while longer. When I tried to pick it up again it flew to the end of my yard. The care it had received was forgotten and getting away was paramount.
Birds are creatures of habit.
Christians at times are as well.
We have our dwelling places of happiness and hope in this temporal world.
What we see at times as success is really defeat. The idols that we build for ourselves continue to fail. I’m reminded of the fellow on Crescent Lake Road that has a small bus all painted up with a Detroit Lions logo and stripes, a real Party Bus! Though it never really has anything to party or be excited about – same old Lions right.
But I did see hope – He got a newer bus and painted this one too with the lions logo. Can you imagine … the lions have let him down for so long he needs another bus! Where is your Party Bus of hope? What in this life will bring you comfort?
For those not here it obviously is in something else. What, where, whom …
Many find their peace at home, with sports and with other pastimes away from church and having no interest in Christ or his gifts I know it’s not you who come because you’re here and that is where Christ has promised to be!
He is here by his word to bring about repentance.
He is here in absolution, to comfort and forgive you.
He is here body, blood, bread and wine to unite you to himself in the sacrament of the Altar.
He is here as a washing away of sins in baptism and a bestowing of his Spirit that calls you to believe.
He is here … so why do so many stay away?
It is the devils desire to have you not attend at all! So he will make being away as comfortable and joyful as possible and he will make attending as difficult and troublesome as possible.
Of course we at times in our own sinfulness do and say things that drive people away but the Lord will prevail. He will pursue the lost so that when they fall so low as to reach bottom only his turning by the Spirit will give hope. Those who are afflicted will be healed and those comfortable in sin will be brought low.
Just as Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people so too he is here when his word is preached and his gifts are given for the forgiveness of sin.
Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men is Christ call in Baptism and throughout the Christian life. His means are here. Come and receive his gifts!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.