Living in the Grey Sermon Series #3
Who are God’s People?
Listen Here: (Read below)
Sermon Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the 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.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
As 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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus 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.
Read here (remembering a sermon is the preached word and this is an approximation! )
The end of our children’s sermon is a great place for us to begin. Because the message that all the people are touched and blessed and a part of God is beginning with the end in mind. Answering the question, who are God’s people with the answer-all the people is not a platitude or an oversimplification of the Gospel. Instead it sets the course, shows us where God goes and where God sends us and then beckons us to step back and work towards living this promise in our own lives.
Beginning with the end in mind is a strategy of journey and process. Teachers use it with their students in preparing to write papers or do projects. Business use it to create goals and give their employees focus and direction. Health and fitness experts use it as a way to get you to envision what it is you want—to run faster.. to feel better.. to be able to touch your toes and then set you forth with a plan that is built around that end, that goal, that desired outcome.
Jesus sets forth throughout Galilee in the same way. He has the end mind-an end that catches all the people up in God’s love, mercy, and story and makes the kingdom of God something that is close and real and near. But he too backs up and starts at the beginning. He comes to Capernaum and makes this small fishing village, probably about 1000 people, his homebase. He could have chosen a bigger city one with more amenities and more people. He could have chosen a place more like Jerusalem, a seat of power and activity and those with influence. But instead, he picks a place with the more marginalized people, those working hard for their living and for their life, those who didn’t have a big voice in the world where they lived.
It is here that he begins with fishermen out doing their ordinary job and calls them up to be those who begin to follow him. Notice, Jesus does not promise them power or wealth. He doesn’t promise them a bigger home or a more prosperous amount of fish. He doesn’t even at this point promise them heaven or forgiveness of sins. He just calls them to come and follow and see what happens when they turn their lives toward God to become fishers of people. Fishing was a metaphor in the ancient world that was used as way to talk about transformation—bringing people out of hiding and into the light of their community and also teaching them, moving them from a place of not knowing to a place of wisdom and action. Somehow, Peter, Andrew James and John hear this call and they get this spark, this fire in their belly to follow and see what happens to be transformed and to be a part of transforming others.
Have you ever experienced this kind of spark or movement towards transformation? This desire to know more, see more, follow something or someone in way that starts to move you from one place to another,t hat starts to transform you. I mean, of course you have, you listen to Pr. Michael or myself preach every week so you totally know what I am talking about….
The Spirit of God caught them up in the job that Jesus gave them to do. To go and fish for people, to spread this news of the promise that the LIGHT had come to DWELL and LIVE and BE among them and to transform them from a place of darkness to a place of light. And from this home base, this little fishing village, this place of no one big or important or elected or appointed or wealthy becomes central to the spreading and movement of the gospel. This is where the vision of God starts and it is from here that it spreads further and further.
It reminds me of the image of how we passed the peace at the Middle School Youth Gathering last weekend. The worship leader invited two youth forward and gave them a blessing of peace by marking the sign of the cross on their head. Then he told them to go out to the front row and share that blessing with two people. And then those two shared with two and so on and so on. And it took a moment but as soon as the movement caught on it was a cool sight to see, especially from the front, this blessing and peace move through the crowd of 400 people gathered like a physical wave of God’s grace coming to touch each and every person.
For the followers of Jesus then, the spark, the story, the movement of the spirit began like that, with just a few, in their hometown. Then, they began to live it out right where they were. Then the disciples, starting to move to the territory around them. They were sent into Galilee and God placed in their path people they did not consider to be a part of their story—the gentiles. The gentiles was kind of a catch all phrase for anyone ‘not Jewish’ or ‘outside of the kingdom of God’ but here is Jesus, teaching, healing and touching and dwelling and being with the gentiles, telling the people that they too are caught up in God’s net. So this spark begins to transform again as the disciples go to those on the outside and accept them as they are and share with them the blessing and grace of God.
The Christ followers then were called to take the people as they were, just as they themselves had been called just as they were—ordinary fishing people from an ordinary town sent with a purpose. This As Is idea had been a part of God’s vision from the beginning. Peder Eide, the musician for the gathering, caught the crowd up in many songs but in one in particular seemed to hit home with the youth was a song called As Is. The lyrics go through all the people in the Bible that God called up just as they were—
Moses was a stutterer, David was a murderer, Jeremiah’s suicidal, naked in the street
Paul-y had a problem with specifics left unsaid,
Timothy had stomachaches, and Lazarus was dead.
Samson was a long-haired, arrogant womanizer
Rahab was a scarlet-courted lady on the street
John the baptist eatin’ bugs and honey on his bread
Gideon a scaredy-cat, Lazarus was dead
As is, as is, He chooses us as His
As His, as His, infuses us as is
Never ending love transcending on our weaknesses
No excuses, He uses us as is
This is a great message for youth and really it is a great message for all of us with that unsure, afraid little kid that can sometimes still live within us and tries to convince us that there is no way that God would use us just as we are to dwell with the people among us and live as the children of God we are.
Who are God’s people? All the people—all the colors, all the genders, all the sexualities, all the politics, all the religions, all the countries. Who are God’s people? You are the people of God and you are called and sent, just like the fishermen, As you Are to live into this journey that points us towards God’s vision for the world in the here and in the now. The kingdom of God is not about tomorrow, it is not a story for just our ancestors or some future generation. It is a story of now, It is a truth of now.
I will admit, our here and now has it’s ups and downs for us personally and as a community. Whether you were cheering on inauguration day or part of the crowds that marched yesterday, whether you are native or foreign born, whether you are strong and confident or frightened of what may come in your future—Jesus calls you to the same end— that the first calling, the first priority is to first be Christ Followers—giving voice to the voiceless, living amongst the people, using our gifts, our brains, our money, our energy first to live into the call of God just as we are and just where we are. Living Micah 6:8—do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
This part of living in the grey is one where we know that we cannot always see the end and also one where we know that God’s vision is catch up all people.. knowing we do not pick and choose who God puts in our path or whether we will turn to go towards them or if they will be placed in front of us like a rock to trip on. But also knowing that we have the light of Christ with us always, the promise that this light shines and no kind or amount of darkness will overcome it. This is the home base we live from. This is the journey we live into. This is the promise that we are caught up in God’s Spirit and set free to live it.