Epiphany 3 – Year A, Call of Disciples

Title:Epiphany 3 – Year A, Call of Disciples

 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Jan. 26, 2020 (full size gallery)

Two services today – 5 at 9am, Eucharist Rite 1 and 32 at Morning Prayer at 11am. We had the next installment of Genesis focusing on Noah and his sons. We celebrated Helmut’s 86th birthday. The Morning Prayer bulletin is here. In between the services was Christian Ed on Chapter 9 Genesis, “Two Portraits of Noah’s Family”. We are concentrating on Genesis throughout Epiphany and Lent

The sermon focused on the lessons of Jesus starting his ministry in Galilee an out of the way place contrasted with the bustle around Jerusalem. “But some of us may feel that we are past blooming and thriving—the glass half empty, and getting emptier all the time, the downhill slide as we all age and our membership declines.

But I’m here to say that our job as St Peter’s is start again, to ask for help by inviting those around us in, to follow Jesus in what we are doing while trusting that Jesus will lead us into the work that Jesus would have us do—the work that we cannot yet see or define.

“I’m here to say that our job as disciples is to study Jesus together, to learn from his example, to remember all that he has done for us, and to stay focused on him and not get distracted by disagreements or by discouragement.

“Jesus launched a ministry from Galilee that made God’s love and light and life present in the world in a way that has never been surpassed.

“And with his help, our ministry here in Port Royal can show God’s love and light and life to the world in new ways we can’t yet imagine.

“So, Church, stay tuned and stay focused. Get up and follow where he calls.”

Today’s readings have a theme of urgency and repentance culminate in Matthew’s account of Jesus beginning his ministry. Isaiah proclaims a new time of restoration. Paul pleads that followers of Christ set aside any differences for the sake of their common calling. Jesus begins his public ministry by preaching repentance, calling for discipleship and healing the sick.

The Isaiah citation in verses 15-16 was originally written in a context of messianic hope as Galilee faced conquest by the Assyrians in 732 B.C. This defeat for Israel meant that the native Israelites were exiled and foreign populations resettled there, thus allowing the region to be described as "Galilee of the Gentiles" (v. 4). In Jesus’ time it was heavily influenced by non-Jewish culture and religion.

Matthew’s reading contains verse 4:23 and provides a summary of Jesus’ ministry which Matthew will report in more detail in the following chapters:
1. teaching (Chapters 5-7, the “Sermon on the Mount”)
2. healing (Chapters 8-9)
3. proclaiming (Chapter 10, as the 12 are sent out)

In Matthew Jesus announces that the long period of expectation is completed. The reign of God is a present reality but will only be realized fully in the age to come. The response he expects is repentance, literally turning around, and so a description of the entire reorientation of one’s whole being as illustrated by the call of the first disciples.

John the Baptist’s death was the spark that caused the ministry to begin. It was necessary to emphasize in this beginning that Jesus’ ministry is aligned with God’s purpose as it is revealed in the Scriptures.

When the news comes to him about John’s arrest, he makes a different choice, by withdrawing to Galilee, where he calls his first disciples, preaches the Sermon on the Mount, begins his ministry of healing, and teaches what it means to be the Messiah who is “God with us.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus, and his followers / hearers would have understood “has come near” as quite literally “what will happen next.”

Unlike the Gospel of John, Matthew does not identify Jesus as the light of the world. Nonetheless, the prophecy from Isaiah makes clear that Jesus’ return to Galilee will be the occasion for those who sit in darkness to see “a great light” (Matthew 4:16-17). No doubt Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing is the basis for that light.

The first apostles must have felt something of that enthusiasm as Jesus called to them by the sea. He must have been a compelling person; their encounter with him changed their lives forever. The invitation / command to “follow” is to:accompany,learn from, respond to, imitate, be loyal to,bond with, abide in.

Leaving of fathers and fishing establishes a new set of kinship relationships: with Jesus and his other followers; and a new occupation: as recruiters of others to the Way of Jesus.

It was the creation of a new type of community. Martin Luther King translated the “kingdom of heaven” a Beloved Community, the place of love and radical welcome that exists concretely wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus name.

There may have been a political link. From Pastor Dawn – “Life upon the Sea of Galilee was locked up by the power of Rome to tax a fisher beyond their ability to pay. Jesus invites the oppressed fishers to abandon their servitude and become “fishers of people” Where we see potential converts, Jesus calls us to look beyond our immediate needs to something so much more than filling sanctuaries on a Sunday morning. As observant Jews and fishers, Andrew, Peter, James and John would have understood exactly how the prophets like Amos and Ezekiel used the metaphor “hooking a fish” in relationship to catching humans as a euphemism for judgement upon the rich. Jesus was inviting the disenfranchised fishers to follow him to learn how to “hook fish” in a struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege. Hooking fish was a metaphor for seeking justice!”

The disciples would soon hear stunningly good news preached; they would observe miserable diseases cured. They discovered in short order that Jesus would not simply hand down beautiful teachings abstracted from his surroundings. He would touch people in their affliction; he would make their pain his own. His goal was not self-aggrandizement; Jesus sought to make the wounded whole.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, some of the early wonder seems to have worn off 30 years later. The cohesion of the first followers and their close connection to Christ seems to have disintegrated into squabbling factions. Paul attempts to recall them to that early sense of engagement with the person of Christ and his cause. He appeals to the Corinthians to be of one mind and judgment, rather than divided into groups, each with its own label. Paul tactfully centers his criticisms on his own partisans. They have not been baptized in the name of Paul but in the name of Jesus Christ, to which name Paul has already appealed as the grounds for unity.